Mar 16, 2016

"10 Cloverfield Lane" - The Bastard Child of "Misery" and "World of the Worlds"

Hypothesis - If Misery and World of the Worlds conceived an illegitimate child, they would name the bastard 10 Cloverfield Lane.  

I managed to get out and see 10 Cloverfield Lane opening night.  After reading early reviews, I drank the cool-aid, and harbored some excitement for what I thought would be a decent sci-fi thriller.  But 2 hours later, instead of glowing with the same excitement expressed by many reviewers and Redditors, I was more confused.  My confusion was not caused by the movie, but by the praise 10 Cloverfield Lane is receiving.  

"Smart," "bold," and "solidly crafted;" these are some of the reviews the film is soliciting.  But I don't see anything smart about it.  The protagonist, an aspiring seamstress, welding together a hazmat suit using duct tape and a shower curtain, with a facial respirator make from a soda bottle?  What the fuck.  Do you expect any inquisitive and observant viewer to believe that she suddenly knows how to engineer a functional hazmat suit?  And, would any smart person, in this situation, think this worthless attempt to create a guaranteed-to-fail hazmat suit be a better solution than over-powering the captor?  She managed to wrangle away his keys.  And she managed to burn the bunker down with him inside.  Isn't it plausible to conceive that Michelle and Emmett could have overpowered Howard, and locked him in the same room that Michelle woke up in?         

But regardless of the wonky character decisions derived from the shotty script, here are some looming after thoughts from my displeased experience.

1. Howard Stambler is Annie Wilkes

I'm in disbelief that I haven't seen this comparison anywhere else on the internet.  If you Google Howard Stambler and Annie Wilkes, no claims emerge.  I'd love to reward myself with an honorary ass-scratching, but I just don't believe I'm the first to make such an obvious connection.  Regardless, as I was watching John Goodman unravel his best efforts at presenting obsessive lunacy, it triggered visions of deja vu.  My neurons started firing images of Kathy Bates being asphyxiated with smoldered printer paper by James Caan through my gray matter.

But then I started thinking more: the crash scene, the amorally oblivious captors, shots fired, fight for freedom!  The parallels are so bold, that there's more in common than just Howard Stambler and Annie Wilkes; Misery and 10 Cloverfield Lane are practically the same!  So before we start awarding such honorary accolades to these writers, let's keep in mind that it's not exactly original.  

2. Hazmat suit out of a shower curtain?

I touched on this in the opening.  I didn't want to mention it then, but the silliness of this concept overshadows everything that I partially enjoyed about the flick.  But maybe this says more about me than the film.  Maybe engineering a functional hazmat suit isn't as challenging as I think it should be.  Maybe there's some easy-to-access anarchist instructions that go into step-by-step detail explaining how a shower curtain can become a gas-impervious hazmat suit.  And maybe those step-be-step details are simple enough for a seamstress to comprehend.  So maybe all this is true, and there's something wrong with me for not buying into this stupid idea, and believing that this is actually more plausible than over-powering Howard with the help of Emmett.  But then again, apparently a Molotov can blow up a mother-ship.  let's applaud the screenwriters for forcing a pithy concept past inquisitive viewers, (while sadly succeeding in most cases). 

3. Did John Goodman save this film?

I  believe he did.  He was really the only redeeming quality.  And his screen time was the only time during the film where I didn't have to fight to stay awake (I did fall asleep for a brief 5 minutes.  Or it may have been 20 ...).  The screenwriters tried going all Shutter Island on its viewers by adding some interesting clues to build an intriguing mystery.  But the screenwriters did such a lousy job keeping the mystery involved with the film, that it gets easily forgotten by the fumbling characters.  And then the characters!  The entire time, I gave Emmett enough credit be have the mental capacity to coerce Michelle for the benefit of Howard.  But once Howard shot Emmett, I was slightly betrayed that the writers wouldn't try to build on what would have been an interesting plot twist.  And I just didn't think Michelle was as smart or daring of a character that the film tries to present her as.  I thought the hazmat suit was stupid.  I didn't understand how she was able to sneak around and make the suit in that tiny bunker without Howard noticing.  I sure as fuck didn't expect anything clever from her. And I still don't know why Emmett and Michelle did not try to overpower Howard.  AND DON'T SAY IT'S BECAUSE HE HAD A GUN!  She managed to konk him on the head while trying to flee the bunker.  

I know, I'm rambling about the shitty script.  But I do believe John Goodman saved this film from catastrophe.  No one knows what to think of the ending that came out of left field.  Some people are suggesting that the unusual transition from a thriller movie to a sci-fi wrecker, is like trying to mix water and oil.  And I think there's some truth to that, that each one has a completely different tone, and they don't complement one another.  But, my theory is because Howard is no longer in the film at this point.  

In conclusion, does 10 Cloverfield Lane contain Literary Merit?

 Hell no.

Our ongoing definition of literary merit states that a movie needs to be honest with its presentation.  And this movie was far from honest.  And to reinforce what I define literary merit to be, I am not suggesting that the move is not honest, due to the aliens, or other fictional elements.  I believe this movie lacks honesty in that these characters are not reacting as we would expect them to act in these situations.  I don't believe a person in this situation would attempt to make a hazmat suit from a shower curtain, before trying to over-power their captor.  I don't believe that someone who just wakes up from a coma, finding herself locked in an unknown room, would willingly accept the situation without some type of reservation.  She did show reservation, but not enough.  

10 Cloverfield Lane is strictly a flick for the easily amused.  And you can enjoy it to, as long as you don't come in with in inquisitive mind.