I saw it before you did, again! 10 Cloverfield Lane

Hey look, I got to see another free movie! I’m on my way to becoming a nerd culture icon!

Haven’t gotten to play D&D with Felicia Day and/or Wil Wheaton yet, but I’ll keep you posted. Also, on a tangent, I was slightly amused by the fact that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies  had better security than this preview did. I guess they were afraid people would spoil that Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was kind of crappy? I dunno.

But, back to the interesting part. 10 Cloverfield Lane. Gonna try to keep this mostly spoiler-free.

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“What would you do if there was an apocalypse?” is a surprisingly common topic of discussion. Maybe it’s a holdover from the cold war, or maybe it’s indicative of the current political climate, or maybe it’s just fun to talk about. Still, disaster preparedness is definitely something to be aware of. It’s why I like to pick up an extra can of soup whenever I go to the grocery store. Be prepared, and all that.

While I like to keep (vaguely) ready, I don’t go to near the lengths that Howard (John Goodman) does in 10 Cloverfield Lane. Rather than re-hash the film’s premise, have a trailer (if you haven’t seen it yet).

So yeah. Exactly what it says on the tin, folks. 10 Cloverfield Lane is fairly interesting in that it was originally developed as its own thing. J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot production company scooped it up and added the “Cloverfield” name. 10 Cloverfield Lane isn’t in the same continuity as 2008’s Cloverfield, so there’s no kaiju or shaky-cam. Rather, J.J. Abrams and/or other important people at Bad Robot seem to be trying to make the word Cloverfield into a “brand,” which … well, more on that later.

10 Cloverfield Lane is a pretty small movie. 99 percent of the action is set in Howard’s doomsday bunker, centering around interactions between Howard and the strays he’s taken in: Emmet (John Gallagher Jr.) and Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). I honestly admire 10 Cloverfield Lane for taking such a small scale approach; too many sci-fi movies these days are centered entirely around the spectacle, with very little beneath.

Once you get past the whole “post apocalypse” angle, 10 Cloverfield Lane is a movie about family. Or, to be more specific, an abusive family. Alternately reasonable and ranting, John Goodman’s Howard presides over Michelle and Emmet as a twisted, abusive patriarch … who has still saved their lives. The movie really hammers the ‘abusive family’ angle, as about ten minutes after I really started picking up on it, Michelle has a monologue that pretty much states the movie’s themes. It’s a complex situation, considering Howard does save Michelle and Emmet’s lives from whatever the vague and unknown apocalypse was.

Mary Elizabeth Winstead does a great job showing both vulnerability and strength as Michelle. She’s wide eyed and vulnerable, yes … but at the same time, Michelle is a very proactive character (far more proactive than her fellow survivor/prisoner, Emmet), showing MacGuyver like levels of ingenuity as things inevitably go to hell. Y’know, between 10 Cloverfield Lane and Mad Max: Fury Road, all you need is one more post-apocalyptic feminist sci-fi movie to make that sub-sub genre a “thing.” Get to work, Hollywood.

While 10 Cloverfield Lane is a low-budget “bottle episode” of a sci-fi movie, it still shows some Hollywood-ish tweaks. I was able to predict a couple of the movie’s twists solely through the music cues, and there are a couple of little stickly bits that don’t make a lot of sense if you think about them too hard. Oh, and while I’m complaining, I would’ve liked to see some more gore, too. Then again, I’m a terrible, genre-aware cynic, so I’m biased.

When you boil it down, 10 Cloverfield Lane is an episode of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits (or maybe even Tales From The Crypt) without the gravely voiced narrator. And y’know what? That’s pretty great. While it’s not the best thriller I’ve seen lately (that title would go to The Guest), 10 Cloverfield Lane is still different from most other stuff hitting the screens lately. I dare say I enjoyed it more than the original Cloverfield, and that movie had a giant monster in it. J.J. Abrams & Co slapped the “Cloverfield” name on the script in order to start a kind of anthology franchise … and honestly, I hope they succeed. We could use more interesting sci-fi movies, as opposed to Michael Bay’s next Transformers fiasco.

So yeah, all my dozens of loyal readers. Go see this flick. It’s a solid B, I’d say- but I also want to encourage Hollywood to make more movies like it.

Oh, and as a bonus? Houston plays an important part in the ending. Spoilers!

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2 Comments

  1. I saw it today and was pleasantly surprised by it. I wasn’t expecting the big turn of events at the end and was not disappointed either. 3 1/3 stars for me

  2. I enjoyed it more than Cloverfield. John Goodman is so damn scary.

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