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Cloud Atlas: Full Throttle: The Embiggening (Part III)
February 2, 2009 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Perennial MeFi favorite novel "Cloud Atlas" by David Mitchell is being made into a film. The Wachowski brothers are involved.
posted by jbickers (72 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Hmm... so after Matrix II and III, is that good or bad?
posted by crapmatic at 12:01 PM on February 2, 2009


My thought upon reading the first sentence: "Cloud Atlas as a film? Eh, might be interesting, but it really can't work unless it's a 12 hour epic."

My thought upon reading the second sentence: "OH GOD NO! NO NO NO NO NO! I don't want to see a giant multi-cultural rave-orgy at Sloosha's Crossin'."
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:04 PM on February 2, 2009


Wow. Cloud Atlas is so brilliant, maybe too brilliant to be made into a movie. They'd better not fuck this up.

Not because that would desecrate the novel, or anything, but because if the film sucked and somebody asked me about it I'd have to turn into... you know... one of those guys.
posted by farishta at 12:04 PM on February 2, 2009


It's bad. But not as bad as this.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:05 PM on February 2, 2009


also, great title, jbickers.
posted by farishta at 12:05 PM on February 2, 2009


Didn't the Matrix 3 and Speed Racer officially put the Wachowski Brothers on the Suck List?

This is an unfilmable novel.
posted by xmutex at 12:06 PM on February 2, 2009


xmutex: "Didn't the Matrix 3 and Speed Racer officially put the Wachowski Brothers on the Suck List?"

You're not familiar with Hollywood are you?
posted by Science! at 12:09 PM on February 2, 2009


PS: I was teaching Cloud Atlas one semester, and I was using my copy that I picked up in the UK (with this cover), and my students all bought the US version (with this cover). One day we were talking about "An Orison of Sonmi~451," and we realized that we were talking about very different stories. I checked, and the two versions have a number of major differences, especially in the first half. I've never seen any discussion of this; anyone have any insight as to why the UK & US versions are different?
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:11 PM on February 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


They'd better not fuck this up.

The Wachowskis? You'd probably have better luck with the GI Joe movie coming out this summer.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:11 PM on February 2, 2009


A MOVIE?!?!? No. No. No. Maybe a 6-10 episode HBO/Showtime TV show. But, a MOVIE?

No.
posted by absalom at 12:12 PM on February 2, 2009


Thanks! I had never heard of this novel....off to Amazon!
posted by jquinby at 12:13 PM on February 2, 2009


Hell no.
posted by WPW at 12:14 PM on February 2, 2009


You're not familiar with Hollywood are you?

While I'm not the industry player you clearly are, it does seem to me that when a highly lauded director(s) bomb as badly as the Wachowskis did with Speed Racer that indeed their stock(s) does go way, way down.
posted by xmutex at 12:17 PM on February 2, 2009


Anyone want to make bets as to which stories they'll focus on? I would imagine they cut "Letters from Zedelghem" and "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish" -- too foreign for American audiences -- and maybe "Half-Lives" as well.
posted by Saxon Kane at 12:19 PM on February 2, 2009


Didn't the Matrix 3 and Speed Racer officially put the Wachowski Brothers on the Suck List?

The second two Matrix movies are debatable, but the critical consensus about Speed Racer being sucky is absurd. Everyone I know who actually saw the movie liked it. I loved it.

My suspicion is that none of the critics could actually follow the fast on-screen action because they're too damn old. When I saw it the second time, it was much easier to follow the races. Despite the fast cutting, the position of all the cars is consistent through space and time, and all the maneuvers were logical and strategic. I thought it was tons of fun to watch and quite funny.

So, I'm looking forward to any future Wachowski Bros movies.
posted by zeek321 at 12:21 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you need several big financial failures to drop off the A-list in Hollywood. If you pick an unknown talent for a project and you get a flop, you might be fired for your bad judgement. But if you pick the Wachowskis and it goes south, no-one can blame you, because they're the Wachowskis, right? The Matrix guys.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:21 PM on February 2, 2009


Though people have talked a lot about Cloud Atlas, I hadn't heard of it until now. I am officially intrigued by the book, and apprehensive about a movie adaptation. Maybe flashy visuals will cover over how awkward it is in plot, because that's one thing they have covered in spades.

That nebulous Hollywood seems to 1) have a short and selective memory, and 2) be enthralled by anything that is "renowned" by any large group. How much did Matrix 3 and Speed Racer net? While far from spectacular, they are both rated above 6.0 on IMDb.

