Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Cloud Atlas

By Sati. Tuesday, December 25, 2012 , , , , , , , , ,
Cloud Atlas is an adaptation of David Mitchell's novel of the same title, that everyone has always labeled “unfilmable”. Having seen the film I must agree with that statement - they might have made a film, but is it truly a film if most of it is boring, unwatchable string of scenes? Not since The Tree of Life had I seen the movie that collapses on itself in such a spectacular matter. Come to think of it, I'd rather sit through The Tree of Life again, which has one thing Cloud Atlas doesn't - subtlety - than watch this mess. Cloud Atlas has ambition and many layers. The problem is that each of those layers is more uninteresting than the previous one.

Now, I really didn't want to be harsh on this one. I actually went back, made myself a bucket of coffee and subjected myself to reading things about Cloud Atlas online, trivia, opinions, forums, just to make sure I'm not missing something, story-wise. I wanted to give it a fair chance, but the biggest problem with this film is, as truly unremarkable that the stories in this film are (we saw it all before, plenty of times with huge emotional impact, one of the many things this movie lacks), that it was just tiring and I didn't feel the bond with any characters, partly due to the fact that cutting in and out between the stories, six stories nonetheless, has two big problems with it.
There are some directors out there that can successfully make the movie this way and still make us feel the bond to those characters who disappear from the screen for long portions of time. Neither Wachowskis or Tykwer are those directors. It also doesn't help that with each story we are thrown in the middle - we literally don't know anything about those characters and then there is problem, conflict, they are in trouble, they have dilemmas and with each story it feels us if we went in the theatre half-way through those six stories.

Another issue - and that is just mind blowing - is that even if they focused on just one story, not one of those stories is strong enough to be one full feature film. Cloud Atlas is more of a technical gimmick and the only thing that is remarkable about it - and that said I hope nobody ever tries to do it again because it looked terrible - was that the actors changed genders and races in the stories thanks to extensive and more often than not fake-looking and laughable make up.

The film follows six stories - only two of those (Cavendish one and sci-fi one) being mildly interesting. During the film's excruciating 3 hours we are transported to the past and the future and the story taking place in the furthest future, after the collapse of civilization, is the worst part of the whole film, which is unfortunate since given how it is the ending of whatever rebirth/reincarnation nonsense the film was trying to talk about, you would hope for at least a decent pay off.
We travel back in forth through all of those stories, usually forced to listen to the narration from one of the characters talking about some romanticized rubbish of love and universe. We get such gems of the lines like "What is an ocean but a multitude a drops?" here. The most unnerving thing in this movie is that it is so heavy handed and labored, it's like it was crafted with the hammer. There are no subtle moments here, everything is just so pompous and at times it's down right laughable - the inner demons of the characters take physical forms, before dying characters usually get to do something insanely heroic, prophecies, revolutions, grand love affairs are involved, yet what is lacking is the actual sense of urgency, drama and emotions.

Yet again I'm going to use the word gimmick - the film relies on two things to get emotions out of you - since the character development sucks ass and the the characters do incomprehensible or just very boring things, the stories interlace, while the aforementioned pompous narration is going on and on and oh, look! Though those lovers died, the other ones, in different time, hug and kiss! How marvelous!

The connections between the stories are so insignificant that you get the sense the writer thought to himself "it would be so cool to throw connections and foreshadowing everywhere!". It's like TV series LOST, except Cloud Atlas is not entertaining. Jewel crystals, diaries, references to cannibalism - these are the connections we talk about here. Profound, huh? The links between stories are more than feeble - there is this man, Cavendish, whose story is entertaining at first but then it's just unbearable. Anyways, a movie is made about him, the guy who can't leave senior home and that movie, in part, inspires the chick in the future to lead the revolution. What the what?
The three things that worked in this film are the gorgeous musical score and two very good performances by Doona Bae and Xun Zhou. Jim Broadbent's character story is slightly amusing, but the longer it lasts, the more tiresome it becomes, same can be said about each story of the film, except for the science fiction tale featuring two previously mentioned good performances by actresses and Jim Sturgess in a ridiculous make up. That story, derivative as it was, at least had an impressive, emotional pay off. I couldn't help but feel that if they worked a little more on that one and just made the movie inspired by this segment, they really could have made something good - there was amazing potential right there, with the only strong protagonist in the movie and all of those disturbing elements. My favorite part was when the girl saw one of the fabricants who was a prostitute. That's a great idea for the movie right there, but all we got was 1/6 of a kinda good movie that need much more work. Another thing I need to mention - how great is James D'Arcy? He never embarrasses himself no matter how bad the film is. Hell, he managed to be great in Madonna's W.E. after all.

