The fantasy worlds of Cloud Atlas

One can’t help but get the impression that Cloud Atlas, which hits theaters on October 26, is not going to be an easy movie to take in all at once.

It’s nearly three hours long, and boasts a lengthy, serendipitous story arc. The cast, which includes Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, and Hugo Weaving, play multiple characters, depicting how they interconnect over hundreds of years.


Atlas is based on a best-selling sci-fi novel by David Mitchell, and it’s clearly a very ambitious undertaking. It’s taken three directors to helm it, the Wachiowskis and Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), and the usually press-shy Wachiowskis have been have been talking openly about the film, their first interviews in over a decade.


Tom Hanks also recently spoke to the L.A. Times about the film, and he also admitted the novel was too much to take in at first.  “I had read 80 pages of it and said, ‘I can’t take this.’ I couldn’t penetrate it.” Then he read the screenplay adaptation, and Hanks realized, “The story just hangs with you. It just lingers and lingers and lingers. When you read something like this and it hangs with you, it’s, ‘Wait, that meant something. Let me figure out what that meant.'”


This is also the kind of response we’ve been reading about the new Paul Thomas Anderson movie, The Master, where many critics and people who’ve seen it early have said they want to see it again because it was clearly a lot to take in. But I love movies and albums that grow on you after some time, and Cloud Atlas could indeed be a movie that really sinks in and stays with you for a long time.


While Hanks made it clear to the Times he didn’t totally know what the story meant to the Wachiowskis and Tykwer, he did note that that some feel it’s a story about reincarnation.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if that is something Andy and Lana and Tom had in their pocket,” Hanks said. But as the actor continued that for the authors and the directors, “They’re talking about love, passion and evil and how your acts now will have ramifications thousands of years in the future.”


Definitely deep and heavy stuff, and it won’t be a typical turn your brain off night at the movies. However audiences react to Cloud Atlas, the Wachiowskis and Tykwer  deserve a lot of credit for attempting to tackle a story that’s wildy ambitious, and not a tired remake / reboot or board game adaptation that Hollywood’s been cranking out all too frequently. So here’s to hoping it all pays off this October.