Friday, October 26, 2012

66 Things I Hate About Cloud Atlas

It is as it says.


1) Cloud Atlas is a crushing 164 minutes long. I have absolutely no problem with long movies, but this is the cruelty that makes these other sixty-five abuses of the cinematic form possible. If you're going to bind your audience to their seats for nearly three hours, you'd better at least have something of substance to sustain that kind of runtime.

2) So what does Cloud Atlas attempt in this generous frame, exactly? Everything. It's less a movie and more a shameless, pearl-clutching missive on the ills of the world. There is a desperate lack of focus to its sociological ranting - the class system, "natural order," human bondage, identity and cloning, race, homophobia, nuclear power, capitalism, greed both private and corporate. It never ends. And that doesn't even include the porridge of grander philosophical concepts bubbling under all this...

3)...reincarnation, predestination, the infinite rippling of causality, the existence of a soul, religion and belief. On their own, all of these things are interesting, which is why movies are made about them. When they're all crammed together, dispersed over six different narratives, and then delivered with all the grace and subtlety you'd come to expect from the folks who made The Matrix, it turns into a giant, unwieldy, overstuffed sack of hot nonsense. 

4) Or six giant, unwieldy, overstuffed sacks of hot nonsense, as it were. The structure follows six very special! people, as indicated by their auspicious comet birthmarks and the fact that all of them talk either like social welfare textbooks or a secret emotions Tumblr. Breaking the story up into six parts is necessary, but infuriating, which dooms the narrative from the start. All six are striving for exceptional depth, but none of them reach it, given that they have to constantly vie for attention amongst the Wachowskis' social responsibility word diarrhea.

5) (Said birthmark is so goddamn hokey looking!)

6) To put a point on this narrative issue - the editing is completely awful, flitting manically from story to story not on the basis of any satisfying rhythm, but oblivious attempts at tone matching. It's hard enough to get invested in one of the movie's action scenes, but imagine bouncing in between three of them without warning or cause. And one of them involves a very old man busting out of a nursing home with his wacky senior friends.

7) This also calls attention to the fact that even at such a long runtime, each storyline and character is only given a little more than 25 minutes to essay sprawling, profound "truths," while creating a sense of time and place, while trying to not come across as lifeless mouthpieces. Suffice it to say, they almost always fail at all three of these standards.

8) Tom Hanks is terrible. This is a clear career worst. Tribal warrior, snarling Cockney gangster, maniacal avaricious alchemist; doesn't matter, he's miscast in every single one but pours himself into them with reckless abandon. Second-hand embarrassment in a major way.

9) The makeup is not hilarious, like I thought it would be. It is just sort of sad and borderline offensive. 

This is what Asians look like.
10) Are we supposed to feel a sense of triumph when a character whose first line is "No niggers" beats assassin Hugo Weaving to death for shooting her dog and calling her a wetback? If so, the Wachowskis must think we are very dumb.

11) Cloud Atlas drops the n-bomb at least half a dozen times. Yes, okay, 1849 was obviously a highly fraught year in terms of race relations, and 1973 fell right in the wake of the civil rights movement. Still, it comes up way too much to give it any sort of justification. Considering the rest of the movie is a purple prose overload, the repeated inclusion of coarse offensive language simply feels like a cheap way to shock audiences into remembering that people in the slave trade were racist. Surprisingly.

12) Your film is not improved by referencing (Soylent Green), paying homage to (Blade Runner, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amistad), and definitely not by stealing from (Battle Royale) superior films.

13) The tagline is "Everything is connected" because the movie doesn't make it clear enough already.

14) "Do everything you can't not do."

15) Asians as a homogenized, robotic people, engineered specifically to fulfill laborious unpaid tasks for the state without any consideration given to humanity or fulfillment? Creative. (/racist!)

16) While we're on the subject of stereotypes: one scene involves those incorrigible senior citizens rallying a group of drunken Scottish pub-dwellers to beat up their pursuers. Because they're drunk and Scottish and can be incited to brutality at the drop of a hat.

17) Still on it: sensitive artistic gay man Ben Whishaw kills himself.

18) But not before crafting the greatest piece of music ever written, of course! This is his character's resounding accomplishment and the sole reason for his plot existing, but the music serves no greater purpose, except to demonstrate the far reaches of human creativity when faced with oppression. Cool, another message.

19) I'm not saying that every plot point in a movie should figure into its grand scheme, but Cloud Atlas demands this constantly (remember: "everything is connected"!), and the fact that it can't even play by its own rules to make a whole sixth of itself matter is pretty jarring.

