What the hell is going on with 10 Cloverfield Lane?

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10 Cloverfield Lane is either going to be one of the best cinematic experiences I have this year, or the most monumental disappointment of my entire life. I’m having trouble seeing how there can be any middle ground.

What’s making me nervous is that I have absolutely no clue what film I’ll be buying tickets to on March 11. Bad Robot has taken the mystery box idea to the absolute extreme this time, and they may have finally gone too far. With 10 Cloverfield Lane, the marketing feels less like an intriguing puzzle and more like a group of friends giggling to themselves as they keep you out of an inside joke.

Jumping back to January, I will never forget waking up to a text that there was a trailer for Cloverfield 2 online. Groggy and half-asleep, I ignored this message as some sort of sarcastic remark that I didn’t understand because I was not fully awake yet. When I hopped on the Internet, though, news articles about a surprise sequel to the 2008 monster (pun intended) hit were everywhere, and my heart sank. Holy. Shit. Not only is there going to be another Cloverfield, something I have been anticipating for the past eight years, but it has already been filmed, there is a trailer out, and it hits theaters in a few weeks. 

Right next to the announcement that Disney had purchased Lucasfilm, it was the craziest movie news I had ever heard. After scrambling to open YouTube, the footage blew me away, both piquing my interest and serving as a thrilling short film all on its own. I could not shake my giddy excitement all morning, trying to focus on other tasks but never able to stop thinking about the fact that CLOVERFIELD 2 IS COMING OH MY GOD.

That enthusiasm lasted no more than a few hours before it was immediately replaced by a sense of profound anxiety.

The same day, news started to break that 10 Cloverfield Lane was originally called The Cellar. A fake title Bad Robot came up with to throw us off the trail, right? Well, not exactly. From what we were hearing, this was a completely unrelated movie that had the Cloverfield name slapped on to it at the last minute because nobody would give a shit otherwise. Not only that, but rumor had it that nearly the entire movie took place in the underground bunker like some sort of bottle episode. And there are no monsters. The real monster is humanity.

Fuck.

The next few weeks was a rollercoaster of emotions, full of conflicting reports from people claiming to have seen a test screening confirming that it does not contain any monsters, and then from people saying those reports are bullshit and there totally are monsters. Nobody could tell us for sure what the hell was going on or if we should curb our enthusiasm. Are we getting ourselves hyped up for the sequel we had been waiting for, or are we about to line up to see a film that has absolutely nothing to do with Cloverfield?

The ARG that’s been running online hasn’t helped answer that question much, although we’ve learned that John Goodman’s character was apparently an employee at Tagruato, the mining company that inadvertently woke up the monster from the first movie. Is this significant, or are meaningless details like these all that will connect the two stories? Nobody knows.

Recently, J.J. Abrams and director Dan Trachtenberg gave some interviews apparently to shed light on the subject, but they only added to the confusion. (Although they did reveal that the movie was rewritten to be a Cloverfield sequel prior to filming, and the name wasn’t simply added after the fact.)

Here’s what Abrams had to say to Fandango just last week:

This movie is very purposefully not called Cloverfield 2, because it’s not Cloverfield 2. The association is clear and there are multiple connections – and there is a bigger idea at play for us with these movies and this connection…And the fun of it is that some of these connections – and there’s a lot of them – are not the kind of connections you might think. So if you’re approaching it as a literal sequel, you’ll be surprised to see what this movie is. But while it’s not what you might expect from a movie that has the name ‘Cloverfield’ in it, I think you’ll find that you’ll understand the connection when you see the whole thing.

What the fuck is he talking about? So there are connections to the original for sure, but he could be talking about anything from Clover appearing and causing destruction to Mary Elizabeth Winstead drinking the same kind of soda that was in the first movie.

He then said:

The story of this movie – and it came to us originally as a spec that was very different in a lot of ways and an unrelated thing altogether – is definitely about different kinds of monsters. And while the Cloverfield monster isn’t in this movie, there’s a new monster and there’s something else that happens… but I don’t want to ruin the ending.

More confusion. There are different kinds of monsters, but does that mean there’s another kaiju? Or, as many have speculated, does it mean that the “different kind of monster” is John Goodman’s character? The tagline is “Monsters come in many forms” after all, so is the thesis going to be that fellow human beings are the true evil? Because if so, there may actually be riots in the theater when this thing premieres. And I will probably participate in them.

In a separate interview with Empire, Abrams made similarly vague comments.

Well, what I’ll say is that there is a new monster in this movie. It isn’t the Cloverfield monster that you know, but this all plays into a sort of larger conceit that we have.

So the Cloverfield monster isn’t in the film, although that was basically a given seeing as its death was implied. But again, his “new monster” comment could either mean we should expect another giant creature, or we should expect John Goodman acting monstrous. Can someone please give us a sense of what to expect here?

Well, we can at least say for sure there’s something sci-fi going on in the plot, as Abrams later told Entertainment Weekly that we will “see something that is not of this natural Earth.” Maybe John Goodman is secretly an alien with a third eye, Twilight Zone style.

Director Dan Trachenberg chimed in too, following the J.J. Abrams school of answering questions by saying absolutely nothing.

Cloverfield was a familiar genre that was told in a very unique way. Similarly, we are a familiar genre that’s also told in a unique way. It’s not the same way: the first Cloverfield had that awesome hook of being told in this found-footage experience. We have something else going for us that makes it unique. I think our structure’s very interesting and there’s things in it that you have to experience.

Based on all of these quotes, there are so many possibilities for what 10 Cloverfield could end up being. Is it…

  1. A completely standalone thriller about a woman trapped inside a cellar in which the “monster” is her captor, and it just happens to take place in the same universe as Cloverfield with very minor connections and references to the first monster attack? [This is possibly eliminated by Abrams’ comment that there is something otherworldly going on.]
  2. A thriller about a woman trapped in a cellar for the first 2/3rds of the film, but then she escapes in the last act and the movie takes a sudden turn as she discovers giant monsters are on the loose everywhere?
  3. A monster film that begins in a cellar, but in the same way the original Cloverfield began at a party, thus turning into an action spectacular in the last half? [It’s playing in IMAX, after all, and why release a small bottle-thriller in IMAX?]

The fact that nobody has made it clear leaves me fearful that Bad Robot is being purposely obtuse in an attempt to put butts in seats. Either they’re acting mysterious in order to preserve all surprises, or it’s because because there are no surprises. I worry it’s an attempt to convince us to go see a generic film because it happens to share a title with a movie we liked, but then because of these interviews, they can come back and say, “But we told you it wasn’t Cloverfield 2!”

J.J. Abrams would never give away the majority of a film in the trailer, though, right? There just has got to be more going on than what’s occurring in the cellar, right? Right? Is this movie going to actually drive me insane? March 11 can’t come soon enough. I need answers, dammit.

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