What happened
The new JJ Abrams–produced film Cloverfield—about a monster that attacks New York City—has stirred a debate among critics over whether its apparent references to 9/11 are in bad taste.

What the commentators said
“It was only last month that Will Smith started up boogeyman patrol in Manhattan in I Am Legend,” said Manohla Dargis in The New York Times, “and yet here we go again with the end of the world.” Despite its “tacky allusions to Sept. 11,” Cloverfield offers no “political critique,” but the “screams and the images of smoke billowing through the canyons of Lower Manhattan may make you think of the attack, and you may curse the filmmakers for their vulgarity, insensitivity or lack of imagination.”

“While Cloverfield is replete with 9/11 imagery,” said Sonny Bunch in The Weekly Standard, “the movie isn’t all death, destruction, and heartache.” And the story really isn’t even about “the destruction of New York City.” Like other “great films set against a tragic backdrop, Cloverfield focuses on people doing what they can to survive in the midst of an unimaginable horror.”

Actually, Cloverfield is partly about the destruction of New York City, said Nathan Lee in the Village Voice, and it “makes for a most satisfying death-to-New-York saga.” The movie “enacts its deft simulation of that infamous September morning in order to brutalize the society that flourished from its ruin like some tacky, tenacious, condo-dwelling fungus.” It’s “delicious” to watch a monster “feast” on “neo-yuppies” and “smug, self-entitled whitest-kids-you-know.”

“What’s behind our appetite for the apocalypse?” said Lev Grossman in Time. “Is it a way of confronting deep-seated, species-wide fear?” And “what fears are we currently bottling up?”  Cloverifeld forces us to deal “with our own fears, starting with the attacks of Sept. 11.” And maybe this film makes people uncomfortable because “there’s a part of each of us that is rooting for the monster and that would be glad to see us go. Because we know there’s a little beast in us too.”