"I had a good day today."

>> Sunday, January 20, 2008

I'm still feeling a little nauseous.

No, it's a good thing. When I woke up this morning, I realized I needed to get out but that I didn't really want to do the Sunday brunch/coffeehouse thing. What I really wanted to do was go see Cloverfield. Which I did. Which was part of the awesome. But indulge me, let's go through the whole thing in order.

First, I made myself a ham-and-mushroom omelet, which was awesome. Then I showered, dressed, and tried to go to the 11:50 showing of the movie, but because of poor planning and Sunday traffic ("Christians! Currrrsses!" he said in his best Mojo Jojo voice) I got to the movie theater at noon. What to do?

I thought I could go get coffee, and read for a little while, but I neglected to bring a book and I haven't installed any e-books on the new smartphone--but why let something like that interfere with a sound plan? I went to the Barnes And Noble a block from the theater, and browsed for a little while, looking for something junky to read.

While browsing, I stopped to read Marvel Zombies cover-to-cover, which was low-key awesome. The premise of the miniseries was simply that all of the Marvel superheroes have been infected with a virus that causes them to become flesh-eating undead monsters--albeit not mindless ones. It's a pretty dumb concept, actually, except that any comic where the Hulk (the most awesome of Marvel's heroes) bites the head off the Silver Surfer (the lamest of Marvel's heroes--that's right, I don't care if Jack Kirby did create him, he sucks... no, I won't take that back, it's my blog... well if you love him so much, why don't you marry him?) --anyway, like I was saying, any comic book in which the Hulk bites off the Silver Surfer's head is freaking awesome no matter how bad it is, which is probably as good a summary of Zombies as anything.

I bought a copy of Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill's The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminatus Trilogy, two things I've been meaning to read forever and ever. (I've been meaning to get to Illuminatus for something like twenty years, actually.) I sat down with League and a mocha in the bookstore coffee shop to kill some time, and chortled quietly for an hour. For the few of you who are unfamiliar with League: Mina Harker (the heroine of Dracula) gets recruited by intelligence agent Campion Bond (note the last name) on behalf of the shadowy "M" (who might be Sherlock Holmes' brother, Mycroft) to create a Victorian superhero league consisting of Allan Quartermain, Captain Nemo, Hawley Griffin, and Dr. Henry Jekyll to recover stolen Cavorite. They made a movie version with Sean Connery a few years back, which I never saw, but you could tell from the previews alone that the filmmakers had completely missed the point. At any rate, League is just as delightful as its reputation, a crazy steampunk mashup of the 19th century's best genre fiction.

And then to Cloverfield--except there was still a little more awesomeness even before the movie started!

First, there was the preview for Iron Man. I'll admit, I've been skeptical--and probably wrongly, based on the preview, which strongly suggests Iron Man will be utterly perfect. First, it looks like Robert Downey, Jr. is going to be in fine form for this one. Second, they reference the original gray Iron Man costume and the more familiar red-and-yellow, and both costumes look pretty freaking cool. Third, the effects look like they're going to be very good (one shot shows Iron Man creating a transonic droplet cloud--a really nice touch). Fourth, they embraced the Sabbath: the greatest heavy metal song ever recorded, and its signature four-word spoken intro, are featured prominently in the preview. I really expected them to coyly try to pretend it didn't exist, but I'm going to guess that Jon Favreau is just as awesome as he usually seems, and said, "Shit, yeah, we're putting that in." If so, good for him.

Second--I'm telling you, this was a good day--there was the teaser trailer for Star Trek. Which was a minute of awesome--only a minute, but awesome. Here's a very dark and blurry bootleg of it, if it hasn't been pulled by the time you read this:

I've been skeptical of this one, too. But it's a cool teaser, and it gives me hope. It's a little thing, and you probably can't see it in the above version, but: there are moving "fan blades" in the nacelles.

You may be wondering what I'm talking about.

Remember the original Star Trek series, Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock, Dr. McCoy, etc.? Remember the original Enterprise? Remember how the original nacelles--the two tubes on either side of the ship--had glowing red caps with a gold-colored spinning "star" or "wheel" in the middle of each? You can sort of see them in the picture on the right. That's what I'm talking about, that small detail. I like that. I approve. Not that I'm anywhere close to being a Trekkie or Trekker or a Trekicondo or Treknophile or whatever they like calling themselves these days: but I did grow up on Trek--I watched the re-runs, read the novelizations, had the Viewmaster wheel when I was five--I have enough love that I'll be seeing this one when it eventually comes out and I'd like them to get it right. So I'm glad the teaser shows promise.

The main feature: Cloverfield.

Since Cloverfield came out, there have been a lot of people saying it brings the awesome. They would be right. The movie is essentially Blair Witch-meets-Godzilla: New York is attacked by a giant monster, and the whole thing is caught on an expensive camcorder that someone (a character who is amusingly named "Hud"--cute) was using to record a going-away party when the big beast showed up to wreck the city. Cloverfield is the reason for the aforementioned nausea: parts of the movie can induce motion sickness. But it's a great experience: tense, clever, an all-around well-done piece of work that doesn't pull any punches.

I'm not totally sure that the most interesting thing about Cloverfield was deliberate. See, the thing with Gojira and its sequels, Cloverfield's obvious inspiration, is that the monster is actually the hero of those movies. The destruction of Tokyo may be unpleasant, but honestly, it's our own damn fault for inventing the atom bomb in the first place. And in later movies, of course, the monster is explicitly the hero, saving the Earth from other giant monsters, from giant robots, and from aliens. (One of the many mistakes in the terrible 1998 version was a clumsy attempt to make Matthew Broderick the hero: nothing against Mr. Broderick, but, I mean, c'mon....)

Cloverfield takes the action to the ground, only showing us as much of the invading monster as the characters themselves can see. And the protagonists aren't the all-knowing, ever-capable heroes of the 50s giant bug films, either. As a result, Cloverfield may in fact be the first giant monster movie to put a truly human face to things. The characters in Cloverfield get, to put it bluntly, fucked. (This isn't a spoiler: the movie opens with a title card explaining that the footage you're about to see was recovered from a camera buried in Central Park--leaving little room to wonder what the ultimate fate of the protagonists will be.) They hurt, they cry, they grieve. They talk to family members on cell phones and search their televisions for answers. They're people, and not just ambulatory parts of the scenery that point and yell before being crushed under a giant rubber foot.

Admittedly, there are nits you can pick with Cloverfield. (Though I personally think the likelihood of a cell phone battery being packaged half-charged, like the one that shipped with my new phone, is less doubtful than the possibility that a chunk of pure copper could be wrenched in two with no visible shearing or distortion and flung several miles without being dented beyond recognition--but nevermind.) However, there's no good reason to dwell on them: Cloverfield is fun, Cloverfield is scary, and Cloverfield is smarter than just about any major American horror movie I can think of in the past ten years or so. It's good and it's worth seeing, and it's worth getting queasy over. Go see it. The awesome has been broughten, pardners.

Now what to do with the rest of my day? I'm tempted to go upstairs and do a double-feature of Gojira and Escape From New York, two of the major inspirations for Cloverfield; yes, I may just do that.

I've had a good day today.

ADDENDUM OR POSTSCRIPT OR WHATEVER: I'm dumb--I show you a blurry teaser from Trek but not the rockin' Iron Man trailer. Screw that! Iron Man! (Bomm-bomm-bombombom, nananananana na-na-na!):

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