In “alternate reality” science fiction, one of the few tropes more engaging than alt-history – which shows us how things might have been changed if a historical lynch-pin event had a different outcome than that which we already know – is perhaps best described as alt-future: showing how our society would handle something that could conceivably happen based on our current world, even if the likelihood of that happening is extremely slim. That’s the premise we are given in We Stand on Guard, a planned 5-issue mini-series. The United States and Canada share the longest international land border in the world… what if our two countries went to war against each other?
After the staggering scope of Cloud Atlas, you’d think that the Wachowskis would be scaling back their massive sci-fi ambitions a bit (especially since that movie didn’t exactly set the box office on fire). Yet Jupiter Ascending, their latest bit of insane-looking spectacle, seems to be just as heady and weird, fitting easily into the singular body of work they’ve created for themselves since The Matrix in 1999. Today, a third trailer for the film gives us a glimpse of the action contained within their latest opus and it looks as if the Wachowskis aren’t putting away their “pew pew” guns away any time soon.
The Wachowski siblings are highly capable genre filmmakers, whether it’s delving into the complexities of virtual reality in The Matrix, telling a multi-generational story with the same cast like Cloud Atlas, or capturing the sturm und drang of anime in Speed Racer. Another one of their trademarks though is being highly secretive and press shy, which is why if they say anything about their projects, no matter how small, it carries the intensity of a 60 Minutes special report. Perhaps, directing brother-sister are just that excited about their new movie, Jupiter Ascending. (more…)
There are a lot of people out there who are going to love Cloud Atlas. Reversely, there are a lot of people out there who are going to hate Cloud Atlas. Me? I sat in the theater intrigued, enthralled and more than a little impressed that such box office heavyweights – including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Hugh Grant – and major Hollywood studio would throw their weight behind such an ambitious project with relatively little chance of return on investment.
Cloud Atlas spans no less than six stories that take place in the past, recent past, present, future, and far future. Several of the actors play multiple parts in all six storylines, which builds on and sells the film’s themes of life, truth, and the inter-connectivity of all people across the barriers of time and space. It’s a classic science fiction story of big ideas, and that’s in spite of the fact that several of the stories don’t even have what would conventionally be considered science fiction elements.
In the 1830s, a young lawyer tries to help a stowaway slave on a boat ride to San Francisco as the ship’s doctor tries to poison him. In 1930s Scotland, a young gay man leaves his lover and becomes apprentice to an aging composer. Forty years later, an ambitious reporter falls into a story of deadly, corporate corruption. In present day London, a book publisher becomes a victim of circumstance as he goes from having a best selling novel to ending up forcible indentured in a nursing home. In the early 22nd century, service industry workers are slave labor to a society of consumers, until one woman becomes a symbol for equality. And in the very far future, 100 years “after the fall,” a scientist seeks the means to contact Earth’s off-world colonies with the help of a simple, almost prehistoric like people.
Aside from the actors, directors Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski weave light threads between each of the various stories. But what’s especially impressive is that they don’t dumb anything down. The film opens with a Hanks’ character from the far future story, sitting in front of a fire delivering a soliloquy, like the beginning of a Shakespeare play. We then get introductory glimpses into each of the other stories, they go by in a flash and as you struggle to keep up you’re getting a sense of the larger work at play. Fortunately, the directors take it easy on us and throttle back to to ease us into the story on each level. Where it goes from there is up to you, the viewer, I think.
The problem with Cloud Atlas is that people’s whose taste rarely tread beyond the typical Hollywood hogwash are going to be blown away with just how deep this movie is. I remember when Inception came out in the summer of 2010 and hearing people talk about how complex it was, and how one almost had to bring a notepad into the cinema with them to keep everything straight. When I saw Inception a couple of weeks later, this proverbial Rubix cube of a maze of a Chinese finger trap of a film never materialized. Sure, it was complex, but I didn’t need a program to keep it all straight.
