One day I made the mistake of watching Cloud Atlas. I did this because I saw the trailer and thought the trailer was awesome. Not realizing that the trailer was a mishmash of formulaic horseshit designed to elicit an emotion from the viewer, I ended up feeling genuine surprise when, around hour four of this foot-long turd, I wanted to hunt down everyone associated with the production of this movie and put them so far deep in the ground that they would never be able to hurt us ever again.
Here’s a list of many of the reasons why Cloud Atlas sucks. This list is by no means comprehensive. I want the reader to be able to check in, see what’s up, and check out within a few minutes, which is a damn sight more considerate than Cloud Atlas when it comes to wasting peoples’ time.
First off, writers and directors: Get your actors under control. I realize that idolizing the performance of actors is kind of hard-wired into us, and it seems like you should be able to put a much-loved actor in front of the camera, let them do whatever, and then catch all that money as it comes flying at you – but it’s also very very dangerous to do that. Let’s face it, an actor is a narcissist. When a normal person goes in front of the camera, they freeze up and consider suicide. An actor, on the other hand, will begin gesticulating wildly, then launch into a piece from Hamlet that they’ve had memorized since high school, and then after that they’ll really start showing off (cartwheels, etc).
For instance, Cloud Atlas features the first-ever “acting” performance by Tom Hanks. It’s a pretty well-known fact that Tom Hanks always plays the same character in every movie he’s ever been in. In Cloud Atlas, he finally gets to act in no less than seventeen different roles, and it’s obvious that he loves it. For the audience, it’s exhausting. It’s akin to watching a five year old trying to get your attention with an endless series of splits and fart noises.
And then there’s Hugo Weaving. The sedate, badass dude who played Agent Smith and Elrond has been reduced to some kind of evil goblin sitting on someone’s shoulder trying to get them to do something bad. It’s eerily reminiscent of the “marijuana” character from a thousand different Say No to Drugs videos that you were forced to sit through in school. It’s just as annoying in Cloud Atlas as it is in this video (bonus points if you can make it all the way to the end):
Check out a sweaty Super Mario trying to convince your children not to use drugs. Ironically enough, Mario actually gains his power from amanita muscaria mushrooms. They do not, in fact, make him “go to hell before he dies.”
And then there’s the hyper-realistic future-speak that the viewers must listen to without giggling or shaking their heads. Everyone knows that languages change over time. If you time-travelled to the year 2400, English would probably sound a lot different than it does now. However, can you imagine if Star Trek, Star Wars, Enders Game, Dune, and all those other sci-fi worlds each had their own unique language? No, reader, no no no, it would not be cool or interesting – it would be exhausting. When we read or watch stories that take place in the future, it’s always kind of assumed that the characters will speak in the parlance of today. This isn’t for the sake of realism, of course, but out of consideration for the viewer (it is assumed, of course, that the writer does not utterly despise his audience).
In fact, while I was trying to endure my viewing of Cloud Atlas, I was haunted by the idea that the future language of Cloud Atlas sounds almost exactly like Pootie-Tang: Sine Your Pity on the Runny Kine. Check it out:
Here’s another reason why this movie deserves to be slapped and tossed into a dumpster. Cloud Atlas goes through the motions of being an epic drama, as it features fifty-seven different characters taking part in eleven different stories, but if you took each individual story and made a conventional three-hour movie out of it (instead of mashing them together into a twenty hour movie), then each individual piece would be revealed as a boring, balls-deflating mess. The dystopian Asian story kind of goes through the motions of having a “big reveal” in the end, and while I won’t spoil anything for you, I will go ahead and say that your first assumption about what will happen to the slaves when they are “ascended” does in fact happen.
The other individual stories don’t have big reveals, but they do something even better: They solve the problem of racism. No joke! Now, I had my racism taken care of years ago when I saw Dances with Wolves, but I understand that a lot of you out there are somehow still racist. If that is the case for you, then by all means see Cloud Atlas. You will perhaps feel uncomfortable with the idea that the non-white races do not deserve to be exterminated or enslaved, but repeat viewings of Cloud Atlas (let’s say four or five viewings, clocking in at one thousand hours all together) will eventually get the message across. In the future-speak Pootie-Tang storyline, Tom Hanks’s character is torn between the idea of whether or not he should kill a (mostly) black woman who has done him no harm. Granted, Hugo Weaving in full goblin makeup is trying to convince him to kill her, AND she has her back turned. Who among us hasn’t killed at least one “racially undesirable” person who was nice to us but made the awful mistake of turning their back?
I guess what really galls me about Cloud Atlas’s attempt to heal the racial divide is the fact that it feels like a self-congratulatory piece written by a honkster who’s harboring more than a little bit of white guilt. It’s not challenging, it’s masturbatory, and I had to pay about ten bucks to find out that this schmuck feels real bad about something his ancestors did a long-ass time ago. Probably ten minutes of investigative work could reveal that the writer has logged in thousands of hours on the chat rooms at WhiteMakesRight dot org… PLOT TWIST!!!!!!!
But here’s what really slams into my butt about Cloud Atlas (this is my “big reveal” so GET READY FOR IT). It’s the fact that this overblown mess made me want to run to my computer and make a snarky blog post about it, in essence turning me, a sentient human being, into yet another internet dingaling who feels the need to get his amazing opinion out there as if humanity was waiting with bated breathe to find out what some dipshit thinks about something. Thank you, Cloud Atlas, for showing me that I’m no different from a million YouTube users who feel the need to complain about the whole “Democrats versus Republicans” thing!
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Hey readers! If you liked this post, you should check out some of my books. I’ve got an epic series called Demonworld, which is equal parts Mad Max and Lord of the Rings (think “science fantasy”), and a much-loved gamebook series called Heavy Metal Thunder which is currently a hyperlinked Kindle book but will be a fancy phone app any day now.