WARNING: This post contains HEAVY spoilers about 10 Cloverfield Lane. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, stop reading. Trust me, you should see it as cleanly as possible. (I’ll warn you again before the real spoilers start!)
10 Cloverfield Lane surpassed my expectations. I know that doesn’t sound like very strong praise, but remember this: I’ve spent practically every waking moment of the past two months obsessing over every detail of this film.
I’ve gone through every trailer and TV spot frame-by-frame. I’ve devoured the ARG. I’ve read the screenplay for The Cellar, which was later (heavily) rewritten into the script to 10 Cloverfield Lane. I even succumbed to spoiler reports. All that, and it still managed to surpass my expectations.
Hell, I’d say it even shattered them.
Me and Jay saw it on Thursday night. When it was over, we just kind of sat there in stunned silence, overwhelmed to the point of immobility.
It’s no big surprise that he was so affected: Jay hadn’t followed the cryptic online marketing, let alone read the smallest of spoilers. For someone like me, who went in with complete knowledge about everything that was gonna happen, I thought for sure that I’d have to grade the film on a sliding scale. Uh, no. It was just that good.
This is as far as I can go without spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, stop reading here!
Okay, let’s start with the cast. Holy shit did I love this cast.
Between Roseanne and Arachnophobia, I grew up adoring John Goodman. Putting him in a movie like this felt like the greatest Christmas present ever. If you told me that this might be a possibility in the distant future of the so-called Cloververse, I would’ve at best imagined a brief cameo, unable to envision a world giving enough to make John Goodman the actual star of a Cloverfield movie. Like, God!
Goodman plays the part beautifully. 10 Cloverfield Lane is super tense and creepy, but my perception is that there’s a consistent current of whimsy and humor underneath the surface. As Howard Stambler, Goodman’s instability is either scary or funny — but more impressively, it’s often both at the same time. (I found myself chuckling at a few lines that the audience clearly saw as threatening. With other lines, the shoes were reversed.)
I’m sure a lot of us left feeling sympathetic towards Howard, which is weird to say, since he’s a kidnapper and multi-time murderer. Do we find ourselves conflicted just because he’s John Goodman? That’s some brilliant casting if so, but I think it goes deeper. We’re painted the picture of someone who might’ve been perfectly decent if he wasn’t crazy.
If there’s one bad thing about Goodman’s performance, it’s that everyone’s praises are drowning out another indisputable fact: Mary Elizabeth Winstead was completely f’n awesome. I hopped aboard Winstead’s train way back when Final Destination 3 came out, and she’s only gotten better since. (Or maybe she was always this good, and I just never saw her in something that stripped away so many frills? Either way, she killed it.)
John Gallagher Jr. as Emmett was great, too. He may have been the nicest surprise, because the version of his character from the original pre-Cloverfield screenplay was kind of a dick. By contrast, Emmett was this movie’s Hud, and he died in just as memorable a way.
Most reviewers have lauded the film’s tight, tense, claustrophobic feel. I agree with them. Actually, just assume that I agree with every positive thing that’s been said about 10 Cloverfield Lane. It’ll keep me from repeating common opinions, when all I really wanna do is talk about the ending. THOSE ALIENS.
I can’t deny that it’s been a point of contention, be it because “it felt tacked on,” or because it had nothing to do with the original film. I couldn’t feel more differently. First off, the movie laid the groundwork for aliens very early on. They aren’t mentioned often enough to make the ending obvious, but they’re in there!
To those who felt that the ending seemed “tacked on,” I’d argue that total tonal incongruity was the entire point. It’s supposed to be a mindfuck. You might even say that it was supposed to be superfluous, because by then we’d arguably already received a concluded movie, and even Michelle seems as much winded as bewildered by the alien reveal. It all goes back to what I mentioned earlier, about 10 Cloverfield Lane having a subtle pulse of humor. It’s messed up and frightening, but it’s also kind of funny.
