Cloverfield follows a group of friends as they fight for their lives while an unearthly creature attacks New York. Cloverfield is a disaster movie, set in a post 9/11 society. In his novel, Disaster Movies: The Cinema of Catastrophe, Stephen Keane discusses the elements common to the disaster film genre. One of the main elements he discusses is the idea of disaster films addressing issues of society at the time, also called zeitgeist. Cloverfield attempts to do this, dealing with an attack on New York, post 9/11.
Cloverfield is an entertaining ride, however at times it lacked authenticity, leading to a somewhat overwhelming, yet intriguing experience. The use of the handheld camera puts the viewer right in the action, allowing them to experience the situation simultaneously with the characters. While this is very entertaining, at times, the constant swaying and shaking of the handheld camera was taxing on ones body. The plot has some rather obvious holes, including the survival of the camera and longevity of the characters, surviving everything from stab wounds to helicopter crashes. However the film did not lack excitement, with constant action, special effects and quick cuts, the film kept viewers guessing and intrigued. Overall the special effects along with the use of the handheld camera provided for a fast-paced, enjoyable viewing experience.
Stephen Keane discusses how disaster films address the climate of society at the time. Cloverfield was released in 2008, the climate of the United States, post 9/11 could be described as paranoid and somewhat uptight. Keane calls this idea zeitgeist. Zeitgeist is the idea of art reflecting the time of the culture in which it was produced. Throughout Cloverfield many similarities can be seen between the shots in the film and some of the images during that horrific day in 2001. One example is the shot of smoke rising from skyscrapers in the distance at the beginning of the film. Another is when Beth’s apartment building leans against an adjacent skyscraper. Cloverfield does a good job of relaying the paranoia of society at the time, in the film, when the attacks first occur citizens yell, claiming it was a terrorist attack before anyone knew what was truly going on.
Keane also discusses other disaster movies, including Volcano, Independence Day, and Armageddon. Cloverfield is most similar to Independence Day, in that they both deal with Earth’s interaction with unfriendly Aliens. Keane suggests that Independence Day does not follow the traditional disaster movie formula, as only the first third of the film deals with the actual disaster. Keane argues that the final two thirds of the film follow a science-fiction plot formula. It is similar to Cloverfield in its addressing of the climate of society, Keane says that in light of the 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing, Independence day elicited somewhat of a strange reaction due to its violent nature combined with its proximity to the actual event. This may be why Cloverfield was delayed until about 7 years after 9/11.