This simple – yet layered story – is exceptional, even though it’s a “spiritual successor” to Cloverfield.
Every sci-fi nerd with a pulse was pretty excited earlier this year when the trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane suddenly popped up all over social media. Back in 2008, Cloverfield took the world by storm, notably for its crazy monsters and its fresh take on the found footage genre. While we don’t have that kind of camera and monster chutzpah here, we have plenty of action, excitement, drama and bizarre moments in this follow-up starring John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. It’s directed by Dan Trachtenberg, and Abrams has a producer credit.
10 Cloverfield Lane originally began as The Cellar, but at some point while filming, the creators realized there were a number of similarities between this movie and Cloverfield. It gets apparent pretty quick that the two stories don’t share the same fictional universe or continuity, but the themes are similar. Michelle (Winstead) survives a car accident, with the help of survivalist Howard Stambler (John Goodman). She fears she may have been abducted by Stambler, who says a major chemical attack on Earth has left the planet uninhabitable. She also gets to know Emmitt (Jon Gallagher, Jr.), a former high school track star who missed his mark also taking refuge in Stambler’s shelter.
For me, what makes this movie so fascinating is how easy it is to follow, but how many questions you end up asking yourself by the end of the movie. Who is the real monster? How do you define one? It’s a movie that takes some basic themes apart and hits you right back in the face with it when you think you’ve figured it all out.
There aren’t too many characters to get to know in this film, but all three can be related to in some way: Howard looks for power, Emmett has regrets, and Michelle is hope. Between all of the thematic things: the action is impressive. I’d say about 75% of the mystery is subtle, but it keeps you coming back for more. You try to look away, but you can’t.
I’d say there were a few parts where people next to me were cringing or commenting (one part involving a barrel and the three main characters was too much for one of the people sitting in my section – you’ll know what I mean when you go see the movie), and two people did leave when they realized much of the movie was going to be in an underground shelter, but if you can get past that, then I’d say you should be able to stick around for the best movie of the year so far.
I don’t think that the marketing campaign was misleading. There’s been a lot of chatter about that online. I will admit – when the initial trailer was revealed, I thought it was truly a sequel to Cloverfield. As more information emerged about the movie, I understood where the similarities are coming from. People have the abilities to look up what movies are going to be about, and when the director and/or his or her crew is forthcoming with the information (as Abrams was) then it’s fair game. Some articles online are saying the ‘spiritual successor’ term means there needs to be at least one link between the two movies. Well, according to TV Tropes…
“A Spiritual Successor is a type of sequel that is not part of the same world or story as its predecessor, but is nonetheless considered to be a successor because it’s made by the same creators; shares common themes, styles, or elements; or, most likely, both. In other words, it’s a sequel ‘in spirit.'”
If you want to call out a movie for its misleading marketing, you may want to try Tina Fey’s Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. Not that that worked against her – she was funny in all her funny parts, and did well in her dramatic parts. I found it misleading when all the trailers I was watching online and listening to on radio made it seem like she was going to be in this movie that parodied journalism and foreign correspondents. THAT is a case of giving off the wrong impression.
But this is a movie review, and I didn’t find the campaigning a hindrance to my experience. So, I’m giving 10 Cloverfield Lane a solid five trips down to the well-stocked, possibly post-apocalyptic shelter out of five. Go watch it.