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Jim Sturgess on Cloud Atlas

One of the biggest disappointments of last year was how no one really seemed to get or appreciate Cloud Atlas. It was written off as “bad” but I’ve got a feeling one day those reviews will be laughable. Jim Sturgess was disappointed, too, in how it turned out.

On why it did better overseas and especially in China:

The Asian culture, it’s an idea they’re much more familiar with, the afterlife and life rippling through time, that kind of thing. So it was interesting that they really connected with the material. It was a shame to me that maybe American audiences didn’t pick it up so much. It wasn’t a surprise, but it was a shame

Back in the day, when there was a cinematic event, something that was new that you could all go see and watch and have an opinion on whether it was good or bad. It was a shame that people didn’t even get to have an opinion, it didn’t really get kind of distributed in a way that people were even able to know it was on, I guess.

It was a movie you either went with fully or it left you behind. But it will go down as one of the year’s most ambitious films.

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38 Comments on this Post

  1. Bryce Forestieri

    OMG I love him!!! After this headline I can only watch ACROSS THE UNIVERSE for the 200th time…You are perfection and life is so unfair…

  2. It was my favorite of the year, even with the atrocious makeup and the bastardization of the Neo Seoul segments. The domestic B.O. isn’t really surprising given that it was 3 hours long and no one knew what the hell it was about, but I’m sure it’ll appreciate over time. The Blu-ray can’t come soon enough.

  3. steve50

    It’s too bad Cloud Atlas was so rudely dismissed by western audiences, but this film has very long legs. It will be talked about – its themes, structure, execution, as well as a textbook example of a brave and successful adaptation.

    Someday film lovers will scratch their heads and ask “what were they thinking?” when they see that Cloud Atlas was left out of almost every film awards list. That should occur in the not-too-distant future..or maybe past? Doesn’t matter to those of us who jumped on board right away because we already know – they’re all connected.

  4. Seriously… having read the book I was cautiously optimistic about this film. Upon seeing it it was undoubtedly one of the biggest disappointments of the year. It had moments of grandeur and beauty but overall it was a pretty solid failure.

    I understand there must be an adaptation process but so much about the essential soul and theme of the book was just disregarded. Trying to “show” that all the characters were reincarnations of each other, not just the main ones but Broadbent, Sarandon, Grant, Weaving etc was a HUGE stretch. Again I get that in a visual medium things must be augmented for clarity as their is no internal monologue but overall, I found the film to be somewhat lifeless and beside the point of the book which I found a visionary, daring and stirring piece of writing.

    This is also coming from someone who found the makeup to be not that bad. I understand why people would love the film, it is very different and highly ambitious but I can guarantee you if you give the time to the book you will see the heights it reaches and the ideas it presents which the film couldn’t even get close to.

  5. All that being said it’s score should have WON the Oscar. Transcendent. Can’t stop listening to it. Unique and versatile in every aspect.

  6. Rebecca

    If this movie is remembered (or ever watched) at all in 10 years, it will be in the same way ‘The Room’ is remembered.

  7. Nothing irritated me more last year than being told or having to read about how people who didn’t like Cloud Atlas didn’t get it. I got it. I just didn’t like it.

  8. I am aware this may not be a good argument, but I personally did not bother go see the film because of Halle Berry. I just cannot stand her as an actress and her ‘diva’ persona. I’ve heard good comments about the film but I refuse to support a film in which she stars.
    Casting mistakes can cause loss. I wouldn’t be surprised if other people had somewhat (albeit farfetched) similar reasons to not go see the film.

  9. filmboymichael

    I didn’t think it was bad, however, I hate hate hated every scene that Tom Hanks was in. I thought his performances stunk.

  10. Hawkeye

    This is basically the “2001” of our generation. That’s not saying it’s nearly as good, but that it will take a while before most critics realize that it is indeed an ambitious masterpiece. A few people realized this of “2001” in 1968, then came to the overwhelming conclusion a few years later that it was much more than they were giving it credit for. It may take a few years, but eventually there will be an overwhelming “Whoops” from those critics that were dismissive of “Cloud Atlas” last year.

  11. I am aware this may not be a good argument

    That’s good, because it isn’t.

  12. steve50

    Gee, Harry, if that was your worst irritation in 2012, you had a damn good year! I’m envious.

    Hawkeye’s comparison is valid. 40+ years is a long time to wait, but it’ll be worth it. I won’t see it, but I was lucky enough to witness the transformation of 2001 in the public eye. It’s enough to make you grin.

