To address the question everyone has—“Is 10 Cloverfield Lane a sequel to 2008’s Cloverfield?”—the answer is no, not really. 10 Cloverfield Lane is about as related to Cloverfield as apples are related to corn. Yes, apples and corn are both technically fruits (look it up if you don’t believe me) but they don’t look the same, taste the same, and when someone says fruit you will never ever picture corn on the cob. The same goes for 10 Cloverfield Lane and Cloverfield. However, in the end, I feel this canyon-sized disconnect is to this new film’s advantage.
10 Cloverfield Lane, a continuation of 2008’s Cloverfield directed Dan Trachtenberg and produced by J.J. Abrams, follows Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a young woman who gets in a car crash on a country road one night and wakes up in a bunker inhabited by Howard (John Goodman), a stern doomsday prepper, and by Emmett (John Gallagher Jr.), a folksy, country guy. Howard tells Michelle that he saved her life by taking her to his bunker as there has been a cataclysmic attack on humanity that has turned the air outside toxic and has killed everyone. Although she doesn’t believe him at first, evidence starts to pile up and she succumbs to his beliefs and they even start to live like an actual family. But when truths about Howard’s past start to surface, Michele and Emmett are left to wonder if it’s safer inside the bunker or outside.
Despite 10 Cloverfield Lane’s role as a continuation of the found footage staple, Cloverfield, the two movies wouldn’t seem related at a first, second, or third glance. They have different plots, characters, aesthetic styles, themes, and even genres (Cloverfield was a found footage survival horror film, while this is a conventionally shot, mystery, suspense thriller). 10 Cloverfield Lane doesn’t even mention any of the events of Cloverfield: no giant monsters or destroyed cities. However, the connection is there at the end, but in context alone. No actual plot facts connect the two films concretely, so watching Cloverfield in preparation to see this film will be utterly meaningless. However this separation lets this film leave the now overused tropes and cliches of the old film in the dust and allows it to continue in a wonderfully original and interesting new direction. How easy would it have been to make a carbon copy of Cloverfield but in a new city? 10 Cloverfield Lane instead chooses to make a thrilling character-centered mystery. Its choice to focus on well-rounded characters and a mysterious plot make it much more interesting and memorable than its counterpart.
10 Cloverfield Lane’s characters are its strong suit. Michelle is a strong, smart, and reliable heroine, Emmett is a fun and very likable guy, and John Goodman’s Howard is a very interesting and troubled character, who the audience can’t decide whether to trust or not. I wish the idea of them becoming a family was accentuated a little more, but the movie is acted well, the dialogue is written well, and all around the characters are enjoyable and believable.
As a thriller, the movie consists of pure undistilled tension; however, I feel the mystery aspect could have been worked more. There were some plot avenues that I think the film should have taken that would have intrigued the audience more. For example, it could have been left more ambiguous as to whether or not the outside world had really collapsed. Missed chances like this would have definitely bolstered the entertainment experience of the audience. But, all in all, the unexpected twists and turns this film takes left my mouth agape more than once, and the ending, although coming a little out of left field, was great and left me stoked for a possible next film.
If you came looking for a retread of the “monster annihilates a city” trope, then I suggest you look elsewhere. But if you want a joyride through the depths of suspense and intrigue, then this is the movie for you. I will give 10 Cloverfield Lane a B.
By Sam Finbury