Commentary

November 30, 2012

Fly Over: ‘Cloud Atlas’, ‘Breaking Dawn: Part 2’

In Theaters:

‘Cloud Atlas’

I haven’t read David Mitchell’s 2004 novel “Cloud Atlas.” However, from what I’ve heard it wouldn’t have left me any less dumbfounded than I felt after watching the film adaptation. Directors the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix) or rather siblings Lana and Andy teamed up with Tom Tykwer and tried mightily to bring this ambitious project to the big screen. Ultimately, it’s epically confusing and boring rather than the transcended film it tried desperately to be.
The premise of the film is rather profound and a question historians and philosophers have pondered through the millennia – does what we do here today have a lasting effect on tomorrow, 10, 50 or hundreds of years from now? Unfortunately, the question is probably best left for intellectuals and not film producers because it simply doesn’t translate to the big screen.
“Cloud Atlas” stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess and Bae Doo Na who all play multiple roles throughout the film, which is really just a mishmash of short stories loosely tied together by a birth mark shaped like a comet. Here in lies the problem with this film.
The half dozen stories span many centuries beginning with a lawyer’s diary of his travel across the Atlantic in the 19th Century; letters written by a young musician who composes “Cloud Atlas,” which hauntingly plays throughout the film, to his forbidden love. There’s also a journalist working for a rag in 1970s San Francisco attempting to expose a nuclear power company; a hilarious story about a contemporary publisher tricked by his brother into imprisoning himself in a nursing home; and a clone’s narrative of slavery in futuristic “Neo-Seoul.”Last, and certainly least, there’s a ridiculous and hard to comprehend story about a post-apocalyptic Earth featuring Tom Hanks talking in Pigeon parading through a primitive Hawaii.
Some of the stories are exceptionally entertaining whereas others are drawn out and boring, and one story is absolutely absurd – hint, post-apocalyptic Earth. The difference in quality and interest in the stories really makes the film distracting. Furthermore, the directors bounce back and forth between the stories with no real rhyme or reason making it incredibly difficult to follow. Even more absurd, the Wachowski siblings and Tykwer decide to use the same actors in every story altering between different races and genders. Tom Hanks and his cohorts are probably still trying to wash away the awful makeup, which at times seemed to add inches to their faces – it was simply distracting.
Ultimately, the movie was watchable, but incredibly long and at times confusing. In a split second the viewer goes from laughing at a group of seniors attempting at break out of a nursing home to confusingly trying to understand Tom Hanks speak Pigeon to a futuristic Halle Berry. There was no consistency. Visually it’s what you’d expect from a 2012 picture trying desperately to portray an epic story.
There were some existential questions raised, though lost in the difficult narrative and sequence. Themes of humanity, love and the like tried to rise above the fray, but were ultimately drowned out by the nonsensical makeup, sequence and inconsistency. I would certainly put this one in the Netflix queue and wait for a lazy Sunday.
“Cloud Atlas” is rated R for violence, language, sexuality/nudity and some drug use.

 

…..and in another theater, ‘Breaking Dawn: Part 2’

I was already well aware that I was out of my element; however, it was magnified as I sat down in the movie theater during a screening for “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2” when a woman in her mid to late 20s turned to me and asked “Team Edward or Team Jacob?” Probably noticing my contorted and dumbfound expression, her friend looked toward me and said “Oh, definitely Team Jacob.” I’m still not sure if that was an insult or compliment.
Now to my male readers, understand I was there to score points with my fiancé. The sacrifice the male species must make in the 21st Century to secure their lineage is astounding. We can no longer be the “Mad Men” of the 1950s. But, I digress.
To further emasculate myself, I have to admit Breaking Dawn Part 2 was somewhat entertaining. Granted the whole concept is utterly ridiculous, a series of poorly written novels turned into even worse films. The Vampire legend, or at least the Bram Stoker version, is derived from an actual man, Vlad Dracul or Vlad the Impaler. He was the Prince of Wallachia, near modern day Romania, during the 15th Century and murdered an untold number of enemies and his own people – his preferred method was to impale folks who would slowly and agonizingly die through the course of several days. I’ll spare you the process of impaling a person. He was also said to have drank their blood.
What he was not was a glittering heartthrob who carries on a relationship with an emotionally immature high school girl. Some psychologists have suggested the relationship is borderline abusive. I really don’t understand the hoopla surrounding this franchise.
The fifth, and thankfully final, installment of the Twilight series kicks off where the last one left off. Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) is recovering after almost dying giving birth to a vampire baby and getting used to her powers as a vampire, which includes a magnification of everything. Even though she had a baby just a few days earlier, learning to become a vampire is apparently much cooler than becoming a mother, but I guess when you’re daughter looks 10 months old after a few days the novelty of parenting runs out. Oh, and by and far the best power of being a vampire is the ability to make sex look ridiculously campy, which of course had the mostly female audience in awe and tears – making the expectations of men that much more unattainable. Of course being the daughter of Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson), Renesmee brings trouble to the Cullen clan when a cousin who apparently left in a previous movie and holds a grudge, reports the child to the Volturi. The Volturi are the rulers of the vampires and pretty awful, conniving people – essentially the aristocrats or politicians of the vampire word. The reason Renesmee appears to be trouble is because they believe she’s an immortal child. Immortal children can’t control themselves and eat humans whenever they can, so they’ve been banned.
Alice (Ashley Greene), the psychic Cullen, because being a vampire isn’t awesome enough, they all have special powers as well, has a vision of the Cullens being murdered by the Volturi. So, the Cullen clan sets out to seek the help of their friends to witness Renesmee is in fact not immortal. They have a lot of friends because when you’re immortal there is a lot of time to make enemies with the Volturi. Well somewhere in the middle of gathering all these vampire friends a decision is made to make a stand and fight, if it came to that.
It all concludes in a fairly awesome fight scene, but I can speak no further, or I’ll ruin the surprise. Ultimately, however, the film was so poorly acted and shot it was like watching a skateboarder run into a railing – impossible to not look at and laugh. There were a few funny moments, and I could have done worse things with my Wednesday night like sitting in the 4th Street jail. In all reality the film will be a huge success.
This film is rated PG-13.




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