20) The song is not even that great. The movie has good music by and large, but the problem with adapting a novel is that concepts that work wonderfully in our imaginations, like a song of unparalleled majesty, are inevitably neutered when they must be brought forth in reality. Cloud Atlas avoids this in part by never letting us hear the whole song, unless they played that shit over the credits that I definitely did not stay for, but that in itself devalues Whishaw's chapter even more than it already had been.

21) Samsung product placement in the 2140 chapter? Samsung is the reigning mobile phone brand of the future? This movie can't even get its capitalist shilling right.

22) Of course, in a flaming anti-corporate hosannah like this one, there really shouldn't be product placement at all. I understand that it's a necessary evil, especially when your soapbox rests atop $100 million, but when a movie psychotically essays its ideological stance over and over again, you'd expect it to actually keep to it.

23) Every chapter is awful in its own special way, but some more aggressively so than others. Easily the worst offender is poor Jim Broadbent's lead turn as Timothy Cavendish. He's a publisher who runs afoul of some gangsters and is forcibly committed to a no-leave nursing home by his asshole brother. The story frames itself by talking about how infuriating flashbacks and flashforwards and other time tricks are when used in popular entertainment, which I guess is supposed to be Cloud Atlas's attempt at having a sense of humor about itself...

24) ...since this chapter is meant to be interpreted as a film within the film. Asian slavebot Sonmi-451 watches its dramatic rendition in order to learn that humans have heart or whatever. On paper this doesn't have to be a bad move, unless you've sworn off cheeky masturbatory self-reflexivity. Cloud Atlas seems to think that its status as such gives it the right to completely break tone and be the funny timeline of the six. Unfortunately, it doesn't work out this way because...

25)'s not funny. Excruciating, in fact. Comic highlights include a middle-school double entendre involving the word "pussy," Hugo Weaving dressed up as a female nurse and doing his best Ratched, and...

26) This picture:

27) The inclusion of comedy in an otherwise serious film can leaven and enhance it considerably, of course. The humor that Broadbent brings us is such a jarring left turn from the deathly serious tone of the two other hours of the film, however, that it never even had a chance to work out. The fact that it's so clumsy and predictable simply makes matters worse. Timothy Cavendish's cinematic adventures are supposed to be the sliver of culture that teaches Sonmi-451 of the inspiring power of art, which I guess makes sense if you're a robot who's never seen a movie before, but the effect could have been reached far more elegantly by showing her a clip from Modern Times or something. Would have saved the movie a half hour's worth of utter bullshit, too.

28) This chapter simply rots in the middle of the film like an infection, weakening every other part of the already disastrous narratives around it. Cloud Atlas's insistence on frequent cuts from storyline to storyline, in addition to making the whole film feel like the wasted Friday night of a channel surfer, heavily weigh down any attempts at suspense that it may have otherwise built. By far the worst is the inclusion of a senior citizen car chase, sitting helplessly betwixt several other action scenes and robbing them of what little momentum these stupid characters in stupid situations might have built. I legitimately wanted an old man to die just to make the movie go by faster.

29) Broadbent's joyless hijinks aren't the only ones to suffer from the Wachowskis' sudden infatuation with postmodernism. Halle Berry's chapter, about a spunky girl journalist exposing fatcats like her daddy used to, gets another groaner courtesy of her spunky boy sidekick:

"I'll tell you what's going on later."
"You realize that in every mystery story, that's what a character says right before they die?"

No, I did not realize that. Thank you for teaching me a trope, Cloud Atlas. Is there anything you don't know?

30) Berry's 1973 chapter is a close second to Broadbent's for most painful. There aren't any hilarious bar brawls or nursing home escape attempts, thank God, but dramatically it is inert and completely unsurprising. She uncovers a nuclear conspiracy, the details of which are omitted for what I imagine to be time's sake, trouble befalls her and her loved ones/allies as a result of her investigations, an assassin comes after her, the assassin is thwarted and all is well. It's like every journalism thriller ever made, except distilled down to less than 30 minutes, rendering it totally simplified and indistinct.

31) Aforementioned spunky boy sidekick cashes in on her journalistic integrity with a series of "Luisa Rey Mysteries," which serve as the connective tissue to the Broadbent chapter. Every chapter is obliged to use a McGuffin to tether one story to the one that follows it chronologically: a diary, letters, a fictionalized account, the movie treatment, crappy CGI video device. Except for the video device's connection to the final story, there are no causal links between one narrative's events and the next, so it ends up much less a way to organically connect each plot and more of the Wachowskis proving that more than a dumb birthmark makes these characters significant to each other and the universe at large.

32) Berry is...well, she's Berry. Competent at best, horrifyingly tone-deaf at worst, she's never been an actress I could get into. Her work here is not an over-invested humiliation like Tom Hanks', but she just sort of melts into whatever story she's featured in at any given time. Doesn't contribute much of anything, for better or worse. It's a stroke of luck to go unnoticed in nonsense like this, though; she'll have lived down the humiliation long before Broadbent, or Hugo Weaving, and especially Hanks do.

