Spoilers follow. Real talk.
By now many of you have been able to see J.J Abrams’ 10 Cloverfield Lane, his blood relative to Cloverfield that was directed by Dan Trachtenberg.
I absolutely loved the taut sci-fi thriller, but wasn’t able to talk about the film’s shocking finale, which I think is where audiences are going to be divided.
10 Cloverfield Lane was originally titled The Cellar when announced in 2014. It was also part of Paramount’s now defunct Insurge label, which was created to produce 10 low budget indie genre films a year (created in 2010, only a handful of titles actually were produced).
What’s most surprising is that the plot details were revealed at the time:
“The majority of the movie takes place in an underground cellar and revolves around a young woman who wakes up after a severe car accident and fears she has been abducted. Her captor, a doomsday prepper, tells her he saved her life and that there has been a terrible chemical attack that has left the outside uninhabitable. As tensions rise, she decides she must escape regardless of the terrors that await outside.”
As of that writing, Dan Casey wrote the most recent version of the script, while Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken penned the original draft.
This would mean that, before shooting had even begun, all three writers had touched the original story.
Now, if we go back to this reddit post from January, there’s all sorts of alleged information about the film’s original intentions.
First and foremost, 10 Cloverfield Lane was announced under the title The Cellar and filmed under the moniker Valencia.
The reddit user alleges that it was produced under Paramount’s Insurge, and “when Paramount closed it down, this movie (shot and completed) was thrown out to the wind and orphaned.
“Paramount bought it back up and had Dan Casey and Damien Chazelle do some re-writes so that it would connect to the Cloverfield universe and they went back and did reshoots and add-ons in March 2015 in New Orleans and L.A.” adds the anonymous user who says they have the 2013 screenplay for The Cellar, which carries no mention of any monster (you can read the script’s ending right here).
Speculation at the time was that a new finale had been filmed that would include the Cloverfield behemoth, thus tying it to the Cloverfield universe.
While 10 Cloverfield Lane‘s theatrical finale doesn’t include the Cloverfield monster, it does have extraterrestrial crafts and various alien lifeforms – John Goodman’s character also implies that the chemical warfare could be part of an alien attack, leading the viewer to connect the Godzilla-sized Cloverfield to a wave of strikes.
Looking back at the film with the eyes of an editor, it’s really impressive to think someone had the idea to pigeon-hole Cloverfield into the micro genre film.
Here’s what the reddit user claims originally happened in the film’s screenplay:
“I also have the 2013 script for ‘The Cellar,’ and I see no mention of the monster anywhere in here. Pretty much every scene from the trailer is in the script and there is no mention of a monster. The climax of the movie is:
“…after a whole movie of hints and boredom, Winstead finally finds out from the bearded guy and John Goodmen what happened to the world. Iran got ahold of a stockpile of nuclear/chemical weapons and then they detonated those bombs in major cities. The majority of the outside world is now covered with radiation and chemical fallout. They also find out that the the bunker’s ventilation system can’t support more then 2 people. Winstead doesn’t believe them and thinks that John Goodman is a pervert so she rebels. After a whole bunch of in-fighting and running around amongst the 3 of them, the bearded dude is killed by Goodman , and Winstead stabs/shoots Goodman and escapes with a hazmat suit. She steals a truck and drives down an empty highway towards Chicago. She drives for a while until she can see the city in the distance, she then gets out of the car and the camera pans around to show a devastated chicago skyline. Cut to black and credits roll”
In fact, The Film Stage literally breaks down the original script vs the final film.
Here’s there more detailed confirmation of the reddit post:
“The movie ends with something out of the farmhouse scene in Spielberg’s ‘War of the Worlds’, with Michelle escaping from Howard and getting outside of the shelter, only to find that aliens have invaded and are hunting people. She must outwit a worm-like attack dog and then do exactly what Tom Cruise did in ‘War of the Worlds’, introducing an explosive device into a biological looking orifice on an alien craft to escape from its massive tentacles. Then, after all of this, she embarks to Houston to kick some alien ass, in a “the battle is over, let’s fight the war” kind of ending cribbed from ‘Battle: Los Angeles’. In the last shot, flashes of lightning reveal alien ships in the distance, indicating the film-long struggle we just witnessed is comparatively minuscule.
In the original script, Michelle escapes the shelter and is chased through the farmhouse by Howard, who still wants to “protect” her. She blinds him with bathroom cleaner, he tells her about his tragic life (dead wife, missing daughter, treacherous Nate, etc.), and then she shoots him in the kneecap and runs away. He ends the movie alive, entreating Michelle to “be careful.” Later, after traveling down empty roads and finding no one around to help her, she crests a hill and sees the Chicago skyline, smoldering and destroyed. No explanation is given. We don’t even know what she will do next, only that she now knows that Howard, for all his oddity, was correct. The final line in the script is, “She slowly pulls down the mask on the hazmat suit before taking a breath.”
This is probably the shot in the final film of Michelle looking up to the sky and seeing birds flying around…
Even without the tacked on ending, 10 Cloverfield Lane would have been a phenomenal claustrophobic thriller. But you have to wonder if Paramount would have even released the film in theaters without the new sequences? That’s the sad state of Hollywood today – it’s franchise or bust. With that said, I do appreciate the original way of approaching a Cloverfield sequel so that we don’t see the same thing time and time again. I look forward to more out-of-the-box thinking by Bad Robot.
What do you guys think?