Geek Girls Rule! #246 – Review: Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas

I will be completely honest, I had had absolutely no interest in seeing Cloud Atlas until my beloved Karrin took me to see it.  Part of that is, since we don’t do TV on TV, we don’t see ads, ever.  We also don’t get the newspaper.  What little I had seen about it concerned the race-bending that was done, and I’d read people on both sides of that argument with whom I could agree.  I was pretty content to wait until Netflix.

Then while staying in Portland this weekend, Karrin found a local theater where it was playing and bribed me with popcorn and beer to go see it.

I really enjoyed it.  I liked it a lot.  And I’m trying to figure out how to really describe it.

For starters, I am aware that the movie is far more linear than the book.  Karrin’s partner had read the book and greatly enjoyed it.  But after hearing him describe how the story was ordered, I understand why they chose to tell it as it was.  I thought it was well-acted, and that while the pacing lagged at the beginning a bit it built into the climax wonderfully, which really helped the impact.  The acting was superb throughout, and I admit that seeing Hugh Grant, the poster boy for British politesse,  play a “reaver” style cannibal warlord makes me giggle a bit.

The racebending is problematic, however, I think I understand the rationale for the decision they made.  The point is that these souls are all linked, and the film-makers made a decision to have the same actors play those souls in different lifetimes in order to emphasize that sameness of souls.  I found it effective, both  when POC actors were racebent white and vice versa.  However, more white actors were racebent to POC when, as has been pointed out, they could have cast POC and racebent more actors white.

Would the film have been as effective had they cast different actors for each incarnation?  I don’t know.  However, they made the decision they made and while it is problematic, it served a purpose.  Whether or not you think that purpose justifies what they did is not something I or anyone else can decide for you.

Karrin, who’d seen the film before said that the pacing issues I’d had with the beginning of the film disappear on repeated viewings, as you start to see things that you had no way of knowing were important before you saw the end.  I do intend to watch it again at some point, but I suspect she’s right, as we talked about it in the car on the way home and as she mentioned things she’d noticed on this viewing, I could definitely see what she meant.

It was beautifully filmed.  The special effects for the Neo-Seoul segment were beautiful.

Would I recommend this film?  If you like thinking films, yes.  If you’re looking for a frenetic action flick, not so much.  You’d probably like the Neo-Seoul segment, but it won’t fill enough of the film to keep you interested.  Granted, the effects they have are beautifully done.  This is definitely more of an art film than a big money blockbuster release.  However, I have trouble calling it an Indie flick, as it was made by the Wachowskis.  I mean, how many wildly successful Hollywood franchises do you have to create before you lose the right to call yourself an “Indie film maker?”  Yes, it was made without studio support, but this film is a long damn way from “Indie film.”

So, yes, if you like cerebral films that will make you think, and are beautifully filmed, see this movie.  If you’re more of a “explodey things go bang!” movie fan, don’t.

I’d really like to talk more about the film, but I also don’t want to spoil anything for anyone, as it’s a fairly complex film so it’s going to be hard to know what would spoil things for whom.  If you want to talk particulars, please preface your comments with “SPOILERS.”  Thank you.

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2 thoughts on “Geek Girls Rule! #246 – Review: Cloud Atlas

  1. I really wanted to see this film when it came out. I’ll have to track it down on Blu-ray at some point.

  2. My thoughts exactly. Also, I read the book before seeing the film, like your friend did, and while it is always annoying to see somewhat important stuff cut out for the sake of time I can understand why they made those cuts. And knowing the story made spotting those not so obvious bits really fun. Loved the film and book.

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