Friday, October 26, 2012

Surprise, Surprise!

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll know by now that Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell is one of my favorite novels. It's a vast, sprawling yet meticulously constructed homage to genre fiction that, incidentally, manages to faithfully and smartly tie five of my favorite sub-genres of literature (historical travelogues, conspiracy noir, psychological thriller, dystopian SF and post-apocalyptic fiction) plus one more (historical narrative told through letters) into a coherent and profound rumination on the universality of human nature.

When I first heard that the Wachowskis, who produced such cinematic gems as Speed Racer and The Matrix: Revolutions, were adapting the book into a feature-length film, my emotions ranged from schadenfreude to abject horror. This was bound to fail, right?

Right! Here's what Rex Reed of the New York Observer has to say about the Cloud Atlas film:

Almost three hours long, a lugubrious sludge of mud soup called Cloud Atlas deserves a limp nod for pure guts, I suppose, but what I’d really like to do is burn it. Based on a genre-switching, era-hopping, style-abusing, tempo-thumping novel by David Mitchell that everyone has always labeled “unfilmable,” the labyrinthine, ridiculously bloated—$100-million, anybody?—head-scratcher of a movie is the mess that proves it.

Phew! Well, how about good ol' David Edelstein

The cinematography is indifferent, and the editing too on the nose, but it’s the acting that’s the shocker. The cast comes off like a third-rate stock company on the matinee after the night on which everyone got bombed on mescal (and possibly mescaline).
Pow! Let's check in on Christy Lemire of the Associated Press:

Maybe if you're 20 years old and high in your dorm room with your friends, the platitudes presented in "Cloud Atlas" might seem profound.

Biff!  Okay, okay...let's check in with at least one positive reviewer, Variety's Peter Debruge:

No less exciting is the way "Cloud Atlas" challenges its actors to portray characters outside their race or gender. For instance Hugo Weaving plays villains in nearly every age, ranging from a heartless Korean consumerist to a Nurse Ratched-like ward master. Indeed, the filmmakers put the lie to the notion that casting -- an inherently discriminatory art -- cannot be adapted to a more enlightened standard of performance over mere appearance, reminding us why the craft is rightfully called "acting.

Hmm...okay, fine...that is cool. Unfortunately:

Every major male character in the Korea story is played by non-Asian actors in really bad yellowface make-up.

ZOMG! I don't care what point you were trying to make, Wachowskis--this really isn't okay. And besdes, next time, could you try to push the envelope with a film that isn't a wretched adaptation of an "unfilmable" novel that just so happens to be one of my personal favorites? Please note, I'll be watching to make sure you don't get your hands on 2666.