  13. I find my feelings in line with Brian, Harry, and FilmBoyMichael. Yes, it was an ambitious undertaking and more daring than most anything else put out in 2012 (and I stand by last year being pretty weak, regardless of “look at that Best Picture lineup!”). I was open emotionally to the experience of watching Cloud Atlas, even cried a little. But, it didn’t rip me apart, which is what it seemed to be going for (especially in the climax). I feel I “got” what they were going for, I just found it heavy-handed and overcooked. (See Brian’s comments about “show”) Tykwer’s three pieces stood out much more strongly for me, than most of the Wachowski’s. Distinctive score, however. Its hook is pretty iconic.

    And that’s the true-true.

  14. Hmmn. Not to be disrespectful to those who loved Atlas, but 2001ASO would have been nominated for Best Picture in 1968 if the field were expanded like today (directing/writing + two more nominations would have guaranteed placement if you look at the evidence of the last four years) and it did make its budget back during its initial run.

    Possibly anecdotal evidence, but worth comparing to Atlas?

    Alos, 2001 didn’t bludgeon you over the head with a bone when it came to its themes.

  15. daveinprogress

    Ambitious is certainly the word to describe this film. I didn’t love it, i didn’t hate it. I thought it was a glorified action movie. I think it thought it was more profound than it actually was. Maybe I didn’t get it. I enjoyed the experience, but didn’t feel especially moved or enlightened forhaving had that experience. It was bold and big. I loved Jim Broadbent and Ben Wishaw especially. I alternately liked and disliked the make up – atrocious one moment, sublime the next – so a mixed bag all up for me.

  16. moviewatcher

    Cloud Atlas is a movie that will be remembered years from now by film buffs as one of the best films of the year. The screenplay alone will be ripped apart. The structure of the film is remarkably simple (I did that general analysis today and it’s basically 3 act structure). The amazing part is that they managed in 40 minutes to introduce the six stories, not make it seem rushed, and not make it boring. That alone is a feat to marvel at. Couple that with the fact that it is the only time I cried in a 2012 movie, you’ve got my #2 of the year just behind The Master!!!

    Oh, and Doona Bae was amazing (every time I mention Cloud Atlas I have to also mention her performance…).

  17. Gotta agree with you on that one. “Cloud Atlas” sits comfortably in my Top 10 list for last year.

  18. The greatest gift I received from this blogspot last year, was your review turning me onto Cloud Atlas. Like Steve 50 so aptly put, it’s time will come and am betting its the film from 2012 that will like Lincoln resonate with audiences 50 years from now.

  19. Daniel B.

    I thought it was an incredible movie. It is my favorite from 2012 and I will remeber it for sure. Actually it is the only movie that moved me deeply with its themes and grand vision. Life of Pi was great but didn’t move me, as Lincoln didn’t touch my strings too.
    But it is very interesting how it is a love it or hate it movie.
    I saw in this movie a lot more than in the atrocious Stanley Kubrick movies (don’t hate me too much) who is the only director I just can’t stand although his style is noticeable in every frame.

  20. Munro202

    As much as I personally loved Cloud Atlas, and allowed myself to be taken away by its magic, I just don’t see it being a movie that appreciates over time. A couple of the storylines were incredibly well-done, but at the same time some of them were just awful. Tom Hanks was often absolutely laughable, and the sequences that took place in the most distant future were just plain bad. I found myself almost laughing out loud at awkward acting, bad makeup, and horrible writing as often as I was swept up in moments of transcendence. This formula does not a classic make, unfortunately.

    BUT the score should definitely achieve classic status. No qualms there.

  21. murtaza

    @ film boy michael
    i’m so relieved someone thought the same as i did, tom hanks bored the hell out of me. i’ve never seen an actor doing overacting with such intensity.
    overall the film too was badly written, poorly adapted, lacked energy and was irritating with pain in the ass characters, the list obviously being led by hanks and followed by broadbent.

  22. Stephen

    I thought it was decent in many respects. It was certainly the most ambitious film in years, and it had its heart in all the right places. But so many times it was trying to accomplish something it just wasn’t capable of doing. Trying to be funny and just being annoying. Trying to be profound and just being melodramatic. The only thing it really excelled at was the production design and makeup in the distant future story line (that horse mounted warrior tribe was pretty terrifying). And Jim Broadbent was good, except for in his main story line, where he was just unwatchable. I didn’t dislike it–I would even cautiously recommend it–but it certainly doesn’t deserve nor ever will deserve masterpiece status. That’s just silly.

