If I walked out of Cloud Atlas, what good would it do? If this movie is correct, I’d just be back watching it 50 years from now, only wearing a frightwig, a putty nose and joke-shop teeth. The Wachowskis and co-director Tom Tykwer try to get a handle on David Mitchell’s vastly ambitious novel of interlocking eras and eternal recurrence. But thanks to literally dozens of wobbly makeup jobs (looks like Halloween came early this year!), the shuttle back and forth between the 1800s and a post-apocalyptic futures is, ultimately, ludicrous.
One could argue the film’s ideas—slavery and cannibalism are evil, and love endures for all time. But is this entertainment? There’s some barbarian muscle when Tom Hanks, a tribesman of “140 years after the Fall,” fights off a tribe of horseback-riding ogres while dealing with a futuristic anthropologist (Halle Berry in one of six roles).
Something can be said for Keith David dressed like Shaft and Berry attractively togged out as ’70s TV detective Christie Love, together in the barely written episode about a suspicious nuclear power-plant in 1973. The strange sequence about a publisher (Jim Broadbent) interned in an awful old folks’ home under the care of a Big Nurse is meant for Ealing Comedy laughs, though its attempts at humor are depressing.
The draw to fans is a future-oid episode, about the tears of a clone (Doona Bae) enslaved at a New Seoul restaurant. This doesn’t transcend the trap of the literary-fiction writer delving into sci-fi; stripped of the prose, the plot is as bald as the oppressors of the future.
Race-change makeup reinforces the reincarnation theme, and in visual terms, this means seeing what Hugo Weaving would have looked like if he’d played Dr. No. The scene of a critic being messily killed in a movie is always a tip-off that someone sensed trouble. The temporal switches actually limit the involvement with these centuries’ worth of characters. Rather than a cumulative impact of a symphony, Cloud Atlas is like watching six bad films at once.
‘Cloud Atlas’ opens Friday, Oct. 26, at the Roxy Stadium (85 Santa Rosa Ave., Santa Rosa) and Airport Stadium (409 Aviation Blvd., Santa Rosa), 707.522.0330.