Weekly Review: 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)

After a car accident, Michelle wakes up chained in what looks to be a basement. Her captor tells her that he’s saved her life, that an attack has killed everyone above ground, but she is safe. Initially hesitant to believe her captor, Michelle eventually comes to accept her circumstances, but is she being told the truth?

I’ve been pretty excited about 10 Cloverfield Lane ever since the surprise trailer was released with no advance warning in January. Based on the trailer, I was completely hyped. The trailer emphasized the word “Cloverfield,” implying that the film was a sequel to Cloverfield, one of my found footage favorites. I was ecstatic.

After seeing the film, I will say that it was good. It was a thrill ride, very fun to watch. On the other hand, the connection between 10 Cloverfield Lane and Cloverfield is very weak. Producer J.J Abrams has called it more of a “spiritual successor” rather than an outright sequel. I would probably have preferred it as a completely separate entity.

The script for 10 Cloverfield Lane was originally a separate entity. It began as a story titled The Cellar, but it was adapted by Bad Robot into what it is now. It’s hard to describe. Most of the production notes say that the changes were made to the script before filming, but to me it looks like the original script was made, and then there was a ham fisted attempt at tying it to Cloverfield in the last 15 minutes. Apparently the actors didn’t even know the official title would be 10 Cloverfield Lane until a few days before the trailer was released.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 6.21.46 PM

10 Cloverfield Lane begins with an introduction to the main character, Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). She is obviously troubled by something, and has chosen to pack her bags and leave her boyfriend after a dispute. While driving, she has her accident, and the majority of the rest of the film takes place in an underground bunker. The bunker belongs to Howard (John Goodman), who claims there has been an attack, and he has saved Michelle’s life by trapping her for an unforeseeable amount of time.

Throughout the film, Howard is definitely sketchy. It’s hard to tell if what he’s saying is the truth or not because there are several details that support his claims and also details that refute them. Michelle quickly bonds with Emmett (John Gallagher, Jr.), a man who claims to have seen the attack and fought his way into the bunker. Together, they try to retain their sanity as the days go by, and try to figure out what’s really going on with Howard.

I was really enjoying it. I loved the claustrophobic nature of the bunker. I felt just as cooped up as I’m sure the characters felt. I was really getting into the drama of it all, and there were several occasions where I was scared, shocked, and intrigued throughout. I was completely invested. I’m a big fan of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and she didn’t disappoint. John Goodman was absolutely wonderful in his portrayal of Howard. There is a general unease around his portrayal, and he is fully capable of being terrifying when need be. It was great. I was really liking it.

In the last 15 minutes or so, there was a massive disconnect though. It felt like I was all of a sudden watching a completely different movie. I mentioned earlier that it felt like a ham fisted attempt at connecting the film to the events of Cloverfield, and I really do feel this way. The tension is completely different. It feels more campy than serious. If the whole movie had this feel to it, I wouldn’t have liked it as much. People on the internet seem to be calling this a twist ending because of how different it is, but I don’t agree with that at all.

That disconnect is probably my biggest complaint about the movie. There were a couple of things they could have done to prevent that feeling, but none of that happened. For all I know, this ending could have been the original ending of the script before it was adapted, but it really doesn’t feel that way. With the ending as it is, it’s kind of anti-climactic to the story overall. This isn’t to say that there is nothing of merit in 10 Cloverfield Lane‘s ending. It does provide a good resolution to Michelle’s character, and I did appreciate and understand that. I was just bummed at how it was presented.

My thought process really is that if 10 Cloverfield Lane was a completely separate entity, I would have received it better. Whether it’s a “spiritual successor” or not, the connection to Cloverfield is extremely loose. I enjoyed the movie overall, but don’t go into it expecting a direct sequel. It’s more like they’re trying to create a general Cloverfield universe, but it wasn’t as much of a hit for me as I was hoping it would be. I went into it with expectations that weren’t met.

Check out the original trailer below, the one that sparked my initial interest in 10 Cloverfield Lane!


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