Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cloud Atlas - Paul's Review (Book and Movie)

Title: Cloud Atlas
Author: David Mitchell
Year Published: 2004

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Synopsis: A reluctant voyager crossing the Pacific in 1850; a disinherited composer blagging a precarious livelihood in between-the-wars Belgium; a high-minded journalist in Governor Reagan’s California; a vanity publisher fleeing his gangland creditors; a genetically modified “dinery server” on death-row; and Zachry, a young Pacific Islander witnessing the nightfall of science and civilisation—the narrators of Cloud Atlas hear each other’s echoes down the corridor of history, and their destinies are changed in ways great and small.

In his captivating third novel, David Mitchell erases the boundaries of language, genre and time to offer a meditation on humanity’s dangerous will to power, and where it may lead us.

Book Review: I hadn't heard about this book until I saw the initial 6 minute long trailer for the movie. It immediately grabbed my attention. It appeared to be everything a movie could be. After doing some research into the novel this movie was being adapted from, I decided I had to check it out. 

This book is different from every book I have ever read. There are six seperate, yet somewhat linked stories. You get the first half of the first five stories, then you get the whole sixth story. From there, you get the conclusions of each story starting with the fifth and going back to the first. So, the book starts and ends with the same story. 

Each of the stories are written in completely different styles. Mitchell is an amazing writer because he did this so well. The language in each section appears very true to each time period from the late 1800s to modern day and to the future. Mitchell invents his own style of language and grammar for the future stories. One is told in the near future and the sixth story takes place in a post apocalyptic world. 

Mitchell is an excellent storyteller. Although the language may be difficult to get into, once you have entered the world you won't want to finish each section. Leaving a story halfway through, usually at a climax or even midsentence makes you want to continue reading the next story even more so you can get to the second half. But then, you get engulfed by the story of the new story. 

The experience of reading this book is so unique. While reading the second half of the book, you feel like you are finishing a whole book every forty pages or so. 

Not only is each story told in its own style, language, and timframe, but each is a different genre. You will definitely have a favorite story when reading this book. It may be the geriatric comedy, the post apocalyptic epic, the young musician's tragic life, the lawyer's journey on the high seas, or the journalist's 70's mystery. My favorite was the genetic engineered fast food server's tale of self discovery. 

Mitchell does an excellent job weaving in ideas of self and philosophical questions. It is up to you to interpret how these six stories fit together. 

I give this novel a 4/5. It is an excellent read, but the concept of it is so much to wrap your head around. I suggest this to anyone who loves to read all different kinds of books. 

Movie Review: If I had read this book before knowing a movie was being made, I would not call this book adaptable. There are six completely different stories, each with its own protagonist and many side characters. Each story takes place in such a different world. But, the Wachowski siblings did an excellent job with this. 

Having read the book first, the movie is more an interpretation of the material in the book rather than a straight adaptation. The ideas, basic stories, and characters are kept for the most part, although the way in which the stories are told is changed. Throughout the movie, we jump from story to story as each story progresses. 

The cinematography in this movie is amazing. The near future sci-fi story is transformed from a traditional sci-fi novel feel to a traditional sci-fi movie feel. There are added laser battles and flying car chases. I think this added to the movie as a whole. Just like the in the book, the Soumni storyline was my favorite in the movie as well. 

The way this movie uses its actors is so unique. It introduces another level to the idea of Cloud Atlas. In the novel, each protagonist has a comet birthmark on their body. This is still present in the movie, but a different actor plays each protagonist. Some actors play six different characters, appearing in all six stories. The make-up team did an excellent job with this. The actors cross every gender and race barrier. Halle Berry plays an old Asian man! In the credits, each actor's many characters are shown and throughout the theatre gasps could be heard. 

Since I had read the book before seeing this movie, I knew what to expect and I could easily follow the storylines. Some were altered, but that is expected from a book adaptation. 

I highly suggest reading the book before watching this movie. It may take you a while to understand what is happening. I don't think this is a movie everyone will enjoy. It may be over a lot of people's heads. 

I give this movie a 4/5. I will definitely be watching it again once it is released on blu-ray, if I don't purchase it myself. I am interested in what features will be released. If you like weird, conceptual movies your mind will be thoroughly massaged by this film. 


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