Day 25: Cloud Atlas

Day 25: Cloud Atlas

I watched it. A bit late to the party, but I did finally see it. Not that it was really a “must-see,” mind you, but it was a sci-fi and I’m sure you are aware that those are kind of my jelly-jam.

I didn’t hate it. I was expecting to, actually. I’d just heard so many negative things about it, and I agree with all of them. I’ve also seen how the Wachowski’s completely lost their story-telling compass with the two sequel “Matrix” movies…and they haven’t really done anything since…not good.

But at the end of the day, “Cloud Atlas” was *interesting*. Flawed, but interesting. And, at times, entertaining. I’m not a huge fan of unconventional story-telling, to be honest. Far, far more often than not, it merely serves as a gimmick to mask the average or less-than-average development and execution of characters and relationships, which is where the REAL story-telling happens. This film was no exception. We’re bandying back and forth through so many time intervals that it’s very, very hard to connect with any one story line. It honestly looks more like a desire to let your actors have fun playing oodles of different roles than it is really any sort of well-crafted tactic at story-telling. Cleverness is NEVER interesting on its own merit.

On the positive side, there were some very endearing performances. Michael Broadbent in particular did wonderful work. His storyline as the book publisher sent away to a crazy nursing home was rather delightful, if not almost an entirely different movie. Also, the story in the farthest of futures between Tom Hanks and Halle Berry was likewise very entertaining. Halle Berry overall, actually, was quite good. As was Ben Whishaw. Man, he is someone to watch for, isn’t he? Talented bastard. Jim Sturgess was well played as well, though he’s most outshone by his most-common counterpart Doona Bae. She was magnificent.

Another positive was that most of the story-lines could (and should) have stood on their own merit. I did want to know what the ending was in each case, if not completely connecting with the characters. Oh, and the *music* was fantastic. Loved loved it.

As for the detractors, they were significant; the make-up, in general, was horrendous. Not to mention somewhat offensive. It’s still yellowface, even in the future, and furthermore asians don’t all look like they have Down syndrome. It’s mostly an insult to halve-sies the more I think about it. It was laughable and hard to watch. And further reaching than that, it was fake to the point of distraction any time one of our most-recognizable faces was aged, or anything else. Horrible. There were also too many moments of various characters playing broad stereotypes in their smaller characters. And all of them, pretty much, were guilty of it. Tom Hanks, for example, as a cockney mobster? No, thanks.

That also carried over, in general, with tone between the different time periods…which completely makes sense when you see that they were directed separately. Why would you do that??? Direct the threads completely independently of each other? That just seems so stupid to me. How can you possibly create a through-line? The only point of doing such a twistingly intwined multiple story-lined film is so that you can impress everyone at the end with a crystal clear moment of “it’s all connected” and elevate the story with a broader truth. The attempt is there, but it fails, as any movie that purports itself to be about a “larger truth” inevitably will. Stories are not about issues…issues are about issues. Stories are about people. And this film was so fragmented that it couldn’t be about the people.

I think about “Life of Pi” — a movie made from similarly “clever” source material, and it tackles similarly large ideas such as “truth” and “religion”…but Life of Pi knew that it was *really* a story about Pi and Richard Parker. Their struggle to survive together. And the movie did the only thing that a movie really can do that a novel can’t; they made it visceral. We lived that struggle on the open seas, and it was terrifying and beautiful and lonely and IN OUR FACE. “Cloud Atlas” was somehow far too long, an hour too long, in fact, and yet with so many “moments” flying by, it grasped almost none of them.

Despite all that, I was entertained, even if I kept thinking to myself “man, I wish I was watching this movie and just this movie” for most of the storylines. I was glad to have watched it, and I *do* think that it was an improvement from those afore mentioned Matrix sequels. But not a huge one.