Another apt comparison might be Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, an art house hit and Academy Award nominee that many felt was given a free pass to deep thematic appreciation because no one wanted to admit that the didn’t get lest they were perceived by the rest of the audience as being stupid. Some of that comes into play in Cloud Atlas, but Tykwer and the Wachowskis are speaking with a clear voice. Granted, they’re reaching back to deal with some of the same stuff they dealt with in the first Matrix, but unlike, say, Speed Racer, it seems like they have something to say again with this film.
And some of it works better than others, and sometimes it seems certain stories are put on pause for too long as attention is drawn to other areas. The chapter that takes place at sea in 1839 was surprisingly lifeless most of the time, but Jim Broadbent as the publisher that ends up trapped in the nursing home with a Nurse Ratched tormentor played by Hugo Weaving had some great highlights and some very funny scenes. There are some rather derivative beats in the 193os music plot and the 1970s business corruption story, but the performances make it work. For style points though it goes to the 22nd century adventure in Neo- Seoul, which realizes better than any other live-action film the vibe and aesthetic of Japanese anime classics like Akira and Ghosts in the Machine.
In the end, Cloud Atlas maybe a case of the parts on their own being greater than the sum. One watches the film transfixed, which is a marvel at the nearly three hour running time. Established Hollywood filmmakers like the Wachowskis are rarely this brazen, or this bold, and I feel that if nothing else, Cloud Atlas should be saluted in those terms. It’s challenging in all the good ways a film should be challenging, but its far from perfect, and in the conflict between those two facts lies the lightening rod that fans will be discussing this film around now and into the future.
On a final note, you may remember the release of Prometheus early this year was the film that was supposed to save big budget science fiction filmmaking, and you may remember how well that turned out. More to the point, I would say that Cloud Atlas fills that order. It suffers from the same problem of thinking itself more ambitious than it actually is, but in terms of audacity and scale, then Cloud Atlas definitely trumps Prometheus. But perhaps that will be the debate of 2012, which movie speaks to the future more… I leave to you Bastards to decide now.
With a budget of $100 million, Cloud Atlas marks the return of the successful Andy and Lana Wachowski. Collaborating heavily together on the screenplay and co-directing the film, the duo is now heavily into promoting the feature with co-director Tom Tykwer. So the Wachowski Starship (they have seriously been calling themselves that lately) have been busy, just not to busy to co-create a super secret new television series with Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski.
Variety reports that the Wachowskis and Straczynski have been pitching a mysterious new show to several networks called Sense8. The overall concept of the show is shrouded in secrecy for now with the only known information being that Sense8 will be an hour long series, that Straczynski will serve as Sense8‘s show runner, and the Wachowski siblings will direct several episodes.
Currently Straczynski is in the process of pitching a new thriller series for ABC, while the siblings are juggling press before the October 26th release of Cloud Atlas as well as prepping the production for their next mind-bender Jupiter Ascending, so do be surprised if we have to wait on Sense8 whatever the hell it is.
Before we get too far I will let you know this clip has one darn, spoilery ending. That being said, I don’t believe it’ll ruin the movie for you – otherwise, why release it? – and it’s likely this event won’t play out as we’re led to believe. It’s my understanding Cloud Atlas is throwing the accepted rules of a narrative’s flow out the window.
Still, here at the risk of a slight spoiler? Good for you, watch away,
Now tell me what the fuck is going on!? Intrigued me they have, but I really hope this flick isn’t too ambitious for its britches. I did like Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain, which this reminds me a lot of, so maybe I’ll love Cloud Atlas and everyone else will hate it. That’s what happened with The Fountain, anyhow.
Believe it or not but that six-minute trailer released earlier this year was not the theatrical trailer for Cloud Atlas. Apparently that’s a trailer fit for a movie connoisseur not the general movie going public. They get this regular ‘ole two-minute trailer. Good luck understanding what’s going on with four minutes less trailer.