33) Berry, untrained in martial arts as far as the audience knows, easily subdues an assailant with at least six inches and fifty pounds on her.

34) The dubious distinction of being the third-worst chapter in Cloud Atlas is a tie between the 1840s, the 1930s, and 2250. These three stories all fall into a disappointing rote badness; by the time anything even remotely substantial has happened in any of them, the film has already tipped its hand as a ponderous, silly mess. Thus it becomes awfully hard to care, or to even try to care, about what transpires in these storylines.

35) The gallery of atrocity on display is occasionally entertaining, not on purpose of course, but this is the exception rather than the norm. A vast majority of what is seen is rooted in cliche so as to be crushingly boring. Most fun disasters at least attempt something original or against the grain - Cloud Atlas's narrative elements are too conventional to be amusingly awful, and the way they're assembled is too incoherent and inscrutable to actually derive any schadenfreude from. 

36) All this said, I have to give #4 to the 2250 Tom Hanks chapter, simply because it is host to the moment when I realized the movie was beyond redemption. 2250 falls in the thick of a post-apocalyptic fugue for humanity, where very few survive and those that do lead brutal militaristic lives. In order to convey the passage of time and evolution of culture, characters all talk over each other in some of the dumbest dialects I've ever heard in my life. The linguistic rendering of this dialect is typically consistent, but none of the actors can seem to agree on an accent, which becomes achingly obvious in one particular scene: Hanks, Susan Sarandon, and some random girl start babbling at each other at the same time, so desperate to be taken seriously through such a ridiculous-sounding form of communication that the reservoir of absurdity Cloud Atlas accumulates bursts then and there. All downhill, folks...

37) "True-true."

38) "Next-next."

39) "Far-far."

40) Shit, just read this.

41) Hanks' name in this chapter is Zachry, calling to mind the follies of every late-90s soccer mom to ever bring shame upon our great nation.

42) As mentioned before, poor old Tom is a casting coup. He's built a career on a sort of signature awkwardness, all of it heaped atop his awkward potato-shaped body. He is by no means suited to be the leader of a post-apocalyptic warrior clan, a fact that should be evident from the start but is laid bare whenever he tries to do anything requiring vague physical exertion. Most awkward is watching him through the forest with his shoulders bouncing up and down simultaneously, like some broken toy. He calls to mind a mathlete running through the halls of his high school from class to class.

43) This story acts as a frame for the rest of the film, which is really unfortunate, because it puts Hanks in even more makeup (this time as an old man) and makes him growl out incomprehensible statements of deep truth to an audience of beguiled youngsters. Half of what he says is completely lost; he's basically Quint from Jaws, except substituting the charming saltiness with general purpose discomfort.

44) Nonstop. Fucking. Narration. Every character narrates the events of his or her story in voice-over because there's way too much going on that can't be visually explained. This is a telltale hallmark of an uncinematic story, betraying the very purpose of the medium itself: to tell us something through a moving picture. Cloud Atlas drowns us in words, so repetitive and tangential that they eventually just become background noise. 

45) Each chapter is host to an "evil incarnate," played by Hugo Weaving. In 2250 he's The Man in Black, a slime-coated tophatted leprechaun who sneers hammishly and talks in the same silly dialect. Like the rest of the movie, he is impossible to take seriously...

46) ...just like in every other chapter. Weaving has a menacing face, sure, used to its best effect in The Matrix. Here he is so beyond caricaturally evil, no matter the circumstances of the story that surrounds him, that he fails to be compelling at all.

47) There is absolutely no moral ambiguity in the film! The issues that Cloud Atlas spends three hours lecturing us about are immensely complex, but you wouldn't know it from its brainless, oversimplified approach. These very serious topics are done a great disservice by the film, which I suppose means well, but cannot take a stance any more nuanced than "some things are bad and some things are good and we should get rid of the bad things."

48) The third least offensive chapter goes to Jim Sturgess in his 1849 slave trade odyssey. He plays a clueless notary on the return home from a highly profitable excursion to Africa. Despite being deeply cliched (much like the rest of the movie), and yet another slavering, over-the-top Hanks performance, a majority of the dramatic elements here actually function as they should. The problem is that there are barely any.

49) Sturgess spends nearly this entire chapter unconscious or feverish as Hanks keeps him in a perpetually poisoned state so as to steal his money. Kind of difficult to get attached to a protagonist who manages to take about two pivotal actions: giving a stowaway slave a piece of bread, and then prevent that slave from getting shot by offering him up to the captain as a competent deckhand.

