Cloud Atlas Theatrical Poster
Title: Cloud Atlas
Genre(s): Drama, Mystery, Science Fiction
Director(s): Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Release Year: 2012
Rotten Tomatoes: 64%
Genres can be a constriction on a film, letting itself be restricted by boundaries set by the type of film it is. It is more often than not, the movies that defy their genre which intrigue and ‘wow’ audiences. The problems that can arise in any of these films are that they might be plagued with jarring tonal shifts and disconnected story elements which feel like they’re from another film altogether. So what Cloud Atlas has done is provide multiple stories that intersect in many ways, yet retain completely different genres, from science fiction to thriller to comedy. Adapting David Mitchell’s novel of the same name was a daunting task to begin with, and what the Wachowski Siblings and Tom Tykwer have done is craft one of the most ambitious films since the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and defied the preconceived notion of how a movie should unfold.
There’s so much to discuss in this film, and it’s hard not to point out the obvious first: Cloud Atlas will divide an audience. It can never be unanimous that this movie is incredible. The ambition is there, but many won’t be able to get past the simple stories and somewhat confusing narrative structure. If one was expecting the movie to play out like Mitchell’s novel does with only one story to pay attention to for a while, that is not what is happening here. The movie cross cuts between stories and then returns to them in no time at all, so every story will remain fresh in your head, unlike how the novel presents it which is a much more linear manner. Unfortunately, what this does is encourage confusion and bewilderment as a scene from 1973 cuts to a 1936 sequence and then to a 2144 story, but the cuts feel natural and at no point disconnects the audience from the stories being told. Not only are the stories interspersed over long periods of time, but they are also separated geographically, taking place in England, San Francisco, and even South Korea. The movie is divisive among audiences and it is because the film does not do what the general audience expects it to: follow the general conventions of a film. The only thing that is generic about Cloud Atlas are the majority of its individual stories that it has to tell, but even then, the fact that they all connect in even the smallest ways is a testament to the power of simplicity.
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