We’ve never believed in the idea of a good taste waiting period for pop culture’s consumption of tragedy, but had to wince at "Cloverfield"’s (undeniable, c’mon now) 9/11 references â€” that imagery might be fair game, but it hurts to see it so callously used for little purpose beyond the shock value of that shiver of recognition. Glenn Kenny at the LA Times is more eloquent on the subject, writing that "it’s worth asking whether this movie actually has any social consciousness to divest. Depending on how you want to look at it, the makers of the film are either really good at doing their homework, or they’re just crass fear-mongers and tragedy-exploiters."
"Anyone who is upset about ‘Cloverfield’ must have had the same
reaction to the recent ‘Spider-Man’ films or ‘I Am Legend’ or the ‘King
Kong’ remake," Abrams told Time magazine when asked whether the film’s
destruction of New York hit too close to home.
the one hand Abrams is absolutely correct — Manhattan’s come in for a
fair amount of cinematic damage since Sept. 11 (although in the case of
the "King Kong" remake, it’s Manhattan of the 1930s). On the other
hand, he’s being a bit disingenuous, since "Cloverfield" also happens
to be the first sci-fi monster movie for which video footage of Sept.
11 could have served as a teaser trailer.
Ray Pride, on the same subject at Newcity Chicago, argues that you can ascribe unwitting social commentary to the film, namely "the unsettling underlying implication is that the makers, however unintentionally, favor the dark forces."
In the depiction of an apocalypse that draws much of its strength from extensive appropriation of familiar iconography of that crisp, clear morning, "Cloverfield" seems to suggest Americans are incompetent, superficial, vain, drunken, promiscuous, soulless, self-regarding fools who deserve painful death. Somehow, this perspective has been heard in other quarters since the turn of the century, and to see this angle here is all the worse if the filmmakers don’t realize the indigestible impact of their monster movie. This is shallow appropriation, not the making of metaphor.
We’re guessing that this is a point of discussion that will be revisited plenty of times in the months to come â€” take a gander at this leaked trailer for M. Night Shyamalan’s "The Happening" over at Twitch while it lasts.