In a mixture of teasing the audience with hints of a monster and a viral ad campaign that captivated fans before Cloverfield was even released, JJ Abrams was able to give us something we hadn’t seen before. Eight years later the Cloverfield name returned to theaters with 10 Cloverfield Lane and, once again, Abrams has brought a compelling blend of genres to the big screen.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere, 10 Cloverfield Lane only popped on the public’s radar a few months ago and was met with a very surprised and warm welcome. Rather than following a group of 20-somethings being chased by a giant monster throughout Manhattan, Bad Robot takes us to a contained underground bunker evading some aboveground disaster. As the trailers hinted, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallagher Jr. are living together in a doomsday shelter and trying to keep their composure.
Where 2008’s Cloverfield worked with immense scale action and an obvious threat, 10 Cloverfield reels it in focusing on tension and sanity as the driving force. Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) wakes up in a bunker belonging to Howard (John Goodman), a man who clearly has some demons of his own boiling beneath the surface. Also in the bunker is Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), who is simply grateful to Howard for saving him from the unknown disaster outside. According to Howard, the surface is doomed and his bunker is the only option for survival. Michelle begins to question Howard’s claims and his motivations which is where 10 Cloverfield Lane really kicks into gear.
Much like a lot of Bad Robots productions, the story is about presenting unknowns to the audience and leaving them guessing. Characters are unknown quantities and generally, the main characters only know the same limited information as the audience. 10 Cloverfield Lane takes that up a notch further with its claustrophobic setting and limited cast, giving it a stage-like feeling of tension.
Fans wanting some major ties to the original Cloverfield will be disappointed in the lack of a link. The goal for Abrams with the Cloverfield franchise is to build a Twilight Zone style anthology of stories that share elements and tone, but are overall unrelated. That being said, those fans that found themselves sucked into the viral campaign of the first film (like myself) will not be disappointed. Names like Slush-O and Bold Futura appear as easter eggs in the film, as well as online. Posts by the fake companies from the Cloverfield-iverse have led fans to burner phones, bottles of fake soda and cryptic voicemails from Howard himself that fill in some of the deeper story that happens outside of the scope of the film.
10 Cloverfield Lane is not just about people surviving together, and without saying too much, audiences wanting their taste of sci-fi will not be disappointed. While it’s a very different movie from 2008’s entry, 10 Cloverfield Lane delivers on the twists and turns we’ve come to expect from Bad Robot.
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