Cloud Atlas and Life of Pi are two films based on novels which critics and fans alike initially considered “unfilmable.” Audience reception so far has shown those critics to be dead wrong. For those of you looking to get your fantasy adventure movie fix this weekend, Zack Mandell of Movie Room Reviews has got you covered in his Decision Time preview guide below. In making your decision, keep in mind that this weekend may be your last chance to catch Cloud Atlas in theaters. ~ Tim
A Preview of Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas, is a new drama from the masterminds that brought you Run, Lola, Run (Tom Tykwer) and The Matrix trilogy (the Wachowski sibling). The film has an all-star cast, including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Keith David, Susan Sarandon, and Hugh Grant.
The leading Hanks plays the spry Dr. Henry Goose, and the entertaining Isaac Sachs, and the mysterious Dermot ‘Duster’ Hoggins, and the humble Valleysman Zachry. In fact, most of the cast plays multiple roles in the film, and that is what drives Cloud Atlas. The film is actually the compilation of six intertwined stories of how one’s actions affect those around them in the past, present and future.
The synopsis from the official movie site, says;
“From acclaimed filmmakers Lana Wachowski, Tom Tykwer, and Andy Wachowski, the powerful and inspiring epic drama Cloud Atlas explores how the actions and consequences of individual lives impact one another throughout the past, the present, and the future.
Action, mystery, and romance weave together dramatically through the story as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and a single act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution in the distant future.”
From the trailer, Cloud Atlas exhibits an aura of action, clout, confusion, and conspiracy. There are six different settings and timelines in the film: the mid and early 1900’s, the fast paced early 21st century, a simpler time during the 1800’s, an enlightened post-modern era of technological marvels, and the wastes in the aftermath of a post-apocalyptic future. All six timelines follow their own story, in their own location in the world. The vibe of the film seems to be that everything is unknowingly connected; the characters, their decisions, and their stories.
At one point, one of Hanks’ characters refers to “the unknown forces that make things happen that you can’t get away from.” The story offers an insight of the mysterious workings of the universe, the connections to other people that most might take for granted, and the evolution of man’s technology and sentimentality.
Cloud Atlas is an adaptation from the 2004 novel written by British author David Mitchell. The novel was held in high regard and received positive reviews from many critics including the BBC, the New York Times, and The Guardian. Many critics have already expressed strong approval of the film’s likely-to-be-misunderstood emotional complexity, while others have found it a bit muddled and overcrowded. Cloud Atlas runs for 163 minutes.
A Preview of Life of Pi
In 2001, Yann Marten released his second novel Life of Pi. The novel, about a young boy who gets stuck alone on a boat with an orangutan, a zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger after a shipwreck, gained enormous acclaim upon its initial release. It won several awards over the years that ensued, including the Man Booker Prize and the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature. President Barack Obama even wrote Marten a letter, stating that the novel was “an elegant proof of God and the power of storytelling.” The good news for fans is that 20th Century Fox will be releasing a cinematic adaptation of the powerful novel this November.
The director of the film is Ang Lee, making this his first feature since the largely forgotten 2009 comedy Taking Woodstock. This will be Lee’s first venture into 3D territory, which is leaving many fans in eager anticipation given Lee’s notoriety for producing visually sumptuous films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The screenplay was written by David Magee, most well-known for his Oscar nominated screenplay for the film Finding Neverland.
Lee and Magee are far from the first writer/director tandem to be paired up for this project. In fact, an adaptation for Life of Pi has been planned for many years, but it went through a tumultuous pre-production period. The rights for the film were first purchased by 20th Century Fox as far back as 2003, when executives at the studio hired Lara Croft writer Dean Georgaris to write a screenplay.
When that fell through, M. Night Shyamalan was announced as the writer/director for the film. Shyamalan developed a personal connection to the story, given that the protagonist of the book comes from the same village in which Shyamalan was born. However, given that the book comes with a rather shocking twist ending, the director bowed out gracefully, realizing he was too obvious a choice for the project. After Shyamalan, acclaimed directors Alfonso Cuarón and Jean-Pierre Jeunet were both briefly attached to the film, but both decided to move on to different projects. In 2009, after battling the studio on the size of the budget, Ang Lee was hired.
And his name on the credits has many fans of the book excited. The studio has slowly rolled out footage to whet the appetite of audiences across the country, including 20 minutes of the film that were showed to attendees at CinemaCon this past April. The reception was uniformly positive, with some speculating that Lee’s visual treatment may push the medium forward just as James Cameron did a few years ago with Avatar. This is far from surprising, given the caliber of films that the Oscar winning director consistently produces. There is a wide speculation that “Life of Pi” could even be a contender for the Best Picture prize at the next Academy Awards, which would make up for the still controversial loss in 2006 of Lee’s Brokeback Mountain to the racial prejudice drama Crash.
For the film, Lee has recruited a largely unknown cast. In fact, the one recognizable actor he did hire before production commenced, Tobey Maguire, was dropped in favor of a lesser known actor. Lee enjoyed the idea of having an international cast, and felt that Maguire’s presence could prove to be distracting. For the lead role of Life of Pi, producers auditioned some 3,000 actors for the widely sought after part. In the end, newcomer and student Suraj Sharma was cast. The film will include some actors that may be recognized by international audiences, including Gerard Depardieu and Irrfan Khan.
Originally, Life of Pi was set for a release on December 14, but when Peter Jackson scheduled his adaptation of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for the same day, the studio decided to push it forward to November 21. No matter the day, it seems one thing is for sure: audiences are in for a treat. Life of Pi runs 127 minutes.