David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
I guess Warners is keeping Zack Snyder's Superman reboot separate from the classics -- or maybe they're just trying to piggyback on the buzz around Snyder's Superman, but whatever. They are releasing a colossal eight-disc edition on June 7 for those super Superman fans that includes Superman: The Movie, Superman II, Superman III, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, and Superman Returns. And if five movies wasn't enough, you've got extended versions and director's cuts of the first two films and enough special features to keep you busy for 20 hours. That's beyond the 906 minutes of feature films alone. If you're not already pumped on Superman, they've put together a nice little trailer to get you hot and bothered for the set which will retail for $129.95.
Here are the details on special features:
Superman: The Movie, Original TheatricalCommentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler (Original Theatrical Version)The Making of Superman: The Movie [1978 TV special]Superman and the Mole-Men [1951 feature]Warner Bros. CartoonsSuper-Rabbit [1943 WB cartoon]Snafuperman [1944 WB cartoon]Stupor Duck [1956 WB cartoon]Trailers
Superman: The Movie, Expanded EditionCommentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz (Extended Version)Taking Flight: The Development of SupermanMaking Superman: Filming the LegendThe Magic Behind the CapeScreen TestsSupermanLois Lane with Optional CommentaryUrsaA Selection of Restored ScenesAdditional Music CuesMain TitlesAlternate Main TitlesThe Council’s DecisionThe Krypton QuakeMore Mugger/Introducing OtisAir Force OneCan You Read My Mind (Pop Version)Music Only Track (Donner Cut)
Superman II, Original TheatricalCommentary by Ilya Salkind and Pierre Spengler (Original Theatrical Version)The Making of Superman II [1980 TV special]Deleted SceneFirst Flight: The Fleischer Superman SeriesFleischer Studios’ SupermanSupermanThe Mechanical MonstersBillion Dollar LimitedThe Arctic GiantThe BulleteersThe Magnetic TelescopeElectric EarthquakeVolcanoTerror on the MidwayTheatrical Trailer
Superman II - The Richard Donner CutCommentary by Richard Donner and Tom Mankiewicz (Donner Cut)Introduction by Richard DonnerSuperman II: Restoring the VisionDeleted ScenesFamous Studios’ SupermanJapoteursShowdownEleventh HourDestruction, IncThe Mummy StrikesJungle DrumsThe Underground WorldSecret Agent Disc #5
Superman III Theatrical VersionCommentary by Iilya Salkind and Pierre SpenglerThe Making of Superman III (1983 TV Special)Deleted ScenesTheatrical Trailer
Superman IV The Quest For Peace Theatrical VersionCommentary by Mark RosenthalSuperman 50th Anniversary Special (1988 TV Special)Deleted ScenesTheatrical TrailerDisc #7
Superman ReturnsRequiem for Krypton: Making Superman ReturnsPt. 1 Secret Origins and First Issues: Crystallizing SupermanPt. 2 The Crystal Method: Designing SupermanPt. 3 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman on the FarmPt. 4 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman in the CityPt. 5 An Affinity for Beachfront Property: Shooting Superman- Superman in PerilPt. 6 The Joy of Lex: Menacing SupermanPt. 7 He’s Always Around: Wrapping SupermanResurrecting Jor-ElDeleted Scenes including the never-before-seen original opening to Superman ReturnsBryan Singer’s Journals – Video production journalsTrailers
Disc #8 Additional Bonus Material
Look, Up in the Sky! The Amazing Story of Superman [Hi-Def]You Will Believe: The Cinematic Saga of SupermanPt. 1- OriginPt. 2- VisionPt. 3- AscentPt. 4- CrisisPt. 5- RedemptionThe Science of Superman [Hi-Def]The Mythology of SupermanThe Heart of a Hero: A Tribute to Christopher ReeveThe Adventures of Superpup [1958 TV pilot]