Cloud Atlas, the movie of the unfilmable novel, is released in the UK today. It’s ambitious and watchable and complex – but clearly nowhere near as complex as the source material.
The key difference is that the novel isn’t so much about history as the end of history. Despite the involvement of multiple directors (the Wachowskis and Tom Twyker, it strikes one note throughout. Each period is as lush, slick and generic as the next.
The filmic Cloud Atlas becomes a narrative about humanity’s interconnected history. The key theme is freedom, told through a series of stories of servitude.
That’s also what the novel does – but that’s just one layer. The biggest difference is that the novel explores this, and much bigger themes, as transparent fictions.
I wrote a very long, very pretentious essay exploring this… I’ve linked to it.
I enjoyed the film, still. It’s worth watching as a kind of crazy blockbuster. Doomed to poor box office, clearly. You have to wonder how much longer people will carry on giving the Wachowski’s money after this. It can’t be too long before they go the way of Terry Gilliam – who this work most resembles. And who was once attached as director, curiously.