50) And on that note, the Magical Negro archetype is in full force throughout the film. Sturgess first forms an iron bond with this stowaway when they make eye contact during some sort of tribal ritual and immediately passes out. The man then goes on to teach him the value of kinship and overcoming race and ugh whatever by beating Tom Hanks to death with a treasure chest. On the opposite side of the timelines, the primeval post-humanity warrior men undergo a fraught alliance with a clan of psychic black people called Prescients, who are possessed of inexplicable foresight and healing powers.

51) As pointed out by this article, there are some obvious double standards in regards to the race makeup. Blackface is never used for obvious political reasons, but for some reason painting the actors up as every other ethnicity is okay. This could have been avoided by casting unknowns who looked like the better known actors, which would have been difficult, but not that difficult on a hundred million dollar budget. It would have also spared us the cringeworthy sight of Bae Doona as a redheaded white woman, or the eldritch horror that is Asian Hugo Weaving.

52) I was really tempted to put Sturgess' chapter right at the bottom because it contains this little gem:

"Your efforts will be but a drop in the ocean!"
"What is an ocean...but a multitude of drops?"


53) Quotes like this abound throughout the movie, and to write them all would be an even greater waste of my time. Cloud Atlas is clearly insecure that a mass audience will not understand all of their spiritual pabulum, and so it is stressed time and again that reincarnation is possible in this universe, and these characters have been here before, felt this way before, heard this song before, etc. As if the birthmark wasn't enough. Or the artifacts connecting each time period to the one preceding it.

54) This might also be a consequence of the film thinking it's much more complicated than it actually is, but again, there are no causal links from one storyline to the next. It's not difficult at all to keep the storylines separated from one another, since the protagonists and visual styles are so highly differentiated. It's not at all complex, but simply longwinded.

55) It's hard to resist intellectual elitism when confronted with such graceless cinematic devices such as these, but the Wachowskis reject any sort of critical discourse almost out of the gate. In the Broadbent chapter, Tom Hanks, playing a gangster/autobiographer, throws a highly vocal literary critic off of a highrise and kills him. There's nothing quite as sanctimonious as a once-praised auteur suddenly turning on the critics that bolstered them - see also M. Night Shyamalan murdering Bob Balaban's movie critic character in Lady in the Water. Implicitly rejecting the word of those who spend their lives dissecting and analyzing films isn't funny or insightful and it doesn't safeguard your movie against criticism. It just reminds the world of what a thin-skinned jerk you are.

56) But then this scene might have been in the book. I have no idea: I've never read it, and I'm not sure if I want to now. I imagine that it has to play better in text, though. Sometimes the unadaptable should be left unadapted, a lesson that Tom Tykwer got burned on six years ago with Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. I like to imagine that Andy and Lana Wachowski bullied him into it because they saw Perfume and really liked that massive orgy scene at the end and breathlessly whispered "everything is connected" to one another. Remember the cave rave in the second Matrix? The Wachowskis love them some unity...hokey, hokey unity. 

57) I guess this leaves me with the second-best being Ben Whishaw gayin' around in the 1930s, but really, what is there to say? Doomed gay love, okay, can you guys wake me up when the Wachowskis have managed to leave the 1980s?

58) I think to myself after writing about each of these chapters that whichever one I'm working on has the most infuriating ending, but this one may well take the cake. Whishaw, blackmailed by an employer threatening to reveal his dirty sodomite secrets unless he surrenders the Cloud Atlas Sextet to him, shoots him but fails to finish the job. Scared, he runs away, hides for a couple of days, and then kills himself, seeing no other path of action. No relocation, no taking shelter in the arms of his true love (who he cheats on once, and attempts to again because gay men are sluts duh!). He can't get anything right so he decides to just puss out. UGH.

59) The movie is exploding with florid, hyperbolic prose, but it is clearly at its worst in this chapter. Realizing that their best opportunity to sneak in everything they learned in Erudite English 101 would be through a homosexual in the 1930s writing letters to his boyfriend, the Wachowskis work double-time to prove that they are highly literate people. The free use of words like "amanuensis" points to a piece that thinks it is much smarter than it actually is. Not that I have a problem with big words, clearly, but a sophisticated script they do not often make; they simply draw attention to the fact that it's trying way too hard, a kind of attention that Cloud Atlas definitely does not need more of. 

60) Fifth chronologically but sitting at the dubious top in terms of quality, the 22nd-century chapter starring Bae Doona is largely the least excruciating to sit through. The visual design is pleasant, if not uninspired; there's little there you haven't already seen in Blade Runner. The action is at its coolest, with one particular highwire shootout standing at the apex of the film's surprisingly tepid fight scenes. And Doona gives the film's best performance; it's a retread of the ungainly, robotic naivete she displayed to remarkable effect in Air Doll, but using these talents to bring a futuristic clone waitress to "life" is as good a reason as any. The biggest frustration present in this chapter is that it screws the pooch unbelievably hard in the last five minutes, with a ~twist~ that has no impact at all and by far the most graceless implementation of the film's themes.

