Spoiler Level: Low
See?!? We CAN make a good monster movie in the US!!!
I've been shooting home movies since 1988. I have 119 volumes so far. And my camera work is infamous among my friends for being terrible. So I was really able to relate to the way this movie was shot, it instantly grabbed me. The opening party sequence lulled me in perfectly, and I really did jump when the first explosion hit.
The reason I feel Cloverfield really works as a monster movie is it's totally from the perspective of the poor schmucks you always see running away from Godzilla. It's not from the point of view of the heroes and scientists and reporters and astronauts who are trying to save people from the monster or fight the monster or even understand the monster; these people aren't out to save the world. They just want to get away from it and survive.
And the end music is so Godzilla-esque! I absolutely loved it.
I haven't got to watch all of the special features yet, but the bit I did see had J. J. Abrams saying that he was inspired by a trip to Japan, and how amazed he was that Godzilla is such an icon over there. He said he felt America needed its own really good monster like Japan has. And the Cloverfield Monster itself succeeds on all levels. It's big, tough, mean, nasty and unstoppable.
But if Godzilla had stopped after his first movie, he'd never have become an icon. Apparently plans to expand on this film have stalled, which is a real shame, because there's so much more that can be done with it. We could see these events from the military perspective; we could see the monster stomp a totally different city; we could see what happens when the monster starts meeting other monsters. And all that's without even explaining exactly what it is. Although I'm not opposed to an origin film, I think it would be cooler to get a few new clues with each installment and have its backstory come out slowly. But for that to happen, we have to get more stories at all.