Once upon a time, the only information audiences could take from a film was what they saw on the screen. Sure, they could analyze and try to make sense of what they'd seen, but they couldn't really take their involvement much further. Fast forward to the 21st century, and the internet has opened many, many doors. Chat forums, in-depth fan theories, Easter Egg breakdowns and a whole wealth of context can make a specific film live on far beyond its release date.
10 Cloverfield Lane is the perfect example of the internet providing a rich backdrop to the couple of hours the feature provides. The precedent was set by its spiritual predecessor, Cloverfield (2008) which used the might of the web to create an what is known as an ARG (psst: that's an Alternate Reality Game).
An ARG at its most basic is a quirky viral marketing tool, designed to engage audiences by planting clues to a bigger mystery online. While Cloverfield set the bar for this, 10 Cloverfield Lane raised the bar, set it on fire and launched it into outer space. The wealth of material available online is overwhelming, and too much to delve into here.
However, some of the clues are vital in backing up the very theory this article is about. The theory that Howard's daughter is in fact not a guise for his murderous acts, but instead, a form of artificial intelligence. There, I've said it, now let's look at how this works.
Firstly, a quick recap: In 10 Cloverfield Lane, we're never really fully sure whether Howard, played by the endlessly endearing John Goodman, is actually a good man or a bad man (see what I did there?). On one hand, he has held Michelle captive, on the other, his perceived threat of the outside world is validated. The moment he kills Emmet kinda seals the deal here, but it doesn't necessarily fully explain why he completely fabricated the identity of his daughter, Megan.
In the film, the big reveal that Megan was in fact known missing youngster Brittany. Case closed, the guy's a child killer. But maybe not. According to the theory that originated on Reddit, Megan is an autonomous amalgamation of binary code, an artificially intelligent creation that is constantly devouring information. Let that sink in for a second. Ready? Here's an overview of the evidence, with the lion share based around the ARG:
- A really creepy video discovered by savvy net users that links to the film.
- A conspicuous blog post.
- The ARG survival game.
- Megan's Twitter account.
- The Eiffel Tower and Ivan Pavlov (really).
We'll Start With The Creepy Video
The fun in an ARG is making it mysterious and hard to decode. The bigger the challenge, the better. Sherlock Holmes would be proud of tech savvy detectives uncovering the below video, tracking the registered domain back to the film's production company, Bad Robot.
Users of the internet have been collectively scratching their heads trying to work out exactly what the below video means. Spoilers: It's creepy.
On the surface, this looks like gibberish. However, the theory suggests the video is evidence for this kind of artificial intelligence, which is constantly scanning its environment to learn and pick up clues and behavior patterns. Think of the narrative as the inner dialogue of Ex Machina's Ava and you're on the right track.
On second viewing, it becomes clearer that this could be an early learning process for the AI system, focusing on mundane tasks before moving on to something bigger.
The Eiffel Tower also appears in the trippy synth-pop spinning visual, which in itself is relevant — more on that shortly.
A Conspicuous Blog Post
Take one look at FunAndPrettyThings.com, and it looks like any other sugar-and-spice-and-all-things-nice blog post. But it's actually one of the biggest resources for the ARG, containing many hidden clues to the film. The pretence is that this blog was created by Howard as an attempt to contact his daughter, Megan.
The sub-domain /lifepreservinginformation contains a message from Howard to Megan. Take a look at it here. Although you can read as a slightly patronizing instruction to his daughter, the theory suggests the basic language is used as its more of a programming tool for the robotic intelligence, which by this point would be fairly advanced.
Running with this theory, we're starting to build a picture that Howard perhaps created this form of AI with the intention of teaching how to survive the perceived threat to humanity. Which leads us on nicely to...
The ARG Survival Game
The glitzy blog also plays host to an intriguing role-playing survival simulation that recreates the environment of Howard's bunker, the main location of the feature film. The aim of the game is to survive as long as possible, allocating rations and designating jobs to those within to ensure the upkeep of the bunker.
There is a message for Megan at the beginning, which refers to "games we used to play on the old PC in the den." The theory suggests that this is in fact a reference to the early stages of the software's development. Further evidence is in the base of text based formatting of the game, which comes across more as programming code than a fully functional game you'd be likely to see a teenager play.
This survival simulation could in fact be a useful tool in teaching Megan how to configure rations, assign jobs and keep the bunker fully functional, so she can then apply it to the bunker for real when necessary.
Megan's Twitter Account
Now, anyone could've set up an account under the name Megan Stambler, but considering it was created before the film's release in February 2016, it seems like an unlikely coincidence. Although low on content, the robotic nature of the Tweets could back up the claim Megan could be artificial. Just look at the below, does that look like a teenager? Or a ROBOT?
Another Tweet simply states "I'm afraid it'll be like Y2K again." If you remember, the Y2K "bug" in 2000 caused hysteria, with fears the shortened version of the year would cause all sorts of problems with computer based infrastructure. It didn't, but if you were a robot, those were dark days indeed. I'm not surprised Megan is afraid.
The Eiffel Tower And Pavlov
The French monument is one of the most intriguing and unsolved mysterious surround 10 Cloverfield Lane, and the ARG. It appears everywhere throughout the film; it's on multiple framed posters, and even on a t-shirt that Howard gives to Michelle to wear. Even in the trailer alone, it can be spotted a number of times:
It also appears in the bizarre video we mentioned above, and when it fills the screen, the robotic voiceover proclaims unnervingly: "good, very good." So what the hell does this mean?
The theory suggests that this is a Pavlovian form of conditioning for Megan. Now that she is becoming more intelligent, the Eiffel Tower is used as a symbol for her to monitor closely.
This feminine influence is seen as important, in order to help create her personality and pick up feminine traits from Michelle. Remember, the girl we saw in the photograph was also wearing a t-shirt with the Tower on it, suggesting Michelle wasn't the first female study.
Piecing It All Together
Okay, so we've seen all the evidence, and it seems quite legit. But in the grand scheme of things, what does it mean?
Well, it looks like Howard may've intended on creating Megan in the knowledge that the earth would be under attack, and she'd be primed to survive. Howard knew that the layout of the bunker was a perfect learning environment for Megan to form human traits by observing Michelle, or other females.
Considering the Cloverfield franchise could spawn even more instalments in future, maybe in future instalments of the franchise, we could see Megan feature, as the programmed AI hell bent on survival in a post-apocalyptic world. At the very least, it's an inspired way of attempting to put together the individual pieces of this compelling jigsaw.