Mark Julian Reviews CLOUD ATLAS

Touted as an incredibly ambitious cinematic endeavor, Cloud Atlas is certainly that. But ambitious does not equal good movie and the Wachowski Starship and Tom Tykwer film feels incomplete despite having a 2hr52min runtime. Read on for my spoiler-free review.

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By Mark Julian - 11/1/2012



Lets be clear, despite all the hype and hyperbole surrounding Cloud Atlas, the actual story has been told before. The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick and The Fountain by Darren Aronofsky have both explored similar themes of human existence, rebirth and destiny. But the essential difference is that 'Life and 'Fountain were aimed at the art-house, indie-film crowd whereas 'Atlas was adapted from David Mitchell's novel with the intent of appealing to the mainstream movie audience. The film has resonated with critics because it attempts to inject thought-provoking storytelling and fully formed characters into a big sci-fi, action adventure spectacle. To put it succinctly, it's the antithesis to the Michael Bay approach. However, telling six distinctly different stories is simply too tall of a task for Atlas and by different stories, I'm not just referring to the setting and era of each tale, there's six different typologies on display which are tied together to varying degrees. Yet, the cohesiveness that the film advertises falls a bit flat ultimately as there's simply too much to keep track off as we move through different eras, different lives and different genres.

There's six stories being told in Cloud Atlas--- the earliest story takes place in 1849 on a sea voyage undertaken by Adam Ewing (Jim Sturgess) and runaway slave Autua (David Gyasi); the next chronological story follows con artist and musician Robert Frobisher (Ben Whishaw) and his lover, Rufus Sixsmith (James D'Arcy) in 1936 Europe; journalist Luisa Ray (Halle Berry) who attempts to uncover a dangerous plot concerning a nuclear power plant in 1973San Francisco; the black comedy of Timohty Cavendish (Jim Broadbent) who undergoes a one hilarious misfortune after another in present day 2012; the captivating tale of fabricant Sonmi~451(Doona Bae) in 2144 Seoul; and Zachry's (Tom Hanks) tale of survival in a far distant dystopian future where the polar ice caps have flooded the world and he survives on an island inhabited by cannibals. The 1849 tale is a historical fiction period piece, the 1936 tale is a love story, the 1973 tale is a psychological thriller, the 2012 story is a comedy, the 2144 is a sci-fi action piece and the post-apocalyptic tale is pure science fiction fantasy. What ties such disparate stories together is the fact that the majority of the main cast appears in every tale, alternating between supporting and major roles in the life of the protagonist of that particular story. What the film implies is that we are destined to play important roles within a specific circle of people and that we stay true to the core of who we are regardless of the era or surrounding culture (except for one character) . Strengthening this theme is the incredible editing job done by Alexander Berner who is most likely 'destined' for an Oscar win. However, while the physical shift between stories is masterfully done, it's rather difficult to find the thematic thread that links each story. Some tales work very well together like the exploits in futuristic Seoul and the action depicted in the dystopian future however, it's a bit difficult to identify how those stories relate to the 1849 and 1936 period pieces. Overall, it feels like you're watching six short stories that are all good but don't necessarily connect with one another, weakening Cloud Atlas' central theme of interconnected lives .

In terms of SFX, the most exciting story by a fairly wide margin is the 2144 Neo Seoul story. Watching Bae and Sturgess' Hae-Joo Chang battle to free fabricants from an inhumane and incredibly oppressive existence will leave you longing for the Wachowskis to take another stab at sci-fi again. Futuristic Seoul is fabulously rendered on screen and the sci-fi battles are some of the best action scenes you'll see all year. Incidentally, it should be noted that the Wachowskis directed the Neo-Seoul story along with the post-apocalyptic future and Europe period piece while Tykwer directed the 1849, 1973 and 2012 stories. That decision haunts Atlas as making the connection between each directing camps stories is where the film is at its weakest. Also, undermining Atlas is the inconsistent makeup in the film. Sometimes the makeup is so good you'll have trouble identifying the actor underneath it while other instances are so bad you'll be completely taken out of the film.Where the makeup is inconsistent, the cinematography is anything but, the longshots are breathtaking and will give the film another Oscar contender. Frank Griebe and John Toll did a fabulous job as the camerawork is instrumental in rapidly building the world of each individual story.

Cloud Atlas should indeed be applauded for what it seeks to accomplish but it's ultimately undone by the straightforward nature of each tales' narrative. The film only partially combines the sensibilities of indie-film storytelling and the spectacle and exhilaration of big blockbuster sci-fi action making for an uneven film experience.






RELATED CONTENT:
Mark Julian Reviews THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Spoilers)
Mark Julian Reviews THE AVENGERS
Mark Julian Reviews SILENT HILL: REVELATION 3D

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22 Comments
Underworld5454 - 11/1/2012, 11:36 AM
First! Movie bombed hard.
Tony93 - 11/1/2012, 11:39 AM
I still wanna see it, very interesting
TonyChu - 11/1/2012, 11:41 AM
The movie bombed hard because it is hard as [frick] to promote this film.
valeriesghost - 11/1/2012, 11:42 AM
I was thinking of seeing this Friday night, but maybe i'll see what else i available.
Stumblin - 11/1/2012, 11:45 AM
Probably wait for video, from the trailer I couldn't tell what the hell the movie was about.

TonyChu is right, the promotion of this film must have been a headache.
PsyGuy - 11/1/2012, 11:46 AM
This movie was amazing.

I will admit though, if you didn't read the book it might be a little confusing.

But if you see it twice / fully understand it, it's a masterpiece.
Fogs - 11/1/2012, 11:48 AM
Will watch it nonetheless.

