Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cloud Atlas: Movie Review

Three hours with one bad idea and six boring stories does not add up to a good movie.

“Cloud Atlas” is one of those epic movies interweaving completely different vignettes into a seemingly harmonious whole. To me, the big problem comes with the fact that these six stories are not connected by a related, comprehensive story. They are only connected by an idea - a single, religion based, uniformed idea. And that cannot carry an entire movie, let alone a three-hour long movie. And it’s not harmonious. The cutting back and forth of the stories is very uneven. 2012

Directed by: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski

Screenplay by: Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski

Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, and Doona Bae

It merges six classic genres in six classic story arcs set in six different places in six different centuries. Every review starts out that way, but in fact only three of those statements are correct, one is not. There are not six different centuries represented (three stories take place less than 100 years apart) and it doesn’t even span six centuries (472 years to be exact). Adding multiples of 100 is not difficult, and yet they still can’t get it right. Okay, to be fair, I am nitpicking. But, most of these stories are intensely boring, unengaging and completely thoughtless. How else was I supposed to occupy my brain for the entire three-hour run time?

The only story which I found entertaining was set in 2012 in London where a frenzied, old publisher reeling from his life choices finds himself in a nursing home. He doesn’t think he belongs there and we get a simple comedy of culture, of old age and disguises. I was thinking it could have been a movie all on its own, but I didn’t get to discover that. In a dystopic future in Korea in 2144, the characters watched the 2012 comedy as a classic feature film. That happened very early on in the movie, before the audience could arrive at that idea on their own.

The only other stories which I could even pretend to get interested in were a 1970s San Francisco-based thriller about a corporate cover-up about to be unveiled by a female journalist and a 1930s pre-war story about composers unable to stay true to themselves. What those have in common is that they take place close enough to a period in time that I (and all other viewers) am familiar with or know people who are.

The other stories involve an 1800s ship with slavery issues (it’s probably about something like that), a futuristic Korean clone running for her life (but who knows what her “life” is), and a post-apocalyptic Earth where a new breed of species has to save themselves, and fall in love. All of that was just nonsense. It was impossible to form any sort of personal connection, so there was no emotional investment, so it was a long, boring, pointless adventure.

I appreciate that the film allowed a number of actors like Tom Hanks and Hugh Grant to completely lose themselves in a number of different characters completely unlike anything they have ever played before. The make-up work was quite astounding, and the visuals were even more astonishing. But that’s all there was, it was like you were supposed to be entertained by staring at pretty pictures, meaningless, pretty pictures. And I don’t like staring at computer-generated images with nothing interesting to think about for three hours.