The Wachowski’s and Tom Tykwer’s have teamed up to make ‘CLOUD ATLAS’, based on what is thought to be a ‘’unfilmable’’ book of the same name from David Mitchell. Separated into six different time zones, but all connected this tells the story of how the ‘Cloud Atlas’ connects been the times zone and what it represents for the consequences of the characters involved. One part is a 1970’s political thriller, the other is in a 100 years’ time future with androids, the other in a future cannibalistic wasteland, one in London 2012, one in 1930’s, and one on a 18th century ship. The film has an international cast (all which helps in making this the highest budgeted independent film in history) including, Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Keith David, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant and Doona Bae. All the cast appear in each of the time settings and play different races and sex’s (one of the highlights being Hugo Weaving’s Nurse Noakes). Before you think I have read this on the StockFilm blog before, that was John Kelly’s thoughts (it’s worth reading) however this is my thoughts.
In my lifetime I have meet people, who are more casual film viewers call classic (dare I say ‘proper’) Science Fiction with big ideas crap. I ask them ‘’Why do you say this?’ only for them to explain that they just can read and understand the film, and that they just can’t pay attention to view it. Saying this they wanted to start to appreciate classic Sci-Fi like ‘2001’ and ‘Blade Runner’. To do this they need a step up to get an idea about narratively how these grand Science Fiction works. ‘Cloud Atlas’ is this stepping stone. There is enough challenge for new audiences to understand this film with how the time zones cut between each other, the big reveal at the end being explained in depth for them to understand why they get to this conclusion. To Sci-Fi fans this could irate, if they were looking for something more meaning full, but for new audiences it should work well.
What I did like about this film is that the ‘Cloud Atlas’ itself is a body of work, which inspires generations to come. Something which is immortal due to its living significant and impacts it has 100 years down the line. This can be seen from the news report being made by Halle Berry’s character in the 1970’s era to the script Jim Broadbent is writing in 2012, which film gets made and helps in inspiring android Doona Bae. I like its spiritualistic approach in the themes it contains, to quote Joseph Campbell ‘’The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match the nature with the Nature’’ – and this is something it does with how each of these time zones connect.
On the negative side though, this can be its issue. The spiritualistic approach does make the film preachy, the general plotting does get clunky at points (its plays it too thin at time), and there is a huge point that it is a very old fashioned look on these issues. Again this approach for new audiences to watch this will make fans of the novel and proper Sci-Fi annoyed, and arguably there is better starting points to ‘get’ into ‘proper’ science fiction. An argument could be made that the central theme could have been told in half of its time. But still there is one hell of a drive to it, it looks beautiful as well. Generally good stuff, yes it should be better, and yes its flawed and better examples are out there, and to some it’s a missed opportunity – but I genially liked it.