  23. I admired this film for its ambition and while not every performance worked, I admired the actors for taking a risk and playing multiple roles. It is one of the more memorable films I saw last year, flaws and all.

  24. steve50

    To compare how public reception of an unusual film evolves, in this case 2001 and Cloud Atlas, I dug out my very fragile copy of Jerome Agel’s compilation, The Making of Kubrick’s 2001, pub 1970. It includes most of the major critical reviews, many drubbing the film, as well as letters to Kubrick from viewers, which range from pure ecstacy to hysterically funny.

    (from a fan letter to Kubrick in 1968) this one’s for you, Sasha
    “For the life of me, I cannot understand why the critics (all of which I read when they reviewed the film) haven’t stood up and shouted with enthusiasm in their reviews. Sadly, I have come to the conclusion that for so many years, films were made for the 12-year-old mind that at last, alas, our critics have emerged with 12-year-old minds. Pity.”

    (this prescient statement from The Harvard Crimson, 1968): “If Kubrick’s superb film has a problem, it may simply be that great philosophical-metaphysical about human progress and man’s relationship to the cosmos have one strike against them when they attempt to be literally just that….To be able to see beyond that may take a few years.”

    so, just for fun, I checked out the Crimson for reviews of Cloud Atlas
    The Harvard Crimson, 2012 (Cloud Atlas) : “Interweaving six disparate narrative arcs over the course of nearly three hours, it’s impossible to deny that “Cloud Atlas” just straight-up Goes For It. This, obviously, does not give the film’s substantial flaws a free pass, but holistically “Cloud Atlas” achieves striking novelty.

    (it finishes)
    “It’s in this sense that “Cloud Atlas” excels. It is, at best, an intellectually feel-good movie…. That intangible feeling watching a great film is there, even if that great film is unfortunately absent.”

    **Yet, in a January post on what SHOULD be nominated for Best Picture, this post:
    “Should be nominated: ‘Cloud Atlas’
    …the novel ‘Cloud Atlas’ is only slightly more comprehensible than ‘Infinite Jest.’ But the fantastic direction of Tom Tykwer and the Wachowski siblings, as well as the cast’s deft execution of multiple roles across six storylines, created a film grandiose as ‘Tree of Life’ and as accessible as ‘Skyfall.'”

    The wheel keeps turning, guys.

  25. Watermelons

    I cannot determine the reasons why Cloud Atlas didn’t click with audiences in America… Perhaps the missing ingredient is the absence of just ONE more star performer, a true legend of the cinema, somebody with Oscar-winning power. For example, Kate “The Great” Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Reader), would have exponentially increased the overall effect of the film, even if her role in the ensemble were not especially large.

  26. It’s important to keep in mind that overuse of the word ‘masterpiece’ dilutes its significance. There are a few films from the last few years that are part of my group of favorites, but I hesitate to designate them with any lofty descriptors until sufficient time has passed. Just out of respect for films which I consider masterpieces and have already stood the test of time.

  27. Bryce Forestieri

    “For example, Kate “The Great” Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Reader), would have exponentially increased the overall effect of the film, even if her role in the ensemble were not especially large.

    Actually agree. Kate Winslet instead of Halle Berry. She’s much more capable of what I call celestial effects lol…and anyone who is currently in better acting shape than Tom Hanks. I don’t know how unconventional this is but I would have gone with Jeff Bridges Ever since TRON: LEGACY I’ve wanted him to be in more “big movies”. He certainly represents even less Box Office appeal, but who cares. Still loved the movie; #8 in my 2012 top 10.

  28. It’s good to see that there are other people that enjoyed this film as much as I did. The film was amazing and very unique. Definetely should of gotten at least some technical awards, and the score should have easily won. I do understand how some people wouldn’t like it. It’s pretty complex and I can see how some people could be confused by it. Or people got it but just couldn’t get emotionally connected with the characters and multiple storylines. I think it’s one of those movies that you just have to be emotionally involved all the way. Like Darren Arronofsky’s The Fountain. I’m a fan of Wachowski’s even their post Matrix stuff, like Speed Racer, V for Vendetta so I pretty much knew walking in, I was going to love this film. Can’t wait for the blu-ray in May.