61) For those wondering: Sonmi-451 is a Fabricant, an interchangeable (Asian) human designed to do menial labor while remaining completely unstimulated and compliant. If they manage this for a period of time, they eventually accumulate enough points to "ascend," which is couched as some hallowed ritual guaranteeing the Fabricant sisters a life of peace and glory. If you can't see what fate lies in store for them, I seriously feel sorry for you, but let me just say it anyway: they are killed, dumped mercilessly onto an enormous boat, and then converted to "cheap protein" for the other Fabricants to eat. Not a terrible plot, though not really deserving of its position in the film's narrative as the Absolute Worst Human Atrocity Imaginable. But then it has been imagined before, forty years ago, by Soylent Green, which Cloud Atlas fucking referenced an hour and a half previous to this point. The effect of the reveal is utterly numbing.

62) Cloud Atlas further abuses Doona's engaging characterizations by forcing her to be the mouthpiece for a majority of the film's ungainly philosophy. Upon escaping waitress captivity, Sonmi-451 is retained by a rebel faction, taught the entire body of human knowledge in a five-second montage, and then becomes the all knowing prophet of a new movement toward free will. Her role is reduced by the end of the chapter to reciting a speech behind a glass screen to the rebel fighters as they wage a war (???), but apparently what she's saying is so profound and meaningful that the humans of Tom Hanks' chapter revere her as a goddess 106 years later. Any hope for a satisfying resolution to the one vaguely functional storyline is dashed upon the rocks after hearing Doona mutter "we are not free, tomb to womb" for the sixth time.

63) You see Doona's boobs, which is cool for those interested I guess. For all its polemics, the movie is curiously free of any opinion about sexism. Boobs sell tickets though, and I can't help but wonder if the Wachowskis realized that making any statements about the abuses of women would in turn be contradicted by their own.

64) Despite Neo Seoul being the most interesting setting, there is almost no time to explore it, yet another consequence of all the stories' truncated runtimes. The most flavor we ever get from this science fiction mishmash is inside a garishly bright, automated restaurant, full of incessantly cheery Asian waitress automatons. It gets in, shows us a few nifty images, and gets out; no need to dwell on it. Why the Wachowskis deemed this a setting worth lingering on is beyond me, since the rest of Neo Seoul remains a mystery in long shot, but it hints at design potential that the movie's structure restrains it from reaching.

65) The question of potential surges around Cloud Atlas. I was looking forward to this film for nearly a year, and it disappointed me in every capacity imaginable. Was there a chance that this could have been a movie that was at least not horrible, and possibly even good, and by the faintest of margins even great? If the book is as unfilmable as everyone says, then it isn't likely. If the book is as cliched and tedious and utterly up its own ass as this movie, then it is not possible at all. But the project is undeniably ambitious, and as mentioned before, its intentions are good. A lot of critics seem to be giving the movie a pass for being something "original" in a decidedly unoriginal cinematic climate, but this isn't exactly grounds for a reward since it's such an abject failure. Lady in the Water was original, and that was a heaping pile that received no praise at all for said originality. Many ardent defenders of the film fail to address anything other than its virtues, writing detractors off as the mere consequence of a "polarizing" "work of art," as if to imply that this couldn't possibly be the debacle that a few writers have pegged it as.

66) Cloud Atlas is made the exception for many of these critics simply because of its scope. To them the movie works because it is BIG: big scope, big themes, big visuals, big music, big length. I don't begrudge them their enjoyment of the film at all, and I'm actually glad that they derived something positive from it. It is ultimately a positive film, despite its complete failure as a work of its medium and some questionable political choices. But it's no different in intent from any given specious superhero blockbuster, where throwing money at a fundamentally unsound project somehow redeems its issues because it's pretty and brainless and we can lose ourselves in it for an hour and a half or three. Cloud Atlas was never meant to be a blockbuster. It is a film, by its own admission, with many things to say. But it says them in an immature, stale, unoriginal, heavy-handed way, and that makes them not worth listening to. Few people scrutinize ugly or unsuccessful art of their own volition; this, simply by virtue of some impressive visuals and sweeping orchestral music and "complex" temporal relationships, creates an illusion of its own importance or meaningfulness.


  1. Great article, I couldn't agree more. Self important horseshit strung together by a couple of decent scenes. The audience seemed numb and perplexed when the ending credits rolled. The back and forth time shift of the scenes was like a bad game of Three Card Monte.

