A Review of Cloud Atlas, the movie
Before you read this, I recommend that you read my review of the book, Cloud Atlas.
Whether or not you enjoyed reading the book, (I enjoyed some of it but I still wanted to throw it against a wall at the end) I believe most people will enjoy at least parts of the movie without wanting to toss Tom Hanks off a highrise.
I did not go into see this movie with high expectations.
Okay, here it is–my reason for not expecting much: I hated The Matrix! Cloud Atlas was co-directed (with German director Tom Twyker who did Run, Lola, Run, a movie I remember liking ) and co-written by the Wachowskis who gave us The Matrix. Go ahead and hate me. Virtual reality stories hold special interest for me (see my The Thirteenth Floor review ).
I found The Matrix pretentious, sophomoric and even with a suspension of disbelief, not credible.
There’s no way anyone would look that buff after spending a lifetime in a pod. Aliens using us to power their alien stuff didn’t make sense. We wouldn’t be cost effective. Plus the long coats, the dippy mysticism and all the martial arts got on my nerves. I could go on but it won’t convince anyone who loved The Matrix. Another thing, I should disclose that I briefly worked on casting The Matrix sequel (nothing fancy–just set up auditions for the secret service guys and you’d have thought we were guarding the secrets of the universe rather than a few pages of barely there script).
Regardless, in my opinion, Cloud Atlas the movie is better than Cloud Atlas the book.
The problems that I had with the book centered on Mitchell’s failure to adequately connect the six stories. I felt like Mitchell the writer was showing off. I wanted more than he gave in terms of connecting the stories. It was all icing and very little cake. Then those last two pages of “The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing,” the first and last story. They were the last frickin’ frackin’ two pages of the novel, and might as well have started with “So you see boys and girls . . .”
The movie was able to stitch the stories together.
Movies have more options in terms of pacing, plus visual and audio devices, something a novel lacks. As small a thing as a shiny blue button on a 1930’s vest that becomes a beautiful stone prized by a goat herder helped me connect. The music helped. Casting the same actors in different stories helped a lot and most of all, the editing, which blended the parts of each story, pacing them all to build and crest like music wove the narratives into a satisfying ending, an ending that differed from the book. The stories had been simplified, characters pared and the plots crafted to suit the film and it helped.
This film conveyed the message, the universal theme that Mitchell meant for us to discover in his novel.
I felt Mitchell said it rather than showed it. The movie, on the other hand, did what movies do best. It made us feel it so that we could think it. The reviews I’ve read of this film have been mixed. At three hours, it is very long. All I can say is that I liked it, and so did the others in the audience. There was applause at the end, and I doubt many had read the book. It didn’t matter. They felt it; so did I, shiny blue buttons and all.