One of my favourite quotes from this year came from a drunken Andrea Arnold at the end of Cannes. Someone asked the jury about Post Tenebras Lux and she came to its defense, saying that she liked it because "it dared to fail."
That's basically what I'd say about Cloud Atlas. It's not perfect. The make-up is downright laughable at times, the new age shit is corny, and there's a very ridiculous aspect to everything. Of course knowing all that I still liked the movie because it's endearing as all hell. I like seeing these kinds of risks being taken, even if they don't work all the time.
I cringed a couple of times but so what. I thought it was funny, thrilling, sad, intense and it never bored me for a second (context: I saw this after getting less than 8 hours of sleep over 2 days right in the morning). Is it the life-changing masterpiece that some are claiming? No, but it isn't the complete disaster that the movie's (very loud) detractors are saying. It's a very good movie, one that's more admirable than great in my eyes. It's probably going to be a flop. It's a hard R, it's almost three hours and it's impossible to market. I really hope it doesn't flop, but it's an uphill battle (the good news is that its only competition on opening weekend is Silent Hill 2).
Like every Wachowski movie since The Matrix trilogy it's going to earn a devoted following. Hopefully word of mouth will help things out. It's a flawed film, but it'll depend entirely on how much you're willing to cast them aside when looking at the bigger picture.