Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cloud Atlas: Simple message for a very complex film

First of all, apologies for not getting this review out sooner. It’s been rather hectic with work and day to day living and all.

I had to admit, when I first heard of this film being debuted at the 2012 TIFF, I was sceptical on how it would be. I had heard it was based on a well known novel, but one I had never read before. Then I heard it was directed by the Wachowski bro…er, the Wachowski’s, the creators of “The Matrix” franchise. Since they are known to be very picky on outside products to base their films on (in this case this novel), and the fact they every film they made so far has been very visually stimulating and unique, it was no surprise to me that this was one of the main films I wanted to see at TIFF.

Sadly the tickets for the debut were already sold out when I found out about it…let that be a lesion to you all when it comes to TIFF events, plan well ahead, and don’t procrastinate on ticket reservations on films you want to see. I learned that the hard way.

But back to the film, I did eventually did see it when it came out on the North American market. One thing I did notice when looking at the film, is how complex it was, yet at the same time, it blended well.

There are 6 different stories being told in the film, spanning roughly over 500 years or so in different eras, some in the past, (as far back as the early colonial days of European exploration of the south Atlantic), one in the present, and a couple in the future, one of which in a couple of centuries from now and the other the very far (unknown) future. What surprised me is how well each story complemented each other, and how they portrayed each story. It wasn’t done in any chronological order or in every constant connection to each storyline (though there are several connections including a very obvious one). From an editorial point of view, this film was put together excellently. Not only did they were able to jump from story to story in a sequence that not only made each story make more sense, but the emotional level of each story complemented and increased with each sequence as you go along with each story era. Very well done!

From an intellectual point of view, for some people, this film might be bit of an overstimulation of understanding of time traveling themed films. This is especially true with the method of storytelling they do of all 6 sub-stories as previously mentioned. Some may find this method of storytelling overly done, and of course, if you don’t follow certain parts of the film carefully, it could become confusing too. So to those that has yet to see it and plan to, please be sure to pay attention to all aspects of the film. There are some subtle details that can be missed if you don’t pay attention.

The plot itself is a pretty simple one, just dressed up and portrayed in complex yet interesting way. I do suppose the film could have been more simplified, however in doing so, it would not only make the film redundant (not to mention too short), it would take away too much from the book it was based on, at least according to a friend of mine that did read the novel before seeing this film.

Now from a visual point of view, the Wachowski’s did an excellent job. The special effects were well done; in fact some were apparently done so well you didn’t realize they were effects. It was only when another friend of mine that saw the film after I did mentioned a few scenes that I thought were untouched. Likewise, he also missed a few things I noticed when I compared notes of the film with him. It seems like there’s a lot more in this film than either one of us realized. I guess we’ll have to wait until the video release to see what was added and what we all still missed.

Speaking of missed visuals, please be sure to stay for the credits at the end of the film. Many of the actors in the film reprise different roles for each story era in the film, so if you’re curious to see which actor played what, look for that part at the end. Some for me were pretty obvious, but several in some parts, completely fooled me. The makeup design was that good for certain roles in this film. Oh and lets not forget the cinematography in this film was very well done too, I especially liked how they did the Neo-Seoul city of one of the future eras. I can tell that’s homage to both the classic films “Metropolis” and the anime movie “Akira”.

Overall I was very impressed with this film. However, I did have some issues with it. One of which, was the length of the film was a bit much. And to those that have concerns with lengthy films, just be warned, this one does go over the 90min mark. Another issue is the semi-anti climactic end for the film…it was good, but considering the build-up towards it was slightly less than what I was hoping for. In some ways I found the journey in the film more interesting than the climax at the end. Sorry but that’s my opinion.

One last thing, to my fellow Christian faith believers just a heads up, this film does play on a lot of reincarnation beliefs that might not sit well with some. Interestingly enough, in one part in the film close to the beginning, the question of do you believe in God does come up, and answered very positively. So, it’s good in some ways, questionable in others.

In any case, like with many of our previously discussed films in this blog, it should be taken with a grain of salt. No, I don’t think this film should be avoided at all costs because of that one aspect. If we start thinking that everything we see and do that doesn’t quite fit into the box of what one thinks is “ideal Christianity”, well there would be many things we wouldn’t want others to see, including certain films, music, and shows that do send a positive message, yet miss the points given. If any of you still have issues with that, by all means please address it. I’ll be sure answer.

So, thoughts on this one? Those of you that did see this film, what’s your opinion on it?

1 comment:

  1. Hey M. Wanderer,

    Have I mentioned I kinda hate time-travel movies...?! I don't begin to understand them.

    I suspend belief because I want to be immersed in the story, kind of like wanting to believe a magic trick and therefore going along with the sleight of hand that results in magic. And, for some curious reason, there is no shortage of time-travel themed movies that were box office hits (Terminator franchise; Back to the Future franchise; I am guessing the recent Looper was a hit) But, if I stop to think about them, they don't make any sense.

    What is to understand?! They're not to be understood, they're to be accepted...which, kinda, is what faith is often about. Job 11:7 challenges us: "Can you by searching find out God? Can you find out the Almighty unto perfection?" In other words, "Can you use reason to perfectly understand God?" It's a rhetorical question, the implied answer being "No!"

    Hebrews 11:1 says "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." People don't stop to think about this - it is suggesting that we may not require evidence to support our faith; our faith itself is the evidence, faith is the substance of the evidence that can't be found. Thus, it's not about understanding; it is about accepting...sometimes.

    It is for this "reason" that our ideas here at Movie Musings are just ideas. They might be wrong. P1 Corinthians 12:9-10, 12 says "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away...For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known."

    Life, right now, is like looking through tinted windows. We can see through, but shadows, forms, outlines, profiles...the removal of the tinted glass separating us from the object of our gaze allows us to see all the details. But not now.

    Now, we know in part. That should humble us not to think "we've got it all figured out," and encourage fellowship and the sharing of our experiences and ideas.

    This entire comment may be entirely tangential...but I literally laughed out loud when I read your suggestion that this film will challenge the viewer's understanding of time travel movies!

    At some point, I'll actually see the movie, and then get back on point with you :-)


What do you think?!