From Book to Movie: Review–Cloud Atlas

cover links to imDB
Cloud Atlas
Summary (from imDB): An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

My review of the book: Review - Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Movie Review:

Despite giving the book a mediocre review, I went into the movie fully expecting to love it. I said in my book review that I thought I’d like the movie because I felt the writing in the book sort of hindered my enjoyment of the story/stories since I found it flashy and pretentious. Stripped of the writing, I thought I could relax and enjoy the story and the overall message. In my book review, I said that I liked some of the individual stories a lot. While I also understand the connection between all of them, I didn’t think it was necessary for all of them to be together in one book and the connection sort of tries too hard to be profound. I mainly felt they existed together to form a message about mankind but also to show off the author’s talent for writing various different ways. But even in film, I find that I dislike the short stories linked as one. I like some of the individual stories, but don’t like the overall picture as a whole.

It seems that Cloud Atlas doesn’t work for me in any form. I don’t like the story altogether. I think it tries too hard to be profound and life changing. It says a lot about mankind and I get the message and I even agree with it. But the execution (both book and film) makes me cringe. It doesn’t work for me. For whatever reason, I cannot love Cloud Atlas the way that I’d hoped I would.

I do think the movie is more bearable than the book because the viewer isn’t exposed to the writing in the novel. The overall theme is much more apparent in the movie, too, especially given that the same actors are used in each of the separate stories. The layout of the stories in the movie was different from the book. The book told each story in chronological order, all of them breaking off at the middle. Then, the final story was told in full and the last half of each story followed in reverse chronological order. The movie jumped around a lot more from story and story, cutting to scenes in each that bore a connection or similar theme. This technique helped bring home the major point of the movie in a more obvious way and I preferred it to the book, despite liking the book format as well. The movie lacks the same organizational structure, but the overall result was much easier to follow.

I could tell that the movie was done by people who loved the story and wanted to tell it well. I felt as if each detail was precise and well done and portrayed the book quite well. I liked the acting and makeup and I found the movie to be visually stunning and beautiful.

As with the book, I find I love the story of Sonmi the most. I wish I could have seen that part by itself. I feel that way about all of the stories, actually. To say that I didn’t enjoy parts of the movie would be a lie. As separate stories, they are great! It’s just that putting them all together in one movie just doesn’t work for me. I don’t like how all the stories exist as examples and means to an end and how it forces the viewer (and the reader of the book) to make these profound connections. Even though the connections are there and the stories lead us to the conclusion, it is too over the top for me. It just rubs me the wrong way.

Most reviews are positive and some even go as far as to assume that the negative reviewers just don’t “get” the movie, but I don’t think that’s true for everyone. I think many of us do get it, we just don’t like it and that’s okay. Cloud Atlas didn’t change my life. It says quite a bit about mankind on a profound level, but it still feels forced and pretentious to me and I dislike it for that reason. I’m left thinking Cloud Atlas tries too hard to be more important than it is.

I do recommend the movie to fans of good stories (adventure, comedy, love, music, dystopias, etc) with major overall messages about humanity and redemption. Like the book, I feel that there is an audience for the story and most people who will get the message will appreciate it. It doesn’t work for me, but that doesn’t make it a terrible story and I recommend figuring out if it’s right for you.

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