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