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Cloud Atlas, Speed Viewing

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Cloud Atlas


I f you love to read, you’re always excited when a book you loved is being made into a movie. Sometimes you wonder how in the world they’re going to make that movie when you think of how difficult it will be to distill the wonders of the book into a much shorter format even if a picture is worth a thousand words. I admit it’s not always possible to see a movie adaptation of a book, without comparing it to the book. I agree that it should be judged on its own merits and not compared. It’s just so hard to do that. In the case of "Cloud Atlas", you also have to admire the film’s producers for even getting this movie made. They persisted independently when none of the big studios wanted to invest money in the project.

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For the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the movie, all I could think was, if I hadn’t read the book, would I have any idea of what was going on? Not sure, because I haven’t talked to anyone who’s seen the movie and not read the book. So if you’re out there, please comment. What made me feel that way about the first 15 minutes of the movie is that it jumped back and forth between stories at a frenetic pace. It was so fast, I wanted to yell “Wait!” Then I was annoyed. As the movie kept flitting back and forth between the various stories, I thought, “This sucks.” No sooner than I’d thought that, then the movie slowed down to a more manageable narrative style. And then I started to like it.

The book is a unique concoction of several different stories in several different genres that are all related. It is nuanced and subtle and with each story the connections grow. The movie could afford to be neither nuanced nor subtle given the time frame, even though it is close to three hours in duration. It continually beat you about the eardrums with repeated lines, “From womb to tomb….” If you didn’t get the theme of the movie, you had to be texting or asleep. In fact the trailer tells you the theme, so you probably knew it before you even got to the theater to see it.
Okay, now that I’ve talked about the parts I didn’t like, let me say that I never noticed once how long the movie was while I was watching it. Not once. That says a lot. I also didn’t catch all the actor transformations which are revealed during the credits roll. Some of the one's I did catch were not that great, but I can see that the theme of connection was served visually by them. In the book my favorite stories were the one that takes place in the future on Hawaii, and the other was the one about the publisher who gets tricked into signing himself into a nursing home. In the movie, my favorite stories were the one about the publisher and the story about the musician who composes Cloud Atlas. It is always good to experience art from a different point of view.
The movie was also a visual feast that did not disappoint. The ending that the movie added on gave the audience a nice bit of closure. The book didn’t need that, but I liked it in the movie. So I have to recommend seeing this film, with the caveat to just sit tight at the beginning and wait for it. Wait for it. And just know that in this case, speed doesn’t kill.

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