When an unofficial trailer for the Wachowski siblings and Tom Tykwer's Cloud Atlas appeared online it was a breath of fresh air amidst a tireless parade of sequels, remakes, and reboots. The trio's adaptation of David Mitchell's novel has been something we at Screen Rant have been following for a while, but it wasn't until recently that the realization this film was actually happening set in.
Now, Cloud Atlas has made its big screen debut at the Toronto International Film Festival, and several reactions and reviews have begun flooding the Internet. The film's official trailer painted a more concise picture of a sweeping narrative told across several different time periods, but it still didn't properly communicate how dense Mitchell's novel is and, more importantly, how grand an undertaking adapting it would be.
Which leaves us wondering whether the stunning visuals and brief story bits seen in the footage came come together in a cohesive manner, and furthermore if the film is a rousing success or a colossal failure, or somewhere in between. More importantly, though, we're curious to know if the A-list talent behind the project (like Tom Hanks and Halle Berry) can elevate it to a serious awards season contender.
Based on what is being said about the film we can confirm Cloud Atlas will be talked about for several years to come, but unfortunately it might not live up to audience's lofty expectations. There's a wide range in terms of reviewers' reactions to the film -- none of them overly negative, but all of them steadfast in their proclamations that Cloud Atlas is something unique. To get a better sense of what critics are saying about Cloud Atlas, here are a few choice quotes from four strikingly different reactions.
NOTE: Click the name of any website to their full review:
On a technical level, we suppose the film is an accomplishment, with costumes and period details mostly coming through, but in most other ways, this $100 million effort offers fortune cookie social commentary put in a blender with a handful of thinly interlocking stories, in a failed attempt to say something meaningful about the human condition, and how modes of good and evil perpetuate themselves across centuries. Too long by at least a half hour, and both dull and repetitive as it goes on, Cloud Atlas reaches for envelope-pushing storytelling but never delivers on its promise.
Yes indeed, Cloud Atlas is a huge movie, the sort of film you could build a college course around. Is it completely cohesive? I’d have to argue it’s not, but my respect for the effort far outweighs my concern over clarity issues. I wouldn’t recommend anyone walk in there that didn’t want to ponder the very meaning of life, but, given that stipulation, it’s the exact sort of film we need directors attempting. If art informs culture, and surely it does, then you want your artists asking the big questions. That’s all Cloud Atlas does, and though the film takes pains to point out that change agents rarely reap the benefits of their revolutions, they are no less noble for their transcendent nature.
Cloud Atlas is a film that dares to imagine something beyond what is typically done in big-budget filmmaking, dense and daring, and as with Speed Racer, I'm sure some people will be thrown by the basic cinema vocabulary on display. Nothing is spoon-fed to you, and I walked out of my screening almost drunk on the potential of movie storytelling and the idea that there are plenty of frontiers left for us to explore. It is easy to be worn down by Hollywood's constant stream of remakes and sequels and comic books, but all it takes is one Cloud Atlas for me to once again believe that anything is possible if the right artists are given room to experiment.
Yet while the directorial trio does their best to ensure that things flow together smoothly enough and that their underlying message—basically, no matter what the epoch, we are all of the same soul and must fight for freedom—is heard extremely loud and incredibly clear, there are so many characters and plots tossed about that no one storyline feels altogether satisfying. As history repeats itself and the same master vs. slave scenario keeps reappearing, everything gets homogenized into a blandish whole, the impact of each story softened by the constant need to connect the dots.
As indicated, there's no overwhelming consensus on Cloud Atlas, with everything from the star-studded cast to the score being either criticized or praised. For example, three of the reviews applaud the directors for their cinematography and visuals, while another found them to be "dully imaginative."
It's hard to pin down exactly what didn't work for each reviewer, as each found flaws in different areas -- making it even harder to recommend the film to audiences. In fact, a lot of the film's elements – namely its six or seven storylines and interchanging characters – will make it nearly impossible to market.
Nevertheless it appears fans of cinema are going to want to keep their eyes out for Cloud Atlas when it releases in October, but should also be forewarned that it isn't getting across-the-board glowing recommendations they might have anticipated. In fact, only one of the reviews featured proclaimed it as one of this year's best films. All of them, though, agree that it will surely be among the year's most talked about.
Cloud Atlas releases in theaters on October 26, 2012.
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