Reason Writers at the Movies: Peter Suderman Reviews Cloud Atlas


Reason Senior Editor Peter Suderman reviews the Wachowskis' adaptation of David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas in today's Washington Times:

British author David Mitchell's "Cloud Atlas" is the very definition of an unfilmable novel: It boasts a complex, multipart narrative that unfolds in six separate eras from the 1850s through the present and far future, a large cast of characters, a slew of symbolic linkages, and multiple layers of linguistic invention.

And yet Andy and Lana Wachowski, the sibling directors behind "The Matrix" trilogy, along with "Run Lola Run" director Tom Tykwer, have gone and made a big-screen, big-budget adaptation of it anyway.

Or at least they've tried. Although they are more successful than one might have imagined, and their ambition is to be admired, they are not nearly as successful as fans of the book might have hoped. Like so many novel-to-screen translators before them, they have turned a great book into a mediocre movie.

Mr. Mitchell's novel is an intricate novelistic clockwork, both in its language and its narrative structure, and much of the pleasure of reading it comes from appreciating his masterful work as a literary technician. The novel's broader themes of kindness, freedom and generational connection are more conventional, but they work because of the author's formidable skills as a storyteller and craftsman.

But the Wachowskis and Mr. Tykwer can't replicate Mr. Mitchell's distinctly literary fireworks on the big screen. Indeed, they barely even try. The movie keeps a bit of Mr. Mitchell's futuristic patois, but only enough to make it sound silly. It ditches the book's cleverly stacked narrative structure — in which each of the stories is told to its midpoint, then cut off, only to be finished in the book's second half — for three hours of freewheeling narrative montage.

Read the whole review

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  1. Apparently, there are only 52 movies released a year, exactly one per week, so every reviewer has to review the exact same movie every week.

    I can’t think of any other explanation for why Reason posts two (2) reviews of one (1) movie every week.

    1. It was prophesied this morning:

      Fatty Bolger| 10.26.12 @ 7:25AM |#|?|filternamelinkcustom

      Alright, Friday! A crappy cartoon, and soon, two reviews of the same movie!

    2. Perhaps they could start a new feature: RC’s Movie Review of Movies.

      1. No, they should have RC review the movie reviews.

    3. Seeing as it’s two different perspectives on the same movie, I find it valuable. So as far as I’m concerned, THAT’S WHY.

      1. Yes, but you shouldn’t force what YOU personally find to be valuable upon the rest of us at gun-point, supposed anarchist.

        1. (points gun at JJ)

          Change the channel to ATHF, JJ. Right now.

          1. Change the channel to ATHF

            The only redeeming item of Epi’s media preferences is ATHF.

            Everything else he likes is complete crap.

        2. Yes but you shouldn’t force the writers to conform to your ideas of what articles should be posted. Supposed … whatever you’re supposed to be.

  2. “…But Loder and Mr. Suderman can’t replicate Mr. Mitchell’s distinctly literary fireworks in thier reviews. Indeed, they barely even try. The review keeps a bit of Mr. Suderman’s intellectual patois, but only enough to make it sound silly. For a review so jammed full of stuff?nearly three pages worth of it?both reviews feel oddly empty…”

    Now if this movie was named “Cloud Atlas Shrugged Part II” they’d be dry humping it.

  3. they are not nearly as successful as fans of the book might have hoped.

    The thing about the novel is that the first half of the book set out a pretty obvious premise that the past effects the future…then heavily hints (by the very structure of the novel itself) that the second half of the novel will show how the future effects the past…

    Then the writer chickens out and does not do it.

    The movie on the other hand looks to actually go after that sacred fruit of scifi mythos. For that I would have to say the movie probably succeeds where the novel fails.

    1. the first half of the book set out a pretty obvious premise that the past effects the future

      One thing about the novel is that there really are only two characters, or souls, and each of the six narratives shows the hero to be essentially stagnant and unchanging…and mostly always a victim. while the villain progresses to become less and less “evil” as time progresses.

      In this way the novel is very “progressive”. Essentially nothing more then a Marxist critique of history.

      Please do not be tricked by sudderman’s praise into reading this book as anything more then garbage left wing propaganda.

  4. They say that if you learn Spanish first and then Portuguese, Portuguese will always seem to you like bad Spanish?and vice versa. I suspect that something like this is happening when Mr. Suderman reads the book first and then finds the movie lacking.

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