Release Date(s)2008 (January 23, 2018)
Studio(s)Bad Robot (Paramount Pictures)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: B
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: B-
Presented as consumer DVCAM footage recovered by the Department of Defense from a disaster zone, Cloverfield plays out as a series of shocking events captured on video by a group of young New York City residents. It begins with a couple, Rob and Beth, waking up one morning and making a plan to visit Coney Island. Then the tape gets recorded over by Rob’s brother Jason and his friends (several days later) as they prepare a going away party for Rob, who we learn is now moving to Japan. In this footage, we see Rob and Beth have an argument, at which points she leaves. Then a seeming earthquake and power outage draws everyone to the roof of the building, where they see a massive explosion near Liberty Island. Rushing out into the streets, Rob, Jason and their friends realize – to their shock and horror – that a giant monster is attacking the city. What follows is their fight to survive, which they document as they race to cross a chaotic Manhattan, first to rescue Beth (who lives near Central Park) and finally to escape NYC altogether.
Written by Drew Goddard (The Martian) and directed by Matt Reeves (War of the Planet of the Apes), based upon an idea by J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens), Cloverfield was a surprise when it hit cinemas in 2008. The film was made in near-total secrecy and released after an extensive viral advertising campaign designed to heighten its mystery. Nearly of third of its footage was shot by actor T.J. Miller, who plays Hud, the member of the group who documents most of the events. This was done hand-held, complete with jump cuts to create a faux amateur look that recalls disaster or combat footage. Additional cast members include Michael Stahl-David (Rob), Odette Yustman (Beth), Mike Vogel (Jason), Jessica Lucas (Lily), and Lizzy Caplan (Marlena). Cloverfield has almost no score, but its sparse end credits theme was provided by Michael Giacchino. The resulting film is surprisingly tense and effective, though some audience members had difficulty with the shaky-cam imagery inducing motion sickness.
Cloverfield was shot digitally in native 1080p HD using the Panasonic AG-HVX200 camcorder (for interiors) and Sony CineAlta F23 (exteriors). It’s likely that this footage was upscaled to 2K and the film was finished as a 2K Digital Intermediate. That source has since been upsampled again to 4K, given new HDR10 and Dolby Vision color grades, and the result is presented here on 4K Ultra HD at the 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Why Paramount would choose to release this title on UHD seems puzzling given its HD source material. There is literally no resolution benefit here whatsoever. Most likely, the studio simply wanted to release 10 Cloverfield Lane on the format (a 2K production, reviewed here), as a way to promote the recent Netflix digital release of The Cloverfield Paradox (also a 2K production we believe, but one that was released on Netflix with HDR if you watched it with a 4K display). So the rational seems to be: Why not release the original Cloverfield on UHD too? The additional puzzle is that the Panasonic cameras used to capture this film operate in 8-bit processing with 4:2:2 color, though the CineAlta F23 operates in 10-bit 4:4:4, so while there’s a bit of HDR10/Dolby Vision color improvement over the previous Blu-ray edition, it’s far from dramatic. What you do get, however, is improved contrast, with much deeper blacks and brighter whites. That improved contrast does intensify the visual experience with a greater sense of immediacy and a bit more pop. But this film has always looked like recovered shaky-cam DV video; that’s what it’s meant to look like and that, indeed, what it still looks like. Expect no miracles here.
Audio on the 4K disc is included in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD. It’s the exact same mix that was included on the previous Blu-ray, which was very good indeed, close to reference quality, in fact, with outstanding clarity, a big wide soundstage, aggressive panning and low end, and highly active surrounds. The 4K disc also offers 5.1 Dolby Digital audio in French (Quebec), French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Japanese, as well as English Descriptive Audio, with optional subtitles in English, English SDH, French (Quebec), French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Japanese, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Swedish.
In terms of bonus features, the only thing included on Paramount’s 4K Ultra HD disc is the feature-length audio commentary by Reeves. The package also includes a Blu-ray Disc with the film in 1080p HD and the following additional extras (all in HD):
- Audio Commentary with Director Matt Reeves
- Special Investigation Mode PIP Viewing Option
- Document 01.18.08: The Making of Cloverfield (28:22)
- Cloverfield Visual Effects (22:32)
- I Saw It! It’s Alive! It’s Huge! (5:53)
- Clover Fun (3:56)
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary (4 scenes – 3:25 in all)
- Alternate Endings with Optional Commentary (2 scenes – 4:29 in all)
- Easter Eggs (3 are hidden in the disc’s menus)
The extras are decent, particularly the commentary and making-of piece, and are certainly worth checking out at least once. You also get a Digital Copy code on a paper insert.
Upon its debut in 2008, Cloverfield represented a clever twist on the already stale “found footage” sub-genre. All things considered, though, it’s actually held up quite well. The lesson here is that it’s awfully hard to go wrong with a film that has a kaiju in it. Unlike most titles on 4K UHD, the improvement in image quality here is minimal, so you’ll have to decide whether the upgrade price is worth it to you. On the other hand, if you don’t own already Cloverfield on Blu-ray, this would definitely be the best version to get.
- Bill Hunt