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Movie Review: Cloud Atlas

The Wachowski siblings (The Matrix) and Tom Twyker (Run Lola Run) came together to try and put
David Mitchell’s 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, into a film of the same name that would be as compelling as
the novel. Since the novel contains six separate story lines, all revolving around tales of redemption
and resurrection, this was no mean feat. At almost three hours long, did I leave the theater feeling as
though this was the best possible version of this adaptation?

Cloud Atlas is a visually majestic film. That’s the first thing anyone will notice. The reported $100
million budget clearly went very much into set pieces, computer graphics and makeup. Sweeping
landscapes, endless sky, perfect shading depending on the mood in the scene – it could very well earn
Academy Award nods for Best Visual Effects or Best Art Direction. It was truly a beautiful movie to

The stories range from the 1850s to the 2100s and most of the main actors appear in each story,
though some under incredible amounts of makeup. Through watching this film, I learned that I can
pick Hugh Grant (out regardless of how done up he is – for example, as the Kona tribal chief character
(his baby blues and awkward looking face give him away every time, even with dreadlocks and face
paint). I also learned that it’s impossible to take an Asian Doona Bae (a beautiful woman, by the by) and
successfully transform her into an English woman from the 1850s. Most of these storylines are serious
or suspenseful – and really, can Hugo Weaving not ever be a good guy unless he’s an Elf king? It’s his
eyebrows, I swear – with the exception of Jim Broadbent’s main storyline as a publisher in today’s world,
stuck in an old folk’s home and conducting a wacky Monty Python style breakout scene with a few
others. It was amusing and endearing and made me love Broadbent and Weaving all the more.

I wanted to be obsessed with this, I really did. It has an incredible cast of some of my favorite actors
(and one not so favorite, but I try to ignore her): Tom Hanks (Big, You’ve Got Mail, Extremely Loud and
Incredibly Close), Halle Berry (X-Men series, Monster’s Ball), Hugo Weaving (Captain America: The First
Avenger, Lord of the Rings series), Susan Sarandon (Enchanted, Rescue Me), Ben Whishaw (The Hour),
Jim Broadbent (The Iron Lady, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly
Hallows 1 and 2), Jim Sturgess (One Day, 21, Across the Universe), James D’Arcy (Secret Diary of a Call
Girl), Hugh Grant (Love Actually, Bridget Jones’s Diary), Doona Bae (As One, Air Doll) and Keith David
(Stomp the Yard 2, narrator on Community and the voice of a multitude of video game characters) as
well as a main theme of resurrection. There are definite nods to The Matrix in the futuristic storyline -
set in the 2100s – and at one point, my companion said, “I want this one storyline to be a whole movie
by itself.” Well said – it was the most compelling, to be sure. The rest of the film fell short of fully
pulling me in.

I feel like I was so invested in figuring out who was who under all the transformations that I missed
some of the main points. Also, there were several times (mostly in the futuristic Polynesian island-
type story) where I had a hell of a time understanding what anyone was saying and had to rely on facial
expressions and movement, which irked me a bit. The film often felt less like directors wanting to share
their adaption and vision with us and more like directors wanting to show us how impressive their
ideas are and we’re going to LIKE them, damn it! I did not walk out of there feeling like everything was
complete which, unless there’s a sequel being planned, I require out of my movies. I just wanted more
of everyone.

All in all, I did like the movie, I just didn’t LOVE it. I just wonder if it wouldn’t have been better and
more…finished?…as a miniseries on HBO or Starz. I think they really could have perfected it that way
instead of trying to shove 6 separate stories into a three hour slot. I would say it gets a pass for at least
being so magnificently awesome visually, but with the caliber of other visually impressive movies this
year (The Avengers, anyone?), I just can’t.

ComicsOnline gives Cloud Atlas 3 out of 5 Knuckle Sandwich novels.

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About Jennifer Bay

Jenn will bake the Shiba Inu out of your cupcakes and then where will you be?!? Bald and confused, I'm sure.