I have read the book. I have reviewed it, some didn’t agree with my views on the book, others did. Regardless, and probably because I enjoyed the story of Cloud Atlas so much I wanted to go out and watch the movie as soon as possible after I finished the book. So I did.
I happened to drag my husband (who hadn’t read the book) along to see the movie, so we got two unique perspectives. One, of someone who’d read the book and went in with a wealth of prior knowledge, and the other who’d not read the book, nor seen the promo videos, read the synopsis or even seen much marketing for the movie. Having read the book, I loved the surprising ways that the movie took things away from the original storyline, it was different, but it added more depth (amazingly) to some of the characters, while keeping some of the more complex plotlines completely out of the story. I was amazed at how well they worked with the holes in the storyline by taking out some things.
In the book, the way the story was laid out was like this – 1A, 2A, 3A, 4A, 5A, 6, 5B, 4B, 3B, 2B, 1B
Each story was broken into two, with the exception of mini story 6, which was the whole story put together, right in the middle of the book.
The corresponding story titles are:
- “The Pacific Journal of Adam Ewing” (1849)
- “Letters from Zedelghem” (1936)
- “Half-Lives: The First Luisa Rey Mystery” (1973)
- “The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish” (2012)
- “An Orison of Sonmi~451” (2144)
- “Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After” (2321)
Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Doona Bae, Jim Sturgess and Ben Wishaw just to name a few, lead this all star cast of actors. Each actor plays multiple roles over the timeline of the story. I think the visual aspect of the movie lends itself better to bringing the stories together, the connections between them are stronger because you get the visual prompt as well as the other aspects that are discussed in the book.
Tom, as well as Halle probably play the lead roles in the movie. Tom’s character Zachry is where the movie starts (contradictory to the book) but I think it tied things off nicely, giving the movie something over the book.
My favourite character of Tom’s would probably have been Zachry, even though I still had issues understanding what he was saying. I’d thought that hearing the disintegrated English of that mini story would have made it easier to understand. In some ways it did, you were able to pick up on things like body language and the facial expressions and actions of the person talking, as well as the surrounding environment to help bridge the language barrier. This didn’t fully fix it, and in some ways made it worse. The fact that people speak faster than one ususally reads led to some of the words smooshing together and running into each other, blurring their meanings.
As mentioned above, Halle was probably the second main character of the story. She played the role of the Prescient Meronym in the middle story of the book. She also happens to be the one who goes through the most drastic changes of character (as seen in the bottom right picture here), despite this visual transformation, and my enjoyment of her character Luisa Rey, I felt that Halle’s performances in Cloud Atlas were all very similar, where as other actors gave a much more varied performance.
My least favourite character of Halle’s was Jocasta Arys (top left), I didn’t think she fit the description of the character from the book.
I am a huge Hugo Weaving fan, I loved his roles in The Matrix, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and many of his other movies. He also plays a variety of roles in Cloud Atlas, each quite varied in style and looks. Like Halle, he plays both male and female characters, which was a welcome surprise, one that had me laughing quite a lot (Nurse Noakes – top left).
My favourite of his roles, one which I felt took on a much larger role in the movie than the book was Old Georgie (bottom right) who made his appearance in the middle mini story, the one I struggled with because of the English used. The rather creepy look of Old Georgie was brilliantly paired up with some rather creative filming to give him the exact feel I got from reading the character in the book, but about 10 thousand times creepier.
The layout of the book was easy to follow, despite the mini stories (with the exception of the middle one) being broken into two parts. The connections between the stories was evident, but probably less visible. I liked the subtlty of the novel, even if they were sometimes a little bit of a stretch. The movie, complicated things a lot more than I thought they needed to. There was a lot of chopping and changing from story to story, going backwards and forwards in time with what felt like little concern for the viewers confusion. There didn’t appear to be any reason why we jumped to the time/place we did. It was out of order with the book by a long shot, but surprisingly I still liked it.
The issue was that even though I had read the book, I still sometimes struggled to work out what it was they were showing me. Why we’d jumped from Sonmi in 2144 to Adam Ewing in 1849 didn’t always make immediate sense. I did like the way the visuals gave the viewer a deeper sense of the time and perspective of the characters, but sometimes the jarring from so far into the future to back in the 1800s was a bit much. Not to mention the change in dialogue hurt my ears at times.
As I mentioned, my husband hadn’t read the book, had almost no prior warning of what the movie was about, nor had he seen the promo clips or movie trailor.
He stopped watching about 20 minutes into the movie and did some work instead!
I asked him why he stopped watching the movie. His response was that it didn’t make any sense, the constant changing of time/place was hard to follow and that he had no idea who any of the characters were.
I can’t comment for everyone, but I feel, that unless you’ve read the book you may find yourself very lost. If you can get over the chopping and changing and half stories that wind inside each other you might still enjoy it. If, like me, you’ve read the book, I think you’ll still enjoy it. Getting to walk inside the worlds that David Mitchell created in his book was a great feeling, seeing someone portray the characters he breathed life into was also a fantastic experience, but, if you want a movie to follow the book 100% this won’t be your movie. It’s the same, but different. The messages from the movie and the book are the same, but they’ve been made in different ways.
Have you seen the movie? What were your thoughts? If you haven’t seen it yet, after reading my thoughts, are you planning to watch it now?