Much like Snakes on a Plane, Cloverfield had an incredible online build-up prior to hitting theaters last year, with Blair Witch-esque videos that left viewers wondering what on Earth this movie was about? Turns out, the question “what IS on Earth?” was more appropriate, as the final movie felt more like a Godzilla clone infused with Aliens than it did a well thought-out feature. Still, the concept of experiencing an alien invasion through the eyes of characters on the ground provided both a literal and figurative new perspective to the sci-fi genre, and for that, Cloverfield’s directors and stars deserve kudos for their originality.
Through its agreement with Paramount, D-BOX Technologies has provided downloadable Motion Code for Cloverfield, a movie with virtually limitless potential for rocking and rolling. However, as powerful as certain scenes are as D-BOX candidates, Cloverfield could also be disastrous if the engineers went wild with Motion Code. Fortunately, the folks at D-BOX are a unique mix of professionals an artists, so they avoided this fate entirely. In fact, their work on Cloverfield provides arguably the best example of the range of motion a D-BOX system provides.
Like The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield relies heavily on a first-person perspective as one character totes around a camcorder through the entire movie. This means that the camera is continually bobbing and weaving through scenes, providing many opportunities for the engineers to code corresponding movement — which would likely lead to motion-induced vomiting. Rather than pursue this low-hanging fruit, the engineers instead coded motion to the camera only when it made sense. For instance, when the camera is dropped onto the ground, subtle movements make the chair feel as though it’s bumping down stairs and skidding across the pavement. Other than that, the D-BOX system is largely “unaware” of the camera motion, a nice and wise decision.
That’s not to say the Motion Controller isn’t busy. On the contrary, Cloverfield includes a host of scenes ripe for the D-BOX picking. The first time viewers get rocking actually takes place about 10 or 15 minutes into the movie, when the characters hear/see/feel the film’s first explosion. That explosion alone — without fail — causes anyone who hasn’t seen Cloverfield to jump and gasp, because the D-BOX-equipped chair thumps and jolts at precisely the right time, down to the millisecond. It’s said that sound effects can make or break a sci-fi movie. In Cloverfield’s case, the motion effects truly make the scene.
Other sequences feature less-intense but equally appropriate motion, from small “jumps” when a creature hops onto a character to a unique motion that somehow mimics spinning when the helicopter falls in the final scene. However, the most impressive D-BOX sensation outside of the initial explosion takes place when the main characters venture into a collapsing building. As they make their way to the roof and head into an unstable skyscraper, the D-BOX chair sways subtly, making viewers actually feel like they’re inside the building. The camera work of the “standard” film doesn’t communicate this feeling on its own, so the inclusion of D-BOX Motion Code support probably delivers the director’s desired emotion better than the standard film presentation alone. If any director wants to see what D-BOX can do to better connect viewers with their film, look no further than Cloverfield.
As excellent as the motion support is, Cloverfield itself remains average, at best. The D-BOX support is quite good, exhibiting a range of motions and sensations throughout its 101-minute length, but to experience it, you have to endure a mediocre movie. In a weird way, though, that makes D-BOX all the more important for Cloverfield on Blu-ray. If you’ve got a Blu-ray player and a D-BOX system, definitely look into Cloverfield as a rental; this is one case where D-BOX isn’t a complement to the film, but an essential companion.
- Score: 8.5
— Jonas Allen