This is far a more condensed presentation of Cloud Atlas and therefor it’s more difficult to grasp at what’s going on. But, I will say the ambitious nature is still intriguing and that does come across in this trailer. If you’re even just a little hooked but what you saw here I do suggest checking out the longer cut.
Cloud Atlas explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present and the future. Action, mystery and romance weave dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future.
From Andy and Lana Wachowski and Tom Tykwer. Based on a novel by David Mitchell. Starring Tom Hanks, Halle Berry,Hugo Weaving, Ben Whishaw, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon, and Bae Doona.
This week on the podcast: Sarah Moran stops by to help out with the Fall Movie Preview and the guys and Sarah discuss the syphilitic porn industry, Mermaid enhancement, Travolta The Toxic Avenger, and Superman and Wonder Woman getting naughty.
Also on the show: Jason, Jeremy, and Sarah discuss the drunken debauchery that goes on at Dragon Con (which she’ll be attending), the ridiculousness of the Doctor Who release date indecision, and the Royal Canadian White Trash Rock and Roll Wedding of Ramen Noodle Hair Guy and the Sk8Tr Grrl.
Then in DIRTY NERDY CONFESSIONS: Jason and Jeremy totally mail it in but Sarah saves the day by revealing that she once wrote… well you’ll just have to press play to find out, but it’s good and the hunt is on to find it so she can come back and read an excerpt.
Programming Note: Wanna be on the special Ask The Bastards episode? Email us! your questions or (even better) a recording of you asking your question and we just may use it on the show!
So now that the summer of superhero movies have come to a close, what’s there to look forward to? Well, there’s a number of exciting films on the horizon actually. One flick in particular, though, would have to be Andy and Lana Wachowski (the Matrix trilogy) and Tom Tykwer‘s(Run Lola Run) Cloud Atlas .The trailer for it hit just a few days ago, and my lord…it’s poised to be one heck of a Sci-Fi spectacle! I for one, am astonished at how wildly imaginative it is. There are six stories in the movie that the characters will appear in that cross through different genres and take place of over the course of a thousand years. (Basically, all the actors play different characters in different time frames of the story). I mean come one, how ambitious does sound? Plus, with this being a Wachowski joint, you know it’s going to be a visual treat.
If you haven’t checked out the trailer I implore you to do so (I’ve embedded it after the jump). I think you’ll be impressed. For the rest of you, Warner Bros. has launched the official website for the film, and included in the website are photos from every single character in the film. In these photos you’ll see variations of actors Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae, Ben Whishaw, James D’Arcy, Xun Zhou, Keith David, David Gyasi, Susan Sarandon and Hugh Grant.
Sure, some of the make-ups look like they were done from booted contestants from SyFy’s Face-Off, but it’s kind of remarkable how distinctly different each actor looks. Some of them are completely unrecognizable.
This NerdBastard wasn’t thrilled about watching a SIX MINUTE trailer of Cloud Atlas this morning, but when the boss cracks the whip you either watch it, or tell him “Thank you sir, can I have another.” So I finished my TPS Report and sat down to watch this monstrous sized trailer.
Son of a bitch . . .
That damn Tom Hanks seems to have done it again. He’s visually the equivalent of the Morgan Freeman Voice over; warm, comforting, and pretty soon this NerdBastard was sucked in and hooked.
One warning though, the trailer is so long that the advertising in the embedded video will kick in at one point, don’t worry it’s only a 15 second break, although it is annoying as hell.
The movie is described as:
An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.
What did you think about the trailer? Everything I’d heard about Cloud Atlas was how huge and convoluted the book was and how could anyone let alone even the Wachowskis brothers bring it to the big screen and do it justice.
The good news is that the film hits theater screens on October 21st, 2012 so we don’t have long to wait. The movie stars Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Sturgess, Susan Sarandon, Hugh Grant, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, Jim Broadbent, James D’Arcy, Doona Bae.