The Cloverfield Universe and my nerd theory about it: MASSIVE SPOILER WARNING I TELL THE WHOLE PLOT
I just finished watching 10 Cloverfield Lane.
I'll start by saying that as a standalone film, it was very well-acted, extremely tense, and an all-around great thriller. John Goodman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and John Gallagher Jr all delivered excellent acting performances.
Now, the moment the credits rolled it hit me like a goddamned tidal wave.
THESE ARE HALF-LIFE MOVIES.
Hear me out.
The first Cloverfield movie is a disjointed shaky-cam first-person experience of what it would be like if a giant monster started destroying New York City. There are smaller monsters as well but the main villain is a massive, screen-filling presence that is beyond explanation or comprehension to the people in the film. One of the greatest attributes of the movie (and the reason I loved it) is that the monster is never explained. The never even try. Is it an alien? Is it aliens? Is it Godzilla? A mutant from a nuclear accident? Is it an Elder God wakening from deep beneath the sea to bring insanity and chaos to the mortal realm? We don't know because the people holding the camera don't know. How can they? They're just filming their attempts at staying alive. My first thoughts when I saw it were, "Wow... this is what it would actually be like if a giant monster inexplicably started destroying New York City."
10 Cloverfield Lane is not a sequel; it's a completely separate story that takes place in a totally different setting. In this case, it takes place in rural Louisiana. Again, the situation that our heroine finds herself in is inexplicable and beyond comprehension. She has no idea why she has been taken captive, why she is in a bunker, and through a series of revelations, why the outside of the bunker is so thoroughly and totally fucked (hint: it was aliens).
When she wakes up, she is weak, scared, and lost. By the time she escapes the bunker, she has learned a great deal about herself, including her ability to overcome her biggest failing (being able to stand up to an abusive and dangerous man), and discovers that she can be a fearless badass when put into a dire situation. She escapes hellish captivity only to find herself in brand new world, one that makes absolutely no sense. Again, this is what it would really be like if for some reason, a doomsday prepper crazy person just happened to be right, and his conspiracies of alien invasion of earth became true, and he just happened to be able to take captives into his bunker under the auspices of "saving them" from a worse fate.
When she escapes, she finds herself in a world that has been invaded by aliens and, barring any context or information other than what she observes with her own eyes, must now figure out how to survive and find others. She ends up killing an alien in the process, and discovers through AM radio that there are indeed other survivors, and they are gathering in Houston, and they are fighting back and winning, so she heads there. That's the movie.
Now, here's why these are Half-Life movies:
It is clear that JJ Abrams has set the stage for a Cloverfield cinematic universe. These two films, though utterly disconnected in style and theme, are both taking place on the same backdrop of inexplicable monsters/aliens suddenly appearing and invading. These vignettes are the perfect vehicle to convey the exact same feeling I got when I first finished Half-Life 2: This is what it would really be like if this crazy thing happened. Think about it: Aliens invading earth is a tale as old as time. It's a cheesy premise that has never really been done well, but in HL2 it is done extraordinarily well. It's not just some monolithic "Independence Day" thing where aliens just arrive from space, weapons blazing. They were brought here by an experiment gone wrong and once the portals were opened, the universe-spanning Combine became aware of a new planet to harvest. What care did they have that other unrelated alien species were also there? They were all basically alien "animals" (the dogs, the antlions, etc.) and if they could use these other harvested species to control humans, all the better. What better way to take down a massive population center (NYC) than by dropping in a gigantic, destructive, animal weapon?
In the rural setting of Louisiana, however, no giant weaponized animal is needed as the population is so sparse and spread out; instead they send out harvester creatures that fly, dangle tentacles down, and that spray corrosive chemicals to handle larger areas. They also send out small, hungry, predatory hunting animals (the houndeyes) to pick off humans.
Michelle, who wears a white tank top through the whole movie and has short, curly, dark hair (Sound familiar?), after discovering her ability to fight back, decides to make a decision to join the human resistance. In a 5-second span at the end of the movie, the Cloverfield universe now becomes a story of humans fighting back an alien invasion.
If you were to tell me that the original Cloverfield had absolutely nothing to do with Half-Life, I'd believe you. If you told me that 10 Cloverfield Lane had nothing to do with Half-Life, I'd tell you you were full of shit. The beauty is that the original Cloverfield can VERY easily be fit into a Half-Life universe of films with zero additional explanation. It takes place in the same world that was invaded in 10 Cloverfield Lane? Of course? Different alien, different area, same time frame. Same world.
Now for the other evidence: JJ Abrams has already discussed making the Half-Life and/or Portal movies. This is happening: http://www.polygon.com/2013/2/6/3960520/jj-abrams-valve-half-life-portal-movies
What better way (and a giant geek-bomb of mindfuck) to launch the Half-Life cinematic IP than by announcing "Oh by the way, the first two movies are already out and you've already seen them". BOOM. He has just successfully completed the most well-delivered video game movie of all time. If you had hyped up Cloverfield as "A movie based on Half-Life by Valve" you would have had a series of bad box office and disappointed fans and reviews. "This movie sucked, where was gordon where was black mesa blah blah blah the alien wasn't even in the game blah blah nerdrage whine whine", and it would have died then and there. Instead, JJ and Gaben have set the stage in the most glorious way possible; the movies are here, they are telling the story from the human perspective, with character development and early hints as to what is really going on. Even if that wasn't the intention in the beginning, it doesn't matter because Cloverfield still fits either way. That's the beauty of it. Nobody would question the first Cloverfield movie suddenly being about the Combine attacking NYC with a giant monster. THAT'S WHAT THEY DO.
I'm calling it right here, right now: The second movie in the Half-Life cinematic universe was released this week. It is an origin story for our future heroine Michelle.