Six seemingly disparate and massive storylines weave their way together in David Mitchell’s hydra-like epic novel Cloud Atlas. The 2004 book is surprisingly well thought out and has been praised for its readability through its complexity. Each of the six narratives contains real and valuable characters with meaningful stories. While the text spans from the 19th century South Pacific to a post-apocalyptic Hawaii (stopping in Belgium, California, the United Kingdom, and Korea in between), the novel remains a cohesive, talented, and inventive work. But what worked well in text, was labeled an inevitable failure in film.
Enter Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix). What started as a running joke between the three directors–to create a film that included drama, action, romance, suspense, and political intrigue–manifested itself when they read Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas. The trio spent a year developing the script, then brought it to Mitchell determined to kill the project if it didn’t receive the author’s approval.
Mitchell loved it, but it was hard to get the piece off the ground in Hollywood. The studios thought the piece too complicated and the prospect of taking on three directors too risky. “The movie is hard to sell, because it’s hard to describe, it’s hard to reduce,” said the directors.
$140 million later, the film has been made with a leading cast including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, and Doona Bae. In anticipation of the October 26 release, the directors made a “really, really, really long trailer,” in an attempt to explain what the story is about.