Well, it worked.
The typically secretive J.J. Abrams made no attempt to hide how nervous he was about the daring and experimental launch of his latest project — “I don’t know if this is going to work,” he admitted to Rolling Stone — but the impresario’s fears were ultimately unfounded. Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the existence of IMAX-sized 10 Cloverfield Lane was only unveiled two months ago, the “blood relative” of 2008’s Cloverfield is a bona fide hit. Exploding out of the gate with a $25.2 million opening weekend, the modestly budgeted monster movie is already guaranteed to turn a healthy profit and bolster Abrams’ reputation as Hollywood’s greatest hype man.
There’s only one problem: 10 Cloverfield Lane has almost nothing to do with Cloverfield. It doesn’t have the same monster. It doesn’t have the same characters. It doesn’t even take place on the same timeline.
Judging by the critical consensus and the social media response, most people seem to be onboard with the whole thing. The film’s B- CinemaScore suggests that audiences felt the discrepancy between the movie that they saw and the movie they had been promised, but enjoyed the final product too much to resent the misdirection of the marketing campaign.
On the other hand, it was inevitable that some viewers were going to feel duped. Take this guy, for example, who Tweeted that “10 Cloverfield Lane is more like a sequel to Room than Cloverfield — feeling disappointed.” Or this guy, who struggled to contextualize the spiritual sequel. Or, for a more (the most?) extreme example, check out “The truth about 10 Cloverfield Lane,” a conspiratorial Reddit thread that concludes with a classic: “I’m not paying money towards this shit.”
People always say that they want to see something new, but they’re only willing to pay for something old. Where’s the line between swindling people and coercing them into doing themselves a favor?
Abrams, who had the foresight to expect such responses, did his best to run interference in the weeks leading up to the film’s release. “This movie is its own thing,” he told Rolling Stone after making a last-minute decision to fly across the country and help frame the film for members of the press. “There’s definitely a connection in many ways — thematically, spiritually, in terms of genre — but if you’re going in to see Cloverfield 2, this is not Cloverfield 2. And it’s intentionally not called Cloverfield 2.” Abrams has burned audiences before (remember the whole “Benedict Cumberbatch totally isn’t playing Khan” mishegoss?), and the idea of using a brand as a Trojan horse for a seemingly unrelated psychological thriller is a bold move for someone who already has a strike on his record.