Movie review: Cloud Atlas

By Columbus Alive
From the October 25, 2012 edition

Note to Hollywood: When everyone says a novel can’t be turned into a movie, that doesn’t mean you have to go turn it into a movie.

The film adaptation of “Cloud Atlas” is epic, sweeping and represents just about everything I dislike about the overuse of novels as movie source material.

To write a plot description of this film, one would have to write, well, a novel. David Mitchell’s 2004 bestseller intertwines six stories that span centuries, both past and future.

Directors Lana and Andy Wachowski (“The Matrix”) and Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) took on the ambitious, perhaps unwise task of taking this to the big screen.

Members of the cast include Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving and Jim Broadbent. The stars all take on different roles via some really amazing makeup.

I can’t argue that “Cloud Atlas” isn’t imminently watchable — despite a runtime that pushes three hours. It’s a visual spectacle, too.

But is it coherent? Intertwined stories and big themes may work in print, but with an added layer of confusion created by the shared actors, I felt I was trudging through a swamp of a plot at times.

Therein lies the problem. What’s good for the page isn’t necessarily good for the screen. Should one or more of these stories be excised for clarity and consiceness? I’m sure that would have fans of the book up in arms, but it may have made for a better film experience.