Thoughts on, and a place to discuss, the plot points we can’t reveal in our review.
To repeat the question: Is short-tempered captor Howard (John Goodman) a kook or a genuine doomsday soothsayer? As it turns out, he’s both. Having kept the character’s motives unknowable for much of its running time, 10 Cloverfield Lane eventually reveals that Howard is every bit the kidnapping creep Michelle (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) assumes him to be in the opening minutes of the movie; not only did he intentionally run her off the road to get her back to his bunker, but he also kept another young woman captive in the same place, before an escape attempt that ended badly. Here’s the thing, though: Crazy as he is, Howard isn’t wrong about the global catastrophe that sent him scrambling underground. The surface world has been poisoned by Martians—a revelation that arrives in the final few minutes, when Michelle escapes and finds the surrounding cornfields monitored by gas-spewing UFOs and their slimy green pilots. (As Abrams has suggested in interviews, the towering reptilian monster of the original Cloverfield is not involved.)
It’s all a bit disappointing. Not because director Dan Trachtenberg stages the pyrotechnics poorly: If everything in the bunker vaguely recalls the cellar scenes in War Of The Worlds, the above-ground climax furthers that comparison; this is a Spielberg homage that manages to approximate some of the thrill of the real deal. It’s just that whiz-bang action is a much less interesting end to what had heretofore been a pretty smart, tight psychological thriller. Though the script was written before Abrams rebranded it a Cloverfield extension, there’s still a strong sense that the climax has been engineered to meet expectations—the idea being that the audience might revolt if the threat above isn’t real, like the menace of a certain M. Night Shyamalan movie. It’s an easy twist that turns the film into something it wasn’t really before, and I wonder if I’ll be alone in wishing that the movie had stayed in the bunker—or, at the very least, had come up with something a little more surprising or unique than “there are monsters on Maple St.”