    1. I enjoyed your article, and some things I certainly agreed with - particularly the makeup and "Koreans" played by white actors. However, and it's a big however, I firmly believe that CA is a brilliant book and to an extent the faults of the movie (as suggested by you) could be seen as plot faults to the book, so what exactly is it that you are reviewing? I wonder if you've read the book and if so, what you thought of it?

    2. I have not read the book, though I would be curious to. This movie's hugest failings lie in its structure and aesthetics and I think that the ideas it puts forth, though well-intentioned and compelling, are completely sabotaged by the execution.

    3. I'm intrigued....did you read the book?

    4. Drew clearly states that he (she) hasn't read the book. I have just finished reading it, before I watch the cinematic version.
      To be honest, the book is also an immense disappointed, divided into almost unconnected chapters aside from the comet birthmark and the fact that characters from other sections get mentioned occasionally.
      The worst part of all for me is when my Kindle said 9 minutes left in book and I turned the next page and got the acknowledgement list!
      I was left utterly disappointed at the book although to be honest I shouldn't have been. I have read the earlier books by Mitchell and they were equally inexplicable. I certainly won't be purchasing any more of his works but I am going to try and endure the movie just in case.

      Easily one of the worst books I have finished.

  2. On the other hand, I completely and wholeheartedly disagree, but I enjoyed the read.

  3. You brought up things I hadn’t even thought of and a few that didn’t really bother me. Still, I thoroughly enjoyed your article…a lot. I now believe that Cloud Atlas has merit because it inspired your beautifully written and well thought out article.

    Please forgive the shameless pluf, but I would be most appreciative of you checked out my review of the film and gave your thoughts:

  4. Yes, yes, yes and 63 more yeses.

  5. Your opinion is respected even though based on ignorance. Pay attention to what you are feeding.

    1. I reserve the right to be critical in my own capacity of something that, though clearly good-intentioned, lacks the depth or insight to do the kind of revolutionary good that it's striving for. To suggest that this is enough is not only erroneous, but potentially damaging.

    2. From reading this article I found your insight interesting yet misguiding to an extent. Did you watch the film to review or watch the film for entertainment purposes? Reviewing the film I understand the complaints and agree on several points you make on race relations. However criticizing the story structure is wrong. The book is broken down like the film into six unique stories; however the film tells each one individually. The film from my perspective was great yet was a disaster at the box office. Should the film have been made; probably not; the immense nature and experimental story structure is stunning and if anything people who watch this film will be in awe for it's daring visuals.

      Article Score: 67/100
      -Freedom of speech is always nice to see and hear; a point for vivid hatred is by all accounts unfounded.

  6. Some points are agreeable, some are just bullshit. Cheers for freedom of speech though. By the way, I'm I the only one who didn't like the soundtrack? It just doesn't impress me as it should.

  7. 66 (!!!) points, and the very first states that the movie is too LONG... :-)
    66 points - so much work you put into something you don't like... what a waste of energy.

  8. The gangster was Irish not limey.

  9. I saw this film two days ago, and was disappointed by the film so much that, I performed a personal first and walked out with 45 minutes left. I simply couldn't take any more of what I personally found to be a dull film (and one of my favourite films is "Lost In Translation", in which not very much happens at all).

    Anyway, you seem to have missed a big point: how come all of the clones didn't look identical in any way, unless you are a dumb racist who believes that all oriental Asians (or "chinks" as they might put it) look the same?

    1. I believe there were numerous models, thus the differing names and numbers (Sonmi-451, Yoona-939, etc.).

  10. Reading this was as excruciating as watching the movie.

  11. It is obvious from the beginning that you didn't like that movie. So why did you write such a long review?
    I can not understand people that waste their time like that.
    Don't you prefer to write about things you LIKE?

  12. I found your review quite entertaining, although I quite liked the film. I think some of your points are justified but I think because you haven't read the book you misinterpret a few things.
    Some of the clichés used are deliberately included in the novel as, in the novel, Mitchell deliberately apes a different genre of writing in each of his sections.
    I did not find the film particularly racist or sexist. Or homophobic.
    The critic is killed in the novel too and it is kind of a key plot device (as it what causes the book to sell) so it can't really be read as a directors having a pop at critics. Well it can, I guess, but it is probably a bit tenuous to do so.
    I think that your criticism of the language used (by the composer) is not really justified. This language is taken from the book and in the books it works very well (in my opinion) as it really is suits the character - he is quite vain, pompous and esoteric. I thought this came across in the film reasonably well.
    This is also why (in my opinion) he is promiscuous – because he is selfish and hedonistic – not because he is gay.
    Ditto for the language used by Hanks in the Hawaiin futuristic section, although I do concede that it does not translate well into the film and is, at times, unintelligible.
    I agree Adam Ewing’s character is not well developed in the film. He is much better developed in the novel.
    I agree the Doctor in this bit is over the top and too much of caricatured villain and a bit of subtlety would have worked a bit better here.
    All this said, I did enjoy the review and I agree sometimes that the film is as subtle as a large hammer. I found the novel to be more subtle and nuanced.

