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Face-Off: Super 8 vs. Cloverfield

10.25.2012by: Paul Huffman
In last weeks Face Off, we saluted early Tim Burton with a match between Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. In opposition to where I stood on the matter, our readers rallied and let me know the entertainment value of Beetlejuice could not be matched. Can't say I'm upset with that verdict as I loved the shit out of both films.

This week, its all about monsters from the mind of JJ Abrams in a Face Off between Super 8 and Cloverfield. The hype for both films benefited from Abrams' refreshing method of viral marketing and, at least in my case, both films delivered on the anticipation and high hopes I felt for both. These bad boys were cut from the same cloth, but were different enough to warrant a worthy discussion on which we fancied more. So let's get to it.
Monster
With Super 8 we got the glimpses for the duration of the film that I thought we would get with Cloverfield to be honest. This film did wonders with keeping the money shot away from us until the end while still maintaining the terror required to make our alien a formidable hell raiser. But alas, our antagonist turned out to be simply misunderstood and ended up having all the heart in the world. If only those scientists and military personnel refrained from being assholes, said destruction could have been avoided. But would we have had a movie otherwise? I think not..
The hype behind the concept for Cloverfield's monster was massive. In what had become a foreign concept in regards to marketing for a movie, JJ Abrams and crew kept everything under wraps perfectly. We got our full glimpse of the monster sooner in the film than I thought we would, and I remember sitting and processing the look of the thing...wondering if it was something I expected. I nodded, thinking to myself "I dig it", took a swig of my huge ass soda, and enjoyed the rest of the ride. Less heart and depth than Super 8's alien...but the poor fucker was just suffering from separation anxiety.
Terror
One scene stands out in terms of feeling complete dread in this film, and that was the bus scene. You all know the one I mean. The best scene in the film, and the height of suspension for this bad boy. Other scenes in which our monster busted shit up while keeping himself scarce did their job well, but all out terror wasn't the strong suit for Super 8. While not a complaint, I think to what extent we saw the monster for most of it was a bit responsible for that. But make no mistake, Super 8 had its fair share of unsettling moments.
Cloverfield had those couple of distinct moments of holy shit that made the film as awesome as it was. One, the beginning of it all when shit hit the fan. The way the film was shot added to the terror of it all, because of course it makes you feel like you're there and blah blah blah. Two, the subway scene in which night vision did nothing to save them from being attacked by those fucked up creepy crawlies. Seriously, had me looking over my shoulder for a week. Three, Hud up close and personal with big baddie. I mean, the dude can't exactly run...nothing to do but stand there, make eye contact, and wait for the inevitable. Sorry buddy.
Direction
Abrams' vision for Super 8 made this film special. The tone, the period it was set in, the music, the effects. Everything reeked of the adventurous feel of a classic Spielberg film. Also, to be perfectly honestly, I consistently got pretty giddy seeing Abrams' distinct pension for lens flare, it got distracting here and there. But it added something to the proceedings if you asked me. Simply put, although taking advantage of the technological advances of our time, Super 8 felt old school all the way.
The found footage concept wasn't exactly new when Cloverfield hit the scene, but it was the perfect way to tell this story. As I stated earlier you felt like you were right there making your way through a ravaged city with these bastards thanks to Hud's direction. It's well known that this film, in its theatrical run, made a few audience members a bit more queasy then they anticipated causing motion sickness and a loss of balance. The warning that this may happen to us as well from the good ol theater stuff just upped the "fuck yeah bring on Cloverfield" factor.
Characters
Now this is child actors at their best, and they were given characters I didn't want to kill. Goonies for a new generation. The added element of one kids passion for filmmaking and the devotion of his friends to help him out was amazing. The puppy love between Joe and Alice was touching and believable, and every single adult character was flawed yet likeable. Great traits were given to all to make them standout, it was just great to see children characters able to carry a film again. Hope to see more for each and every one of them. PS: loved that little pyro kid.
Real world peeps in a larger than life situation, flawed characters, at times each and every one of them was annoying. But I still loved them. Rob's stubborn devotion to finding the woman he loves was a great tool to get me to root for him, I was behind him all the way. Wish we would have gotten more time to see the romance between Hud and Marlena blossom before...well...you know. Oh, and the levity of Hud's comic relief in his own pain in the ass way was much appreciated.
Overall
Super 8 was one of those films that brought back fond memories of what turned most of us into film lovers all those years ago. It was a throwback to the numerous science fiction gems we all love. Great characters, great direction, amazing score, and wonderful effects (new bonus). It had the advantage of being marketed by a man who knew how to make you wait for the goods, and damn did it deliver. The monster in this film, although a plot point needed, was really not thanks to all the other elements that REALLY made this film what it was. I wanted more of these characters and the world they inhabited. Bravo to JJ Abrams. Bravo to those child actors and the rest of the cast. Bravo to Michael Giacchino. Bravo to Super 8.
I would have been extremely disappointed if I came out of the theater thinking Cloverfield was shit after the genius that was its viral marketing campaign. The ride began from the first teaser and didn't let up until those end credits rolled. A justifiable use of the cinema verite style, suspenseful moments spread everywhere, a satisfactory monster, and I'm happy to report no motion sickness occurred on my part. The actors sold the situation well, and it left me wanting the perfectly plausible sequel. Switch it up and make it shot in a conventional manner, and I'm there. Bravo JJ Abrams. Bravo Matt Reeves. Bravo viral marketing. Bravo Cloverfield.
Super 8
So there you have it folks! I loved both of these films, but the nostalgia that Super 8 brought to the table won me over like you wouldn't believe. It brought my imagination back out to play and made me feel like a kid again. Same basic principle, couldn't have been more different in execution. So which monster film did you lot fancy more? Forgive me for being so bold as to say that I have an inkling which way the votes will swing! But it ain't over till it's over!

If you have an idea that you'd like to see in a future FACE OFF column, feel free to shoot an email to me at [email protected] with your ideas and some ideas for the critique to base your ideas off. Thank you and in the meantime...

Which monster film is your favourite?
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