Cloud Atlas

“Hope everyone’s hatches are sufficiently battened down if you’re here in the east coast. When I was leaving the common, usually one of the most active parts of Boston, it was completely dead. I crossed the street against traffic right after the light changed. I didn’t hafta shove my way thru the greenline platform to get to the redline at Park Street. Apparently they were all in Cambridge at Whole Foods where I was trying to acquire dinner. At least waiting in line gave me some time to chew on Cloud Atlas.

I am a huge fan of the Wachowski Starship. I mean c’mon, The Matrix, V For Vendetta. This duo is responsible for bringing bullet time to the masses. I will even defend Speed Racer (while the plot was crap, the visuals were stunning) because of how much I believe in this team. Therefore, expectations were high. I dismissed chatter that Cloud Atlas was unfilmable because I trust Lana and Andy. Did that trust prove to be misplaced? Of course not, well, for the most part.

This one’s gonna take me some time to process. I still feel like I dont quite “”get”” it, but it’s ultimately due to me overthinking it. And part of that is due to the Wachowski’s being too innovative for their own good. Cloud Atlas follows two souls as they continually find each other throughout the ages. They are reincarnated as different races and genders constantly changing their relationship. That much I got. However, I have a tendancy to overthink things, and I seem to have been looking for more meaning and connections than there actually were.

An element that the Wachowskis added to the film is that they used a core group of actors to play these different characters in different times. It worked out such that each of our headlining stars played at least one of the star crossed lovers at one point. That much, I got. Where my brain kicked into overdrive is that I wasn’t just trying to find these two people in each era. I was trying to find out they all connected. In retrospect I get what they were going for, but at the time I was just so confused. I’m the type that I like to try and figure out the mystery of a story, and I was so focused on trying to see those connections that it took a good while for me to get into the individual stories. And some took longer than others.

Part of why the double casting was distracting is that I was keeping an eye out for it. Some of the makeup and prosthetics was better done than others. It usually left the actor with an excessively smooth face or features, even for aging makeup. But while I could tell that someone was made up, I couldn’t always tell who they were. So I’d start making a mental inventory of the cast, trying to figure out who wasn’t accounted for in that era. At the same time, some were so well done (or at least minor enough) that I never caught on to who they were. I identified Tom Hanks in every era, but I missed everyone else at least once. As soon as I got home I did some google research to get a sorta cheat sheet of who was who and I was really surprised at some of them that I missed. In particular, I missed a lot of Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw.

Something else that I didn’t pick up on was how the stories were passed between generations. I caught a couple of the obvious ones, like Frobisher reading Ewing’s book or Luisa Rey reading the letters to Sixsmith. But in every era someone is reading or hearing the story from the previous one. I feel that’s prolly something that would have been much more apparent in the book.

Speaking of the book, how this adaptation came about is that Natalie Portman was reading Cloud Atlas on the set of V For Vendetta. The book came to Lana’s attention, and the rest, as they say, is history. They’d originally intended the role of Soonmi for her, but she had to decline as filming was scheduled while she was pregnant. I’m actually kinda glad that Soonmi went to someone who is Asian. With all of the cross-racial casting going on, I think they certainly benefit from a more diverse ensemble. It makes it that much more effective, and hopefully quiets a few of those people who opposite it.

So I’ve said a lot on the movie. Again, a lot of it I liked. A lot of it was lost on me. The film felt long, but it was full. Some stories I preferred over others. Surprisingly, the ones I preferred were those by the third director, Tom Tykwer, not the Wachowskis. I dont think it had anything to do with the style, I just found his stories to be more interesting. I’m scoring this optimistically because I do think my overactive brain is responsible for the time it took me to ramp up to the film. I definitely felt affected by it towards the end, and there were certain characters I grew very attached to. There was this random little old man in the contemporary scene that really tugged on my heart. I think this one’s gonna stay with me a bit, and I’m looking forward to picking it apart later once I have a better handle on it.

Cloud Atlas – \m/ \m/ \m/

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