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Monday, March 26, 2012

Bio-Art: Cloverfield.

The poll is now closed; the official winner is the "Mythbusters" theme, which means we get to dig up some creatures of debatable existence and let you all weigh the odds of their veracity for yourselves. There are some creatures coming up this week that will definitely make one wonder. Others are, well, a little bit more logical.

That said, we will dip into the pseudozoology of some of these creatures a little bit.  It's hard to truly dissect the habits and such of something that may or may not exist, but that doesn't mean that creature freaks can't try. After all, creature artists and pseudobiologists get to make movie monsters. What better way to start a week of cryptoids off than with one of the most infamous aliens in recent memory?



Now, of all monster movies, why revisit Cloverfield? It was as the Nostalgia Critic said: Just a monster. A monster with a rabid fanbase and a lot of work we never really noticed. More got covered in Cloverfield/Kishin - a prequel manga that sounds a lot better than the actual movie. What can we say? Japan is used to having its cities ransacked by giant monsters.

The fact is, a whole assload of work apparently went into the creation of Clover, the pet name for the monster in Cloverfield. Although the movie was not that great as a movie, countless hours were spent on making Clover a believable creature. We just couldn't tell beneath all the shaky-cam. We do, however, realize that the lack of information was intentional. The question is, does being mysterious like Jaws (which we kinda knew was a shark) work for a monster we know nothing about?



Clover, the 25-story behemoth that goes on a rampage in New York, is a baby. According to the designer Neville Page and other members of the studio team, the young Clover is a newborn suffering from separation anxiety. The gangly limbs in the Clover we know are meant to be sort of like the too-slender legs of a fawn or calf;  Page also added that the adults of Clover's species might actually be bipedal. We don't know what the adults look like, but they must be huge.

Page had a biological way of thinking from the get-go. He designed cheek pouches that inflate when the creature is agitated. The extra limbs on Clover's chest lead directly to its (extendable) esophagus. The limbs, aside from being eerily gangly, also have some seriously weird digits. It's hard to get a good glimpse of all of Clover in the movie, but when you do see it in full, it looks like something that could evolve. There was almost no need to make it an alien.



As for the little scurrying monsters that some would argue are the real terrors of the film? Those are perfectly normal ectoparasites for Clover's species. They were being shed as part of a "post-birth ritual." While I do think that, OK, they were added mostly to add more terror to an already-crazy rampage, I have to give the creators credit for realizing that even invaders come with invaders. You have thousands of bacteria and other lovely organisms crawling on your skin riiiight now.

Granted, even with all this background to the design of one of the most creative monsters of the decade, there are things that don't make sense. Why would parasites from another planet have a venom that explodes human abdomens? Why did Clover land on Earth, and how far away is the rest of its kind? Hell, if this thing's an alien, how can it stand our atmosphere and gravity to begin with? We understand what the film was going for by not explaining everything, but it feels like, unlike in Avatar, a lot of the effort that went into Clover was effectively wasted. Clover is weird-looking, but unlike classic monsters like Godzilla and King Kong, it is so confused that it is a bit hard to like beyond "WTF is that?" It takes rewatching to see the method behind Clover's madness. The one thing that was really effective about Cloverfield aside from the monster was the marketing. If you want a more compelling modern monster movie, go see The Host.

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