  13. She didn't say "No N*****s". she was saying "no illegals". you misheard.

    sorry you didn't like the film. i loved it. saw it 8 times in the cinema. bought the soundtrack. became obsessed. read the novel, after seeing the film. made me appreciate the nuances even more. fun list, although it feels like you're projecting a lot onto the film. strawman-ing it, so to speak.
    but hey, i also saw Tree of Life 8 times in the cinema and love the shit outta that one, too.

    1. I like this response, "Little Kiwi" the best.
      I rented the movie and watched it twice. I'll buy it on Blu-ray and read the book now.

  14. The movie was awful. In reply to the people who post "why write about something that you did not enjoy". I don't enjoy living under the current government in my country. Should I write about flowers and humming birds?

  15. Good shit. I mean the article. Cloud Atlas was just shit.

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  17. I watched the film a couple of days ago and my reaction during it was similar to yours, i.e. that it was overblown and pompous, full of halfbaked philosophy and embarrassing stereotypes... you know, like the Matrix.

    However, by the end of the movie, and after thinking about it further since then, I've come to quite like it and want to see it again, and also to read the book to see if I'm on the right track. I think that the whole story is told by the unreliable narrator of Timothy Cavendish, who is relating the events in 2012 that led him to write the ludicrous and cliched space opera set across two future time periods, text from which we see him start writing at the end of his segment.

    He has come across the stories from the 1850s, 1930s and 1970s, presumably in the stories written by that kid Javier, and has recast the characters from these stories in his own, imagining the characters to appear like people he knows from his own life who seem to him to have similar character traits - nasty older brother Hugh Grant gets all the bastard parts, sister-in-law Ben Whishaw is unfairly represented as a vain slut etc. Essentially, he is not a very imaginative author (stealing the plot from Soylent Green for his own work) and all of the cliches and shallow pseudo-intellectualism are his own, which are being presented to us in the over-the-top Hollywood manner in which he himself imagines them as he is writing them.

    He even mythologises his own escape from the 'oppressive' old people's home (where he was sent for his own safety by his 'horrible' brother, ffs) and allows this to indirectly inspire Sonmi to revolt and become an unlikely messiah.

    His own story from 2012 is also unreliable, as the (fucking ridiculous) escape from the old people's home and the fight in the pub smack of artistic license given to far less exciting real life events.

    This might be a generous interpretation of the film, especially considering I haven't read the book. I just don't want to believe that I wasted 3 hours of my film watching some utter toss about how we're all the same really and mneh mneh mneh. Otherwise, loved your list. Especially the true-true, far-far bit. Jeeeeeesus.

    1. That's a really interesting interpretation! I won't lie, the film has stuck in my brain, and I've been curious about the even moreso to see if it corroborates this Cavendish-as-narrator theory. Thanks for posting!

  18. Yes! Just... YES!!

  19. Obviously everybody is entitled to their own opinion, but it is clear that there is so much of this picture that you just didn't get. Either that or you had more or less formulated your opinion based on the trailer and just went in looking for things to bash. Are there issues with this movie? Certainly. But you are SO far off the mark in so many of your points that I couldn't begin to address everything in a short post. I will give a couple examples...

    1) Your complaint about Tom Hanks's acting is far off the mark. But then again whenever an actor steps far out of their comfort zone and does something ambitious and adventurous, they're setting themselves up for this type of criticism.

    2) This is not a homophobic movie. If you think it is, you are totally misunderstanding what homophobia really is. Not ONE LGBT person I know (and that is quite a few) considered it to be such. I know true homophobia, and you claiming that this film is homophobic is more offensive than anything I saw in the picture.

    3) This movie is not racist. The use of the N-word is done in the context of the time. Is there racism in the movie? Of course. But that is precisely the point. It is used to make a point, but it is also used in a historically accurate manner. People in the 1800's called slaves by the N-word. You being offended by it accomplished its goal, even if you don't realize that.

    4) The clones are really different models of clone. Hence the number following the name.

    5) The Asians are being subjugated by OTHER ASIANS. There is no cross-ethnic racism involved when one race subjugates its own people.

    6) I'm sorry that the makeup wasn't as good as you obviously could make it. The point wasn't to make fun of anybody or even to make the MOST authentic-looking Asians (for example). It was done intentionally so you could actually follow individual characters and realize the parts they played in each story.