Let’s face it, those weren’t the sorts of aliens you’d bust out if you were playing it straight. They’re biomechanical ships with bird beaks, and ground troops that look like wolf-sized Facehugger anuses. The jump from the bunker into that environment was so extreme that it had to be intentionally extreme.
How director Dan Trachtenberg and company managed to do this without ever bordering too close to farce, I have no idea. Despite it all, those alien scenes were haunting and intense.
A lesser film would’ve treated the invasion like a covert deus ex machina. Instead, the aliens were used to put a stamp on Michelle’s evolution from a timid girl who runs from trouble to a strong woman who faces it head-on.
Had she not just finished testing her mettle through overcoming Howard, could she have possibly handled the invasion? No, and that’s her arc. It’s how the movie manages to end on an uplifting note despite revealing a sky filled with alien warships.
(No wonder Stephen King liked the film. As far as endings go, 10 Cloverfield Lane is closer to The Mist than the actual movie adaptation was!)
Some folks are upset that the movie had no (immediately apparent) ties to the original Cloverfield. I don’t share their feelings, but I understand them. Bad Robot played this one very close to the vest, and in retrospect, owning up to the idea that Cloverfield was becoming an anthology series maybe should’ve happened sooner.
That said, I don’t consider it a “cash grab,” as some have suggested. I don’t think it was motivated by money at all. The simple truth is that wholly defining their intentions pre-release would’ve been like explaining the joke before you tell it. Also, when you get right down to it, I honestly believe that 10 Cloverfield Lane was better than any straight-up sequel could’ve been.
In the end, it’s all for the greater good. Now we have this thing called the Cloververse. If it expands with additional movies, our only guarantees are that those movies will be bizarre and infatuating. Those are pretty good guarantees, guys.
Course, some believe that the two films do connect, citing repeating elements from the online marketing. (Howard, for example, worked for a company that most definitely existed in the original film’s universe.) My feeling is that it could go either way, depending on whatever happens later with the franchise. Right now, I don’t think it’s set in stone.
I mentioned going into the movie after having read every spoiler. This wasn’t simply a case of skimming through a plot synopsis hours before heading to the theater, as I’ve stupidly done before. Spoilers popped up in the same corners of the web where people like me communally obsessed over the film’s ARG.
When you’re so obsessed with a film that you’ll spend hours a day arguing with strangers over “what’s in the barrel,” spoilers are pretty tough to resist!
As much as I loved the first movie’s ARG, this one was even better. While you didn’t need to follow it to enjoy the film, it certainly added context. Like, if you had any doubts about Howard’s stability, consider the fact that he’s spent the last several weeks trying to contact his presumably-dead daughter with cryptic websites, dead drops and outmoded cell phones.
(Yeah, for those who hadn’t quite pieced things together, Howard had also made a habit of kidnapping girls to use as surrogate Megans. As we learn in the film, Michelle was not the first.)
The ARG also makes it clear that Howard wasn’t just lucky: He really did know about the pending attack. If you went into the film fresh, you might’ve spent much of it wondering if Howard was crazy or secretly right. As you learn by the end, the trick is that he was both.
Shown above is a screenshot from funandprettythings.com, which acted as the online hub for all of Howard’s zaniness. (At face value, Howard built the site to lure his “estranged” daughter to the “safety” of his bunker.)
Fun fact: I was the first person to locate that site. Sure, it was only the easiest part of an ARG with 50000 steps, but I’ll always be immensely proud of that tiny accomplishment.
I can’t say that I want more movies like this. What made 10 Cloverfield Lane so effective is that there aren’t many movies like this. But I’d love a million billion more movies that are somewhere in the vein of this, and it’s looking like that’s the whole point of this hopefully-growing Cloververse.
Until the next chapter lands, I’ll happily subsist on DeviantArt sketches of the aliens, and online debates over whether the Polaroid was of Megan or a younger Brittany.
From hype to payoff, 10 Cloverfield Lane ruled my world.