When it was announced couple of days ago that Cloud Atlas is not on the list of possible Academy Award nominees for best make up I was pretty shocked, but I only saw the trailer back then. Having seen the whole thing - I completely understand. Lana and Andy Wachowski and Tom Tykwer made the puzzling decision to change actors genders and races using make up as if they didn't think the audience will get the point they wanted them to get. That point is, I imagine, that we are all connected and so on. The results are more often than not laughable. I have never seen worse looking prosthetic noses than the ones used in this film.
From what I read, only one soul was reborn in the novel - the one represented by person with the birthmark. Here it appears that when the actor is playing someone, that's another form of his soul. I think the directors really dug themselves a grave with this one, because when you look at those "souls" transformations not only it's not remotely interesting, it's really hastily thrown together to say the least. The whole message of the film that our lives are not our own also frustrates me to no end. I do believe our lives are our own and our souls are individual, so watching 3 hour long ramblings about the "connected humanity" and "eternal common spirit" was excruciating. Still, it might have been tolerable if at least each story had a character we could root for, but other than for sci-fi part I really couldn't care less. As for the comments that the people who disliked this film must have had trouble understanding it - I believe I did understand it. It's just that the story that was unfolding before me failed to pick up my interest.

Apparently Wachowski said somewhere that it's not six stories we are seeing here, just one. Well, after seeing Matrix Revolutions and now this, I'd rather try to touch the moon than figure out what he meant. The film is at times the beautiful spectacle but it never makes you feel things. You hear beautiful quotes, you see actors crying and laughing, but for me it felt as profoundly emotional as if I was staring at the blank piece of paper. At least if I did that I wouldn't have a feeling that I'm seeing colossal waste of talent and money. Cloud Atlas is, so far, the worst movie experience I had in 2012 and I don't see it changing by the time I will be making my the best/worst of the year lists.

Four more annoying things - this film has the most irritating fan base of 2012. And since we got The Hunger Games, The Hobbit, Avengers, final Twilight film, Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises this year, it's really saying something. If someone says they thought the film was "boring", "pretentious" and "horrible" (all of those three are my feelings toward this one too) they immediately get snide response they didn't understand that masterpiece and that they are idiots. Another thing - a dog is shot in this movie. For comic relief. The third thing -  the main love affair between Hanks and Berry's characters. It's supposed to happen in few time lines. In each of them the chemistry between the two is non-existent. And finally - people actually compare this mess to Darren Aronofsky's brilliant The Fountain. Oh, my.

PS: A remainder - as the owner of this fine blog I reserve the right not to publish the comments where I'm being called "a c*nt". Thank you.

Cloud Atlas (2012, 172 min)
Plot: An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.
Directors: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Writers: David Mitchell (novel), Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, Tom Tykwer (written for the screen by)
Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant

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30 comments:

  1. I have the book, I haven't read it yet but my friend read it and she had mixed feelings about it. The movie.. well, I wasn't thrilled to see it in the first place and now I might never will. For me, the idea of changing characters and their race and so on is interesting of course but not with Halle Berry, I hardly think she can pull of a range of characters in the same movie. That being said, while the core idea "everybody are connected" appeals to me greatly, the disinterest in the movie and the interest in the book, kind of says that it is a book that can't be adapted into a movie.

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    1. It's really long and boring. A lot of people loved it, but as with the Tree of Life I just fail to see why. There are plenty great movies about life/humanity out there and these two are not among them.

      Berry has no charisma here, but make up-wise it's not that terrible when it comes to her. The worst ones were definitely Sturgess and Whishaw, horribly fake look.

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  2. I've read such incredibly mixed reviews of this film it makes me want to watch it. If nothing else, just out of curiosity.

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    1. You should give it a shot, but the moment you are bored you should switch it off :) I was bored an hour in and I really wish I gave up there and then.

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  3. Yup.

    I found it more entertaining than you, and gave it a decent but unspectacular grade, but at the end of the day, I wouldnt argue a single thing you said here.

    Solidly reasoned disection of all the issues with this flick. No doubt. :D

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    1. Thanks! I'm so glad this isn't one of those films you rated A+ :)

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  4. Your review is compelling enough for me to question my adoration of the film, but I'll stand by my initial thoughts (for now, anyway). A friend of mine basically said everything you said here, and he and I are essentially the same person. To each his own. Well, her.

    I'm bummed you hated, but glad you saw it.

    And I think you're in the majority, I think those that liked it are the c*nts, right? :)

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    1. Yeah, I usually watch all the movies that have GG nominations, even if it's just one :) The score was really good so I'm not mad they got in in that category.

      The only c*nts are anonymous jerks that only use that word in their thoughtful comments :P

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  5. While I may not agree with you on the film since I thought it was pretty good. I'm aware that it had flaws and it certainly wasn't for everyone. BTW, do you think the film needed Alfred Molina? The dude could play anything.

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    1. He would be a much better fit than some of the actors here - I think they could have made much realistic transformations if they used him.