  29. Agree completely with Stephens entire comment.

  30. Acerbo Angurias

    ………..I cannot determine the reasons why Cloud Atlas didn’t click with audiences in America… Perhaps the missing ingredient is the absence of just ONE more star performer, a true legend of the cinema, somebody with Oscar-winning power. For example, Kate “The Great” Winslet……….

    @watermelons

    With now Hollywood having the many advance in makeup and more the C.G.I. why not Kate Winslet can play ALL roles in Cloud Atlas??

    If like me you play the game for every film I watch out for: Which One is Kate Winslet? I am suspecting she is upon the filmscreens every week?

    This I am sure has helping her to pass up the Oscars Law of **No More Than 3 Oscars Only Per Actress** of the Academy of Motion Art and Seances?

    Is a fact : How can we be sure how many more Oscars Kate Winslet possess on her shelf allready? May be because how she is Humble she can never come forward to take the credits for the many roles such as when she appear in The Devil Whore Thatcher?

    Is why Oscar Nights never brings disappointments for me. When the name of Best Actress is spoken out loud, if some actress is winning up there that look like some actress who is some actress I don’t know she exist before, then I know inside of my heart : “I can see thru your humble trick, Signorina Winslet ! yes, it is she! Kate in another her many disguise has won another Oscar!” year after year is how several Oscars go always to Kate Winslet in this way, yes? Move away, Edith Head.!

    Because makeup magic, the face she can change to many now, Thank you Kate, My Mistress of Disguises. The movie acting I see in every great role I know it must now be Signorina Winslet behind the madeup face, yes? By her sliding face changes, in this way, I have many satisfunctory fantasy about the hundreds of Oscar Night facials Kate Winslet have by now receive. Scusa my poor English.

  31. rufussondheim

    Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas is far more comprehensible than Infinite Jest. I’m on my fourth reading of Infinite Jest and I still don’t know how we got to Hal and Gately and John Wayne digging up the skull. By comparison, Cloud Atlas reads like See Spot Run.

    But I agree with Brian, I loved the book and the movie was flat for me, but then movie adaptations of books I love are usually flat upon first viewing. It isn’t until the second viewing when I can see it as a separate entity that I can judge it fairly.

    But I was disappointed that the complex themes of racism were tossed aside in making the film (and, for those that did not read the book, the film’s comments on racism are far different than the book’s.) But the film was aiming for something different than the book, in my opinion, and so while it took the essence of the plot and characters, the themes are pretty different. I’m very much looking towards a second viewing.

  32. My favorite movie of 2012. Saw it three times the first week it was in theaters. Can barely wait for the blu-ray.

  33. It is unfortunate that American/Western audiences did not appreciate Cloud Atlas. The film has inspired me to read the book. I will buy the blu-ray/DVD and I’m sure it will be one of those films that will be looked back upon with awe. For those who didn’t get it, or wanted to watch it, it’s their loss.

  34. The real shame was sitting through that awful futuristic storyline where Tom Hanks speaks gibberish and Halle Berry is that angelic prophet type..thingy. This movie would have been brilliant if that was absent, but instead I thought it was a mediocre film with some breathtaking moments. ALL HAIL BROADBENT!

  35. Passport Stamps

    The yellowface rubbed me the wrong way, and I simply could not enjoy the movie. Most of my graduate research focused on racial representation in Hollywood, so this is an area that is incredibly sensitive to me.

  36. I will give the movie another shot, I’ll try but I don’t I will ever buy the movie’s overarching message which is used to justify the “race-blind” characterization.

  37. Felipe Mejia

    I finally got to see this movie. Had to watch it twice because I wanted to really get it. And I am glad I did. I found it brilliant, complex and profound. I enjoyed the acting very much, especially Jim Broadbent. Loved the score, the make up, the cinematography and of course the visual effects.
    I think it should have received a better distribution and reception. Shame. But at least I did not miss it.. and I will treasure it and see it as many times as I want.

  38. grady-man

    This movie’s snub by Hollywood is hardly a surprise. It reminds me of those who thought the phenomenal Lord of the Rings was about monsters. The american intellect has been reduced to a tiny fraction of years past, replaced by special effects no brainers and family viewing drivel, desinged to insult an entire family equally. Cloud Atlas is in a class of excellence (for the genre) and it stands alone. It deserves 10 stars, not five. I would have been amazed if our elitist, money grubbers in the Academy even knew its name. I place about as much faith in their impartial judgement as I do in the “expert judges” hosting the Miss America and Miss Universe contests.

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