I'm surprised Atlas Shrugged hasn't been adapted earlier, but apparently it's been in the works in one form or another since 1972. I wonder if members of The Atlasphere will have a group date on the opening night.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:21 PM on February 2, 2009


What next? Asimov's "Foundation" series, as directed by Roland Emmerich?
posted by Johnny Assay at 12:21 PM on February 2, 2009


Oh, and say what you want, but the production values on all of these movies are just excellent.
posted by zeek321 at 12:22 PM on February 2, 2009


My suspicion is that none of the critics could actually follow the fast on-screen action because they're too damn old. When I saw it the second time, it was much easier to follow the races.

I'm a geriatric 33 and thought the action was muddled as hell. There'd be some big pile up, then a vague suggestion of a rear tire ninja kick, then Speed would come exploding out, and I'd think "Okay, he got out of that one however he did." Repeat 40 times.

Also, if I have to go back and re-watch the action a second time to make sense of it, then it's not well directed action.
posted by middleclasstool at 12:24 PM on February 2, 2009


What next? Asimov's "Foundation" series, as directed by Roland Emmerich?

Yes. Also, I pity the distributor that has to market a movie in the Arab world called "Al Qaeda"
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:27 PM on February 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


* sigh *
posted by everichon at 12:28 PM on February 2, 2009


Thanks! I had never heard of this novel....off to Amazon!

I'd never heard of this! Off to the library!
posted by cashman at 12:29 PM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


My suspicion is that none of the critics could actually follow the fast on-screen action because they're too damn old.

Because that's what will make or break a film adaptation of Cloud Atlas, the fast on-screen action.

Those movies sucked because they were completely empty. So what if they looked good. Is there a big budget Hollywood movie with bad production values? But they were candy. This isn't that kind of book.

This is like getting Michael Bay to direct a film adaptation of House of Leaves.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:29 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


With the Wachowski's involved, I can't imagine the finished product being anything approaching cromulence.
posted by organic at 12:29 PM on February 2, 2009


Wow. It's going to take some serious reimagining to work around the novel's narrative structure.

(I also recommend Mitchell's Ghostwritten, btw.)
posted by thomas j wise at 12:33 PM on February 2, 2009


The second two Matrix movies are debatable, but the critical consensus about Speed Racer being sucky is absurd. Everyone I know who actually saw the movie liked it. I loved it.

Agreed. Speed Racer's an impressive, innovative and watchable movie that completely bewildered the professional critics, but most people who actually dare to watch it seem to like.

Metacritic: critics gave it an abysmal 37%, users gave it a "pretty good" 7.9 out of 10.
Rotten Tomatoes: critics gave it an abysmal 36%, users gave it a "pretty good" 76% fresh.

I don't say this as a Wachowski fanboy or apologist -- I found the Matrix sequels unwatchable like most everyone else. Speed Racer got unfairly maligned by movie critics who, hung over on a Wednesday morning, just weren't ready for its curious blend of color and kinetics.

Also, I had no problem following the races the first go-round, and I suspect anyone who owns an Xbox 360 would have no problem either.
posted by I EAT TAPAS at 12:34 PM on February 2, 2009


The Wachowskis as directors of Orison would be okay. The other stories, not so much. It would be neat if it was like six different directors, one for each story. I'd love to see Steven Soderbergh do the Luisa Rey section.
posted by Greg Nog at 12:59 PM on February 2, 2009 [5 favorites]


anyone have any insight as to why the UK & US versions are different?

I have no insight into this book in particular, but manuscripts are often sold simultaneously to a US publishing house and a UK publishing house. After that point, their fates may diverge entirely. One might put it into print as is, while, at the other, the editor suggests substantial revisions, and the author makes them.

In subsequent editions, the text might be standardized to whichever one the author's happier with (or not.)
posted by Zed at 1:02 PM on February 2, 2009


Was Uwe Boll unavailable?
posted by tommasz at 1:02 PM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


So did the Wachowski who was going through gender transition back out of it, or did the general media just completely ignore her decision and keep referring to the pair as 'brothers'?
posted by egypturnash at 1:02 PM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


You're not familiar with Hollywood are you?

We're talking about "You're only as good as your last picture," Hollywood, right?
posted by eyeballkid at 1:04 PM on February 2, 2009


So did the Wachowski who was going through gender transition back out of it, or did the general media just completely ignore her decision and keep referring to the pair as 'brothers'?

Distinct third possibility: it was bullshit.
posted by xmutex at 1:06 PM on February 2, 2009


"Epilepsy is Dancing", Antony and the Johnsons dirs. the Wachowski brothers.
posted by wemayfreeze at 1:08 PM on February 2, 2009


Love the book, they'll fuck up the movie. 'nuff said.
posted by zardoz at 1:11 PM on February 2, 2009


We're talking about "You're only as good as your last picture," Hollywood, right?