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  6. I couldn’t agree more with your assessment. I found this to be one of the most unpleasant experiences I had at the movies all year. A huge overblown mess that was edited with a chainsaw to obscure the fact that it was just a group of clichéd films masquerading as art.

    I was thoroughly unimpressed. Check my review if you're interested.

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    1. Exactly, they used so many tricks to cover up the emptiness of this whole thing, maybe the source novel was great, I don't know, but the script was a mess.

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  7. Great review, It's seriously great to see someone with similar complaints to my own. I think my favorite segment was probably the korean futuristic one as well, but I ended up liking Ben Whishaw as Frobisher more than any other people. After Skyfall and a few others I think I just like him as an actor though.

    Anyways, I have no experience with the book but from a cinematic perspective I felt like it was a huge waste of talent and money. I completely echo your use of the word gimmick as well when it comes to the over-use of trying to make people pop up over and over again

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    1. Whishaw is a really good actor, I wish they developed his character here more, though. Him and D'arcy did so much with so little here.

      It was such a silly maneuver. It just felt they were more interested in creating connections than actual character development.

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  8. Woah you really wrote a lot about this one! I'm too tired to read it all at the moment so will check it out again tomorrow haha.

    I actually found it really engaging and interesting at times, so much so that I overlooked most of it's flaws (runtime urgh...) and left the cinema not minding it (B- / 6/10).

    I can certainly see why you would give it a 25 and not find any connection with the characters at all, was how I was expecting to feel too. Not sure why I didn't mind it!

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    1. Yeah, the movie really pissed me off :D

      I think the film like this can accidentally make connection with some people, for example if elements of it relate to you, sadly I didn't find anything familiar in it. If the story had a potential to interest me, they sadly didn't develop the elements I found fascinating and just kept abandoning them.

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  9. Wow 25! It has received mixed reviews and I have yet to see it. But if the trailer is any indicator.. it'll be a mess. Nice that you mentioned Tree Of Life, I was bored and didn't finish watching that, so things are not looking good...

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    1. Yeah, if the trailer for it can't even manage to be good, the movie is in trouble. It's actually like 3-hour long version of that trailer - mess with occasional pretty shots.

      I usually don't mind long films, but these two really made it hard for me to sit through them.

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  10. Ouch! I wasn't a huge fan of the film, but I liked it a bit more than you. Definitely agree on some of your points, though. I give the Wachowkis credit for trying something new with the character-swapping, but some of the racial makeup effects were distracting, to say the least. There was a lot of potential in this film, but it's not hard to see why it has been such a box office bust..

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    1. I still cannot believe the studio had enough faith in this to give them so much money, after Matrix Revolutions the fitting punishment would be to say "no" whenever Washowskis ask for something :P

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  11. It’s not one of those movies that you watch and it makes you sob all-over-the-place, it’s more of the kind of film that has you interested right off the start, keeps that interest, and delivers pretty well. Not perfect, but still a good way to spend 3 hours at the movies. Nice review Sati.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it more than I did at least you didn't feel you wasted your time :)

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  12. Agree with you on a lot of this. I wasn't a fan of this movie either...

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    1. Glad you agree! I really wish the money and the talent used here weren't so wasted.

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  13. Fantastic review! Hope I'm not one of those irritating fans. ;)

    Sorry you were bored, but I'm glad you liked the score and those 2 performances. For some reason, it grabbed me both times I saw it, and the three hours flew by. Even though the film is nowhere near perfect, I can't help myself: it was a thrilling experience on both watches.

    Oh, and the dog being shot bothered me both times, and still does. That wasn't funny at all.

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    1. Thank you! Oh no, you're definitely not one of them :0

      It's awesome that you did enjoy it, I wish I had cause I just hate when big, epic films with potential don't work for me.

      The dog scene was just horrid. It was in poor taste to put it mildly.

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    2. You probably didn't know the controversy surrounding this film: promoting racism targeting at Asian male. This film is a racist film that issued by MANAA (Media Action Network for Asian American). In my opinion, Cloud Atlas is no doubt a racist film that these Hollywood directors are such incompetent fool did not care about the issue surrounding "Yellowfac" while they did not use "Blackface" in fear of repercussion from Black community. Asian community is too weak to protest over the overtly racist usage of Yellowface. Even without Yellowface controvesy, this film is failed to make any point. I see no soul in humanity in this film but I see Hollywood racism is still survived well.

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    3. You make a good point, I don't they made any of white people look black in this one.

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  14. Great review!

    We don't mostly match, except the score. I loved it very very much. But I also liked the movie itself. However it is not because of great ideas in it, I just enjoyed watching it, every single detail felt extraordinary and of course loved the idea of mixing characters/actors, which seemed confusing at first.

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it, I wish I enjoyed more movies :)

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