In 2008, Hollywood was rocked by a little monster film titled, Cloverfield. Based on a $25 million budget, the baby of The Blair Witch Project and Godzilla was met with both critical and commercial success, scoring an impressive 78% on rotten tomatoes and garnering $172.4 million worldwide. It would take nearly ten years later for J.J. Abrams to revisit the Cloverfield world as 10 Cloverfield Lane, starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman, and John Gallagher Jr. Originally, the script was an ultra-low-budget film titled The Cellar by Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken. While reading the script, Abrams noticed the similarities between The Cellar and Cloverfield and opted to make the new movie a distant cousin of the 2008 monster flick.
10 Cloverfield Lane follows Michelle, who wakes up in a mysterious underground bunker after surviving a fatal car accident. Howard, the good Samaritan that saved the young woman convinces her that a massive chemical attack has rendered the air unbreathable, and their only hope for survival is to remain inside. In addition to fellow survivor Emmett, the two try to make do with the situation within the bunker; however, Howard’s controlling and violent behavior prompts them to make an escape plan. Once they finally take matters into their own hands, the truth over what really happened to the world comes to light. 10 Cloverfield Lane ended up being one of the most critically praised films 0f 2016, earning a strong 90% on rotten tomatoes, with the most notable compliments going to the script and top-notch cast. However, many critics and fans have pointed out the detached climax and how the original film feels far from a proper Cloverfield sequel. Was 10 Cloverfield Lane an unnecessary cash-grab? Let’s examine the 2016 mystery thriller.
First things first, while 10 Cloverfield Lane is being prompted as the distant cousin of the 2008 feature, it more so feels like the distant step-brother that lives in France. Obviously, this script went through rewrites (like all scripts do); however, prior to the ending, there’s really not a connection between the two films. In the 2008 monster movie, there wasn’t any threat or danger coming from an airborne virus. Also, 10 Cloverfield Lane never once mentions a monster or some sort of creature invading their world. Yes, I get that the climax was supposed to be a surprise; however, there are barely any nods or hints that would indicate a monster invasion. This is why the climax feels incredibly tacked on because there’s no build to that out of nowhere moment. Granted, the question of how that mysterious lady and farm animals were exposed to gas was answered, but there were never any gas attacks in the first film. It’s clear that Abrams and executives wanted to boost the hype of 10 Cloverfield Lane, thus they opted to add that climax to say that this was in relation to 10 Cloverfield Lane. Business-wise, this is actually a very smart decision.
Fans had been claiming for a Cloverfield sequel for years. The 2008 monster movie had name recognition and the producers wanted to keep the potential franchise alive and make tons of money in the process. Is this an unnecessary Cloverfield cash-grab? Definitely. However, despite the ending not fitting a Cloverfield world, there’s no denying just how darn good this movie is. Despite being in one location for a good majority of the movie, the tension between Michelle, Howard, and Emmett is what keeps you invested in this tight little thriller. The writers wisely played off the suspicion of whether Howard is telling the truth or not. More importantly, Howard is truly a scary villain. John Goodman is simply fantastic as Howard; He’s kind and light-hearted one minute and a controlling psychopath the next. There never feels like a switch between these personalities because Goodman does an excellent job of balancing the characteristics that make Howard human. Of course, it helps that both Michelle and Emmett are such likable protagonists. As always, Mary Elizabeth Winstead delivers a strong performance. John Gallagher Jr.’s charisma matches Winstead’s energy and the two protagonists’ chemistry is easy to see.
Wisely, neither Michelle or Emmett are cast as stupid, never falling for Howard’s bull**** and outsmarting him when necessary. The scene when Howard kills Emmett is truly shocking but in a good way. Howard snapping is no surprise; however, the unpredictable nature of his movements keep you guessing throughout 1hr and 43-minute runtime. Despite the forced Cloverfield tie-in, the climax never ruins the great film. As previously stated, 10 Cloverfield Lane may feel like an unnecessary cash grab, but at least this film is worth watching, unlike so many other films that are purely driven to make big money.