Read She and Return of She and you think for a long time that something important is about to be said. The mystic wisdom of the ages will come from the mouth of the prophetess or at the very least we will be forced to think.
And then Haggard gives us nineteenth century spiritualism combined with confused Anglican pastoral bromides. It isn’t offensive, but it is laughable and the book can hardly survive the mirth.
And that is the problem with Cloud Atlas.
Some fine acting and beautiful film making weaves in and out of a plot that is tricky if one has never been to serious movies since 1970. The assumption of our film ignorance is the first problem: the movie goes out the way to explain how tricky it is when it isn’t. It is as if a man used emoticons and explained them: all advantage is lost and things grow didactic.
But this would be pardonable, if the film did not promise as the first Matrix film did that it was going to say something serious. It kept making that promise, but when She speaks we get a philosophy so incoherent it does not rise to the level of offensive. As a Christian, I don’t agree that we all reincarnate, that all loves are equal and self-justifying, or that moderation is bad.
But then I am not sure the film believes the opposite, because it contradicts itself frequently. The Sacrifice in the film is sort-of-Christian, but only if Joel Osteen had secularized and decided to make a film that would comfort his new congregation. The film is “romantic” if you are the sort of person who thinks romance is just sexual attraction and emotional connection.
I am sure the movie wants me to reject that the weak are meat for the strong, but only because the strong appear not to be strong, in fact. We are not to believe there is an “order” to the world, except for (it appears) being physically attractive: the more attractive Tom Hanks is the better.
Convention is attacked, as if our culture has any other movie convention regarding convention than attacking convention. Some day soon a man will make a movie where a person does his duty, is faithful to his wife, or his nation because it is his duty as taught by parents, school, and nation . . . and will have the deep rewards of doing so.
That day is not today.
When my audience began to laugh out loud at the Sermon of the Messianic Figure, I knew the film was in trouble. Just as Matrix III proved that Matrix didn’t really have anything to say, three hours of Cloud Atlas confirmed that Cloud Atlas had nothing to say.
There must be a perpetually junior high personality to whom this film will be “difficult,” “deep,” “important,” or “controversial.” The rating means one cannot use it with actual junior high people to discuss issues . . . and most everyone else will be beyond it.
Cloud Atlas wastes some fine acting, a (rare!) interracial cast, and a great deal of anyone’s time who wastes money on it. Even the female messiah is not new, the movie is just She with a limited vocabulary, dumbed down Victorian spiritualism further dumbed down but with special effects.