Friday, December 14, 2012
A Cloudy Picture
ARTH VADER (AV): Directed by The Wachowskis (of The Matrix Trilogy fame) delivering the writing/directing along with collaborator Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) Cloud Atlas attempts to translate best selling author David Mitchell’s multi-layered, multi-faceted novel into an ambitious (if not ambiguous) big-budget blockbuster that engages the mind and (attempts to) solicit an emotional reaction. The end results is a movie that is as awe-inspiring as it is bewildering. How say you old friend?
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Cloud Atlas is an original film that can best be summed up in one word...reincarnation. Following this film was challenging at the beginning, but the further along it went, the more cohesive it became... giving it a continuity all it’s own.
AV: A stunning all-star cast is called up to breathe life over a story arc that spans hundreds of years and dozens of lifetimes. The story is–in fact–six stories spread across various epochs of time (the mid-19th century, the early 1930s, the mid-1970s, 2012, the future, and a more distant future). In each of these stories, we meet various characters (played by the same ensemble of actors) whose lives, experiences and legacies ripple throughout past and future via artistic connective threads like music, writing or film footage, shaping life, destiny – and even the fate of the world, in some cases. As each story progresses along its arc, a web of cosmic significance slowly but surely comes into view, reminding us that our lives are not just our own, and our connections to others – whether comprehended or not – are far more precious than we may know.
TP: The casting was superb as you really can’t go wrong with the all-star cast that was put together for this film. Tom Hanks is one of the all-time greats at this point and Halle Berry certainly made this film one of her highlights. Hugo Weaving was riveting and with talent like Keith David, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant rounding out the cast, there was no way to not be engaged heavily with the characters. The beauty of all of this is that each cast member played several roles throughout the film, all of them different in terms of what each character brought to the story. The directing kept this film moving along at a pace that was fast enough to keep interest, but slow enough to facilitate comprehension (just barely).
AV: There is no way to accurately convey what an incredible special effects journey this movie is. The environments, the make-up, the CGI, the visual effects, the sound design, entire worlds re-created. Cloud Atlas is as flawlessly beautiful as any effects movie could be. Honestly, on the level of Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings Trilogy or the Matrix films (Wachowskis) or the even later Star Wars movies. And as good as the high-end, computer-generated visual effects are, they are seamless compared to the mix of make-up and good old-fashioned in-camera effects of the different characters onscreen. I was literally blown away.
TP: The special effects were simply awesome. I have a weakness for grand landscape shots and being taken to new and fantastic worlds. This film delivered in that area and then some. It was interesting to see how the use of special effects increased as the story moved forward through time. From the simple make-up job to the astounding CGI, this movie delivered on a scale worthy of mention with all those we associate as the greats. Although it’s in every movie, there hasn’t been a film that comes to mind recently that has taken the craft of make-up to another level. I honestly didn’t recognize many of the actors in some of their roles until revealed at the end of the film... a testament to such excellent work.
AV: As one of the most ambitious Hollywood story-telling undertakings I have ever seen, Cloud Atlas does fall short in a few areas. First, the lack of an easily digested concept and storyline leaves audiences dazed and confused. American culture tends to be less refined and considerably less tolerant that other audiences. This movie qualifies as a film noir or 'artsy' film treatment, leaving the effect and the experience to be at the discretion of the viewer. While one could argue that should be the intent of EVERY movie, most American cinema releases hold our hands so much, we are almost told when and how to respond. Not so with Cloud Atlas, and that is also it's Achilles heel. Next, the continuity and pacing is also at a tempo followed only by the sharp-witted. With a concept coming out of left field and a story-telling treatment not often experienced in America, Cloud Atlas has made wide-scale acceptance almost unattainable in regards to movie-going audiences. Pontificator, what were your thoughts?
TP: I completely agree with you Vader. Count me among the lost for the first twenty minutes of the film. As I was dazzled by the superb acting, I was also trying to find my way on the road of significance to what I was seeing. Not only that, but the first few jumps to different eras had me frazzled as the connections were not readily revealed. Just the very nature of the film makes it the type of movie you want to see again, just to make sure you “get it.” As the film progressed and I found myself understanding the concept, I was miffed at what I’m sure I missed during my tenure among the lost. This became even more evident, but the euphoria of revelation was just awesome, when the film was over and the end credits began to roll...visually revealing every character each actor had played. This was the biggest lightbulb moment for me as more dots were connected that just weren’t evident the first go round.
AV: I don't have a lot of knowledge about the story's intended follow-up, however, as I have shared many times in past posts, movies like this are okay NOT to have sequels, prequels and follow-ups. Sadly, the audience exposure and viewing of this movie will probably cement there is no follow-up. And honestly, Ponty, that's is fine by me.
TP: Agreed Vader... this film was a handful by itself, an exercise in comprehension and cognitive thinking. There is certainly no reason to sequel that experience when there is still so much that can yet be gained by simply watching the first... again.
ARTH VADER rates Cloud Atlas: A beautiful movie, engaging–if not complicated script and an all-star cast reads like a who's who of Hollywood Elite, the visually breath-taking Cloud Atlas will delight, confuse and inspire, given half a chance. While I am still sorting out what I saw, I loved it and I encourage everyone to see it but I will also say, it's NOT for everyone. So with that, I give Cloud Atlas the "true, true" rating of 8.25 busted blocks.
CLOUD ATLAS: 8 Busted Blocks