    I will stop there because, honestly, your 66-point gripefest was FAR more exhausting than the movie...and far too juvenile to address point by point. It is clear that you have never studied film...or if you did, you missed the point of the lessons.

    It is unfortunate that you have a predisposition to stories that are actually designed to make people question "reality", the possibility of a true quantum existence, and our place in the universe, as evidenced by the slamming the Matrix, too. Why don't you just bust out you Armageddon DVD and shut off your mind.

  20. Just read this. I know its an older post. I Cannot believe you wasted that much of your life misunderstanding probably the greatest movie ever made. I can tell you watched the film after reading a negative article and decided to pick out all the things you did not like to post. I can also tell a lot of the movie was over your head. I honestly read to about # 23 and realized i was wasting my own life reading this. Heavily misunderstood film by people who don't have the talent to produce a movie 1/3 of Cloud Atlas' caliber with twice the budget. For some reason unknown to me anyone without the mental capacity to understand this film feels like they must violently attack it. Worst Film of 2012? Best film of the decade.

    1. AMEN TO THAT.
      Cloud Atlas is the most underrated film ever made. Every frame exudes such passion and truth; and in a world where such extreme levels of hatred, violence, and cynicism exist, Cloud Atlas is there to remind us that there is a deeply human purity in all of us, and unless that purity can be tapped and understood, than humanity will collapse, just like the Old Uns collapsed.
      And that's the true-true.

  21. you have a bad ear for accents, sir. Tom Hanks' accent for the Timothy Cavendish scene was a Cockney accent, very much NOT Irish.

  22. Despite not having seen the film, I'm commenting because, in my opinion, I found that much of this review of the film also applies to the book and I really appreciated the reviewers critique.

    I've just got around to reading Cloud Atlas after a friend's recommendation some years ago. I haven't seen the film and won't be tempted by the DVD as after finishing the book I couldn't imagine how on earth it could ever be successfully filmed.

    As well, the book was more than enough for me. I simply couldn't go there again. It has also put me off reading any more of David Mitchell's books.

    Yes, David Mitchell can write and knows how to tell a story. One of the enjoyable things about the book was the originality of the words on the page and the page-turning interest of some of the stories. Initially, I was also impressed by his ability to 'do' different voices but even that novelty waned by the end. 'A voice too far' so to speak. Showing off, almost.

    Any enjoyment I had was diminished by the polemics, the one-sided view of the blackness of humanity, and as the reviewer says about the film, 'the sociological ranting - the class system, "natural order," human bondage, identity and cloning, race, homophobia, nuclear power, capitalism, greed both private and corporate. It never ends. And that doesn't even include the porridge of grander philosophical concepts bubbling under all this'.

    In a word, preachy, I'd say. I wearied of being hit over the head by author's opinions coming out of the mouths of his characters.

    And yes, once you get the hang of the structure, the book is also increasingly predictable.

    I lost interest by the time we got to Zachary. Wading through his story written in his vernacular became eye-glazingly dreary. I skimmed through the rest out of an increasingly waning desire to find out what happened, and because I have a thing about not giving up on books, but it was close. By the end I didn't give a damn about any of the characters, their stories or their dysfunctional worlds.

    The humour is clunky and overdone and barely raised a smile for me. I admire authors who write on serious themes and manage to weave in the subtle humour that is part of our humanity, for example John Coetzee in Disgrace - a perfect novel. Or Patrick White. Both Nobel prize winners as it turns out.

    Thanks Drew

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  24. I tried to watch Cloud Atlas for the first time on Netflix today. I made it 35 minutes into the movie and turned it off, finding it to be pretentious and hypocritical.

    The movie is likely the worst movie I have ever tried to watch.

    Inspired by just how wretched this attempt at a film was, I searched Google for, "Cloud Atlas sucks" and found myself here.

    I read the entire review and found it to be entirely accurate and more entertaining than the film.

    I am shocked that you managed to review every sub-plot.

  25. I don't like to be that guy that says if you don't like the movie it's because you didn't get it, but your 66 things prove you don't understand the movie and missed the mark. Most of your arguments are just blanket "this sucks" comments without explaining why you feel that way. For example, you mentioned Tom Hanks sucks in every role, yet with all that text you couldn't give the reason why. Many of your arguments are missing the mark, you invent some straw man or just misinterpret something altogether. Some of your points are valid-valid (yeah i'm making about the shit language and all the true-true). Amazing movie, not perfect but truly a masterpiece.

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  27. I agree, Tom Hanks stinks up every serious role he's in, he was better in comedies before Tom "Ham Face" Hanks chose a disatrous career as a boring overly praised "actor".