Which makes M. Night Shyamalan harder to explain than ever.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:14 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Gah, this is one of my favorite novels and I just know they're going to fuck it up.

$10 says they focus on the Orison of Sonmi-451 ***MINOR SPOILERS***:

It's about THE FUTURE, it's dystopian like V, there's that action-packed car chase scene in it, and plenty of runnin' from the man.
posted by Grimp0teuthis at 1:15 PM on February 2, 2009


Those movies sucked because they were completely empty. So what if they looked good.

Speed Racer wasn't empty. An example of a movie that looked good but was completely empty is Van Helsing (2004). Or, as I like to call it, The Movie for Which I Can Only Feel Sheer Hatred.
posted by zeek321 at 1:15 PM on February 2, 2009


I love Cloud Atlas but don't want the Wachowskis anywhere near it. I think it's too complex and sophisticated to be handled with any care by those pompous hacks. I'd love to see an Anime version of Number 9 Dream though.
posted by nikitabot at 1:16 PM on February 2, 2009


I'd love to see an Anime version of Number 9 Dream though.

Y'know, for all the electrons Mitchell gets on MeFi, I've always felt that this book gets unfairly overlooked. Great book.
posted by jbickers at 1:20 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Didn't the Matrix 3 and Speed Racer officially put the Wachowski Brothers on the Suck List?

Pretty much their entire career has been a downward arc since Bound.
posted by rodgerd at 1:21 PM on February 2, 2009


As one who read Cloud Atlas off a MeFi suggestion, I hereby diverge slightly from the herd. I don't think it's an unfilmable novel, in that I thought each of the six segments was fairly internally coherent and clearly plotted. But I do agree that there is no doing justice to the whole in a way that (a) gives each segment its due, and (b) comes in under 9 hours long. Having different directors actually seems like a good idea, so it will never happen.
posted by el_lupino at 1:27 PM on February 2, 2009


I'd love to see an Anime version of Number 9 Dream though.

Y'know, for all the electrons Mitchell gets on MeFi, I've always felt that this book gets unfairly overlooked. Great book.


Word. I prefer Number9Dream to Cloud Atlas, though the latter is probably more of an literary accomplishment. I loved loved loved its story and characters, where the CA characters were interesting in their context but not so lively.
posted by xmutex at 1:35 PM on February 2, 2009


Saxon Kane: I've never seen any discussion of this; anyone have any insight as to why the UK & US versions are different?

I've never heard of this either. How different are the two versions?
posted by Kattullus at 1:40 PM on February 2, 2009


The movie made from your favorite novel sucks.
posted by aught at 1:40 PM on February 2, 2009


zeek321 I don't think Van Helsing was completely without merit. Yes, it completely and utterly sucked. But it did have a saving grace: Richard Roxburgh. Every moment he was on the screen was incredibly funny. I don't know if he deliberately subverted the whole Dracula thing and played it for laughs, or if he tried for serious and failed spectacularly, but whatever the cause the fact remains that his performance was comedy gold. I'm smiling while I type this just remembering his over the top funny his Dracula was. If they sold a DVD with just his scenes I'd buy it in a heartbeat.
posted by sotonohito at 1:45 PM on February 2, 2009


I agree with the above comments re: Speed Racer. It completely mystified critics - but was in fact great. On paper it would seem to be everything I despise in cinema, (a scene with a comic relief monkey throwing s**t at a bad-guy?!?), but what fantastic visual experience, (with backgrounds stitched together from snaps taken with a Canon 5D = very cool!)
posted by jettloe at 1:49 PM on February 2, 2009


Perennial MeFi favorite novel "Cloud Atlas"

Since when? I know it was the first book the MetaChat book club read, but I had no idea it had a presence here on The Blue. I mean, I believe you; I just missed any and all reference to it.
posted by Eideteker at 1:53 PM on February 2, 2009


While I'm not the industry player you clearly are, it does seem to me that when a highly lauded director(s) bomb as badly as the Wachowskis did with Speed Racer that indeed their stock(s) does go way, way down.

I was going to make an M. Night Shamalamadingdong comment, but I see someone else has already beat me to it. In Hollywood, when you have a big hit, then your stock can never go down. You're always "By the directors of The Matrix" or "By the director of The Sixth Sense." You can only "struggle" through a rough patch until you find the right project and "make a comeback." The only exception to this rule seems to be those Blair Witch Project guys.
posted by billysumday at 1:53 PM on February 2, 2009


You guys all realize you can choose not to see the movie, right?

