Thoughts On: Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas is like a huge, soul-warming family meal made out of undercooked McDonalds Happy Meals. 

Quickly: Cloud Atlas is this new film where there’s six main stories told through jumbled-up editing. The six stories shares their actors and some story points, but are mostly about man’s inhumanity to man, and humankind’s need to be better, etc., etc.

For the record, the six stories are: Slavery Is Naughty, Gay(er) Merchant Ivory, Three Days Of The China Syndrome, Untitled Nineties British Comedy Pastiche, The Speed Racer Matrix, and Waterworld In The Forest.

If you’re the type to read critics’ reviews, they’re going to make Cloud Atlas seem really classy.  Even the trailer kind of does, even if it’s readily apparent in the micro-clips that some of the actor-role swapping stuff is ludicrous.  

Like you can't tell this is Halle Berry...

You might read about how ambitious the film is (it is) and how deep (well, kind of is), but the whole truth is that the Warchowskis and the Run Lola Run guy are not completely sound vessels when it comes to directorial judgement calls.

Who thought Tom Hanks can do accents? He can’t.  It's distracting.

Who thought the whole "Asian-up" the white folks thing was a good idea?  It’s not.  It's really distracting.

Who thought the ridiculous made-up patois the actors speak in the far-future segment makes that future seem weird and authentic?  It doesn’t.  It makes everybody come across like a small child with a head injury.

For every confident move this film makes--and it makes some dandy ones--it spends twice as many minutes tap dancing around dumb things that have been put on film for their concept value alone and not for the benefit of the story.  That drove me batty.  On some level I suppose they thought using the actors over and over again was a cool thing, and necessary as shorthand for the complicated plot, and that it also “meant something. 

Well, it's not that cool, the film's events aren’t that complicated, and a handful of few actor repeats would have been enough to make the point. 

That said, Cloud Atlas still occasionally managed to captures wisps of the poetic weight that I’m sure must inform the book.
Oh, and it’s almost sixty or seventy percent the cinematic feast that it seems to think it is, which is enough to make it big screen worthy.  But, again, part of it is Waterworld In The Forest.