Monday, March 28, 2016

The Air is Toxic and The Floor is Lava, or Thoughts on 10 Cloverfield Lane

I absolutely detested Cloverfield (2008), I didn’t buy the premise that Rob wouldn’t put the camera down (boy. did I hate Rob) and help, or run away.  I wasn’t impressed with the PG-13 monster or the PG-13 violence and I haven’t completely forgiven JJ Abrams or Bad Robot Productions, though I have to admit he redeemed himself with The Force Awakens.
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) is a movie about paranoia and lack of information.  Three people are trapped in a surprisingly roomy and non-claustrophobic underground bunker.  John Goodman is Howard, the off-balance host, dungeon master, and possible kidnapper; he claims there’s been a disaster and the air is poisoned.  Mary Elizabeth Winsted plays Michelle, who wakes up after a car crash chained to a pipe, and John Gallagher Jr. Plays Emmet, who says he witnessed the attack but can she believe him?  I do like these single scene, minimal cast movies that are set up like a stage play, that can lead a lot of room for drama and clever story-telling.
When the actors (and the audience) have no idea what the threat is, although John Goodman says it is possibly extraterrestrial, imagination becomes the greatest threat.  In this sense the movie is more like an old timey radio drama, Orson Welles’ War of the World all over again.  It's a tightrope between tease and reveal to keep the audience interested and in their seats, and 10 Cloverfield Lane loses its balance towards the finale.  Night of the Living Dead (1968) explored a similar terrain with the upstairs group fighting the basement group in a power struggle, but at least the audience could see the actual threat outside the doors.  The same can be said for the group trapped in the grocery store in Frank Darabont’s The Mist (2007).
It’s hard to write about the ending without actually revealing it (you can check Wikipedia if you’re really desperate).  I can tell you that all your questions will be answered and you will still leave the theater feeling unsatisfied.  Sometimes mysteries are better left unexplained, like John Locke plugging in the numbers in the bunker in Lost (2004, JJ Abrams again).  The entire series suffered when the writers started desperately explaining things in the final seasons, and 10 Cloverfield Lane experiences a similar crash upon re-entry.
The movie has been compared to The Twilight Zone, and with the Cold War this theme has been explored in depth in episodes like The Shelter (1961) Time Enough at Last (1959) or The Monsters are Due on Maple Street (1960).  Doomsday paranoia is nothing new, and in many ways our post 9/11 world and fear of global terrorism is just as crippling as the old Iron Curtain and nuclear holocaust.  There are survival and prepper videos on YouTube that get millions of views, as more and more people question their politicians and look for grassroots solutions.  It can seem desperate, and our movies are reflecting that unfortunate zeitgeist
I’m not looking for happy endings, just clever ones.  10 Cloverfield Lane starts with a great premise and doesn’t commit to it, and by the end we’re hit with an entirely different mini-movie.  It’s been called a “spiritual sequel”, but what exactly does that mean?  Ordinary people are thrust into apocalyptic, world-ending scenarios and the name “Cloverfield” is somehow shoehorned into the plot? That will leave room for Son of Cloverfield, Bride of Cloverfield, Cloverfield Reloaded, The Search for Cloverfield and of course, The Wrath of Cloverfield.


my first novel? thanks for asking:) I wrote a 4 book supernatural martial arts series concerning the ongoing feud between a group of kung-fu killer witches in san francsico’s chinatown.