We're not talking about a trip to the dentist.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:56 PM on February 2, 2009


We're not talking about a trip to the dentist.

We are talking about, at minimum, the book re-branded with some dopey-ass movie imagery on the cover.

We are talking about endless "no but I saw the movie" rejoinders.

We are talking about starting a monastery, one that somehow involves bacon and sex and sweet martial arts, where we spend most of our time copying texts such as Cloud Atlas to preserve them from the chowderheads. The deets need to be worked out, and by "we" I mean "me", but it will happen, oh yes it will.
posted by everichon at 2:05 PM on February 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


You guys all realize you can choose not to see the movie, right?

No, this affects every one of us. Butterfly wings flapping, cosmic imbalance, whatnot. Watch The Matrix dude.
posted by naju at 2:05 PM on February 2, 2009


I just missed any and all reference to it.

Oh, it get's brought up a lot. I came across it so often in the Green, I finally gave in and read the damn thing. Same with Cryptonomicon. It's a great read, and like el_lupino, I don't think it's unfilmable at all. It might hard to do and the resultant film might not work, but I don't think it's inherently unpossible.
posted by yeti at 2:06 PM on February 2, 2009


We are talking about, at minimum, the book re-branded with some dopey-ass movie imagery on the cover.

*shudders* OK. I get your point. But there's also the Master & Commander effect? I saw that move with the esteemed Russell Crow and that's on my To-Read list (the whole series if I have time). That is, as long as the book store has a copy without Crowe's visage.
posted by yeti at 2:10 PM on February 2, 2009


I'm still sore that the bad reviews from people I trust made me skip Speed Racer on the big screen. Made #3 on my list of movies for 2008.
posted by muckster at 2:23 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think it's unfilmable at all. It might hard to do and the resultant film might not work, but I don't think it's inherently unpossible.

I don't think it's unfilmable, but it's still going to be awful with the Wachowskis at the helm.

I could see Peter Greenaway doing something with it. He's no stranger to super long/dense material and The Falls is a neat comparison point due to the vague similarity to The Bridge of San Luis Rey.
posted by juv3nal at 2:32 PM on February 2, 2009


I haven't read Cloud Atlas yet, but #9Dream is one of my favorite books; so much crazy shit goes on for no particular reason.
posted by acro at 3:05 PM on February 2, 2009


I have to agree with zeek321 and I EAT TAPAS, Speed Racer was actually good. I think it was good in several ways. The visual style was original and interesting. The races were actually interesting to me, whereas movies like Drift etc. have never appealed to me.

One reason I liked it is that as a child I loved the old cartoon. It was a terrible cartoon, which I knew at the time, and yet I loved it dearly. I think Ws nailed reproducing the cartoon with live actors...even down to the point that Chim Chim and the kid (what's-his-name) were terribly terribly annoying.

I had no trouble following the frenetic racing visuals and laughed at the ridiculous pseudo-physics maneuvers. Watching it a second time on dvd yielded an similarly enjoyable experience.
posted by digibri at 3:05 PM on February 2, 2009


I also read Cloud Atlas on a MeFi suggestion, and I prefer to visit the dentist rather than see the movie. (I don't have movie insurance)
posted by MtDewd at 3:30 PM on February 2, 2009


I couldn't make it through the free 9 minutes of Speed Racer that the studio put online to get people to go see it. Then again, I didn't get through the first story in Cloud Atlas either.

If I were a betting man, I'd put money on the fact that I won't be going anywhere near the Wachowski's Cloud Atlas.
posted by You Should See the Other Guy at 3:42 PM on February 2, 2009


Too bad that book suuuucked!

My mom wanted me to read it, and I did just to finish the first two storeis, which were interesting. The conclusions were disappointing and the whole book was shot through with such unbearable pretension that I could hardly control my anger. I'm thinking this movie is going to be every bit as bad as I hope.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:45 PM on February 2, 2009


Oh dear..

Perhaps I should have read some of the comments before chiming in... it's obvious I've just stuck my head into the lion's mouth. But I stand by my assessment. Cloud Atlas was garbage.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 3:49 PM on February 2, 2009


I think Vincent Gallo would be a better choice of director for this movie.

CU ROBERT FROBISHER (VINCENT GALLO). HIS LOVER, RUFUS SIXSMITH (JOHN HAWKES) SPEAKS OFF-CAMERA.

Rufus: Robert?

Robert (blinking): ….

Rufus: ….

Robert (quietly): …..what?