Seems to be a fresh take on the cinema as a whole.
jimpinto24 - 11/1/2012, 11:52 AM
With six storylines going on, it was hard to keep up. But at the same time the storytelling was great! All star cast, great performances, and amazing SFX! Every one who wa apart of Cloud Atlas should pat themselves on the back. Great film & should be a Oscar contender. I wil give Cloud Atlas a 910.
MisterNiceGuy - 11/1/2012, 11:58 AM
that firsting shit pisses me off so much and i dont know why lol
Greengo - 11/1/2012, 12:04 PM
Holy shit this review confused the hell out of me lol.
Greengo - 11/1/2012, 12:04 PM
But now I want to see it.
PsyGuy - 11/1/2012, 12:34 PM
@SuspenseSmith

David Mitchell, the original writer (of the book) definitely had a clear theme. Since I read it, I'm not sure if it carried over to screen well.

It's simple in the movie. It's just depicting reincarnation and the fact that every action we make, good and bad, can reverberate for entire lifetimes.

Now the connections between "Somne-451" to God and "Old Georgie" to the devil is pretty much up to the viewer.
PartyHard - 11/1/2012, 1:09 PM
@SuspenseSmith

That's how I felt the first time I watched it. Then I saw it a second and third time. Now I absolutely love it.
Christuffer - 11/1/2012, 1:19 PM
This movie didn't bomb. It was really good.

It's just really complicated, and it will ultimately be beaten down by the same usual riffraff that Hollywood and the internet is known for. 'Cloud Atlas' is a flawed masterpiece.
Banner123 - 11/1/2012, 1:49 PM
This film is amazing. I myself have seen it three times and have found new aspects and have come away thinking differently about themes of the movie every time. The truth is, this is the type of film that will last a very long time. There is so much going on it on so many levels(from storytelling, acting, technical aspects, thematic aspects, soundtrack, etc.) that it is hard for a society with such an incredibly short collective attention span to accept it. Whereas most people are clamoring for comic book adaptations, reboots, and mindless entertainment with a clear linear structure and beginning/middle/end, this movie, while still an adaptation, is incredibly original in the filmmaking sense and pushes the boundaries of what it is to truly immerse yourself in a film. Gone are the days when you can walk out of a film and still think about what it is that you just saw afterwards. Now, we have assholes that are more concerned about tweeting their thoughts 45 minutes into the movie as oppose to letting their thoughts be provoked.
I don't think the filmmakers had the intention of this being an all out blockbuster so much as a piece of art and true passion project. When you read or watch any of the interviews with The Wachowskis and Tykwer it seems this is something they, and the actors, really wanted to do for themselves and then share with the world. It was always going to be the type of film that divided people. No doubt about it, there will be people that hate it. Some of those people probably figured and expected that seeing some of the big names in the cast would result in a typical Hollywood blockbuster movie, but it really isn't. Some probably figured that with all the actors playing multiple roles and wearing all kinds of make up(which A LOT of critics and fans are misinterpreting the true use of and reasoning behind), that it would be more entertaining on a surface level. It's WAY deeper than that.
Truth is, I could talk all day about this movie, but THAT'S THE POINT. This is the type of film that will be around for a LONG time. It has to be seen multiple times to truly be appreciated. It's the kind of flick that will be the subject of film classes, discussions, and interpretations for years to come. Not to mention, I think that a lot of it's gross will come from overseas. It's the kind of film, made by great filmmakers, that's so progressive in so many ways, that people will ultimately have to catch up to it. As for it being a bomb, let me list a few movies that were also 'box office flops' but still have managed to 'hang around':

-Big Lebowski
-Shawshank Redemption
-Requiem for a Dream
-Blade Runner
-Office Space
-Citizen Kane
-Fight Club
-Reservoir Dogs
-Tron
-Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

That's just to name a few, and there are a whole lot more. Seriously people. I am a huge CBM fan too, but can appreciate a TRULY great movie when I see one and this has everything! Comedy, action, violence, sci-fi, drama, you name it. Do yourself a favor and check this out. Shit, check it out twice! Being that it really is a hard sell to the average movie going public, that only makes it more important to experience it for yourself to truly understand what it is, and whether or not it resonates in you as an individual or if you just think it's crap. If anything, it will keep you thinking and talking about it which is the most important thing, and something that a lot of movies these days won't force you to do.
Maximus101 - 11/1/2012, 2:01 PM
Meh it looked different but I'm gonna see flight and man with the iron fists this weekend and skyfall next weekend.
Jollem - 11/1/2012, 2:12 PM
my theater finally got it's construction done with. saw this and it was pretty amazing. may require repeat viewings
BlueDemon - 11/1/2012, 2:13 PM
I have no interest in this movie. I'd rather go watch DREDD again
jingorot - 11/1/2012, 2:58 PM
i don't see why anyone would find this confusing. but if you did, fine whatever. my complaint's the same as MarkJulian's, I'd have liked the stories to be a little more well-connected to each other, thematically and the events too.

I wanted to have a sense of both: these stories are so different, yet so similar. and that if you change something in one story, it'd have some sort of an effect on all the other stories.

i didn't feel that too much. the strongest connections were between the two futuristic stories. if only the others were as well connected as those.
answer - 11/1/2012, 5:44 PM
Too drunk to read all the comments but I worked on this film! Very litlle but lots of free food and money!!
GIFfreyGinsberg - 11/2/2012, 12:07 AM
Overrated, but still the best thing they've released in a while. Beautiful & fresh film: I'll see it many more times just for that.
Boogie138 - 11/7/2012, 9:53 AM
i am very late to the game regarding posting, but i respectfully disagree with the stories not connecting. i walked out liking this movie and by the next day found myself loving the experience. it stayed in my head and the more i tried to pick it apart the more i found myself attached to the choices they made. i love this film

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