Rufus: Are you….

Robert: ….

Rufus: ….are you okay?

Robert (more blinking): ….

Rufus: ….

Robert: ….I’m okay.

Rufus: ….

Robert (sighs): ….

Rufus: ….

Robert: I just have a.…little headache.

Rufus: ….

Robert (breathes deeply, exhales): ....

Rufus: Robert?

Robert: ....

Rufus: ....

Robert: ....yes?

Rufus: ....

Robert: ....

Rufus: Do you....do you love me at all?

CRASH ZOOM IN ON ROBERT

Robert: ….

Rufus: ….

Robert (blinks): ….

FADE OUT

SCENE RUNNING TIME: 48 MINUTES
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:55 PM on February 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


tugid dahlia- Good, but replace Hawks with Kevin Corrigan.
posted by xmutex at 4:23 PM on February 2, 2009


We are talking about starting a monastery, one that somehow involves bacon and sex and sweet martial arts, where we spend most of our time copying texts such as Cloud Atlas to preserve them from the chowderheads.

Now you're talking about Anathem
posted by poppo at 4:30 PM on February 2, 2009


I must be the only perennial MeFite who has never heard of "Cloud Atlas". I was going to link to the Wikipedia article, but it looks spoileriffic. So....right.
posted by DU at 5:22 PM on February 2, 2009


I've always been on the fence about whether Dream Atlas was an interesting experiment or brilliant. Making it into a movie somehow argues against the latter. Well, I don't know. It seems like someone should make a movie with the structure of Dream Atlas, but with slightly different stories (written and/or by like, you know, different people.)

Or maybe they should make a dream atlas film of the long now. One time period made in each time period.
posted by theefixedstars at 5:33 PM on February 2, 2009


I'll jump into the fray: me and my buddies love Speed Racer too, and not even for camp value. It genuinely does some fascinating stuff.

Consider this: cameras, of course, have depth of focus. What's in the background is blurry if the foreground is in focus and vice versa. When you're filming animation, there's no depth of focus, because the cells aren't deep. Modern animation sometimes fakes it with computer blurring techniques, in order to make it look more realistic/flimic. The Cowboy Bebop movie does this, for example. Speed Racer? No depth of focus blur at all, just to make it seem more like animation in a way most people would never consciously recognize. I can only imagine they filmed next to every scene as a composite, using forced perspective to make two separate foreground shots meld together. Crazy.

As a piece of visual art that isn't just "a novel with pictures instead of pages"? Surprisingly impressive, if you can keep up.
posted by Amanojaku at 7:57 PM on February 2, 2009


[SPOILERS]

Kattullus: There are pretty significant differences. I don't have the 2 versions handy, but one thing that I recall is that in the British version there is an extended story of Yoona-939, another worker at Papa Song's that, prior to Sonmi, experienced the same self-awareness and desire for freedom.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:10 PM on February 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Saxon Kane: I recall is that in the British version there is an extended story of Yoona-939, another worker at Papa Song's that, prior to Sonmi, experienced the same self-awareness and desire for freedom.

That's not in the US version? Like you I have the UK version. I suppose I have to get the US version out of the library and compare it to my copy. I hope I haven’t lost or given away my copy.
posted by Kattullus at 9:36 AM on February 3, 2009


It's in there, but not as long or in as much detail. It's really a minor footnote to the story, vs. it being pretty central in the UK version.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:24 AM on February 3, 2009


Here's a comparison of the first section of the two Orisons:

UK:
"Historians still unborn will appreciate your cooperation in the future, Sonmi~451. We archivists thank you in the present. Our gratitude may not mean much, but I'll endeavour to grant any last request you ay have, if it lies within my ministry's influence. Now, this silver egg-shaped device is called an orison. It records both an image of your face and your words. Once we're finished, the orison will be archived at the Ministry of Testaments. This isn't an interrogation, remember, or a trial. Your version of the truth is what matters.
No other version of the truth has ever mattered to me."

US:
"On behalf of my ministry, thank you for agreeing to this final interview. Please remember, this isn't an interrogation, or a trial. Your version of the truth is the only one that matters.
Truth is singular. Its 'versions' are mistruths."

And the end:

UK:
"My time is short and I claim my last request.

Very well ... name it.
The use of your sony and access codes.

What do you wish to download?
I wish to finish viewing a film I began watching when, for an hour in my life, I knew happiness."

US:
"In two hours enforcers will escort me into the Litehouse. I claim my last request.

... name it.
Your sony and access codes.

What do you wish to download?
A certain disney I once began, one nite long ago in another age."
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:37 AM on February 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


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