A plea from a Schmoe: seeing Cloud Atlas is the most important thing you can do for the future of cinema
The future of cinema needs you, and CLOUD ATLAS could very possibly be the key. Now that's a bold statement to make, I know. But I have reason to say it, reason I hope to share with you now.
Every once in a while, a very particular kind of chioce becomes possible in our lives. It's the sort of choice that ripples out, like a Butterfly Effect, and changes our future path in ways both expected and utterly unforseeable. It's the sort of choice that, in a way, CLOUD ATLAS is all about. I'm sure by now you're well familiar with the line spoken by Susan Sarandon's character of Ursula that goes "We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness we birth our future." Well, in this case, it holds a highly meta meaning beyond its context in the film - you have the choice this weekend to see CLOUD ATLAS or to not see CLOUD ATLAS, and the choice you make might just help to birth both your future and the future of mainstream cinema itself.
Going by some of the comments I've seen on this site, the film isn't everyone's cup of tea. And that's okay. I may have been vocal ever since I saw it about how much I loved it, about how deeply it rocked me and stunned me and inspired me, but this is about something bigger than personal taste. This is about what you're willing to do for the sake of helping rewrite the future of studio-funded filmmaking. This is about, depending on how you like at it, investment and sacrifice. Because by paying to see the film in theaters - by not ripping it from the web or waiting until Blu-ray/DVD or skipping it altogether - you're making a statement. You're speaking up in the only way the studios and producers in Hollywood can really comprehend: with your money. We (and Terry Gilliam especially) have lost so many films over the years because the financial commitment was deemed too risky in comparison to the expected financial return. Remember when AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS lost it all just as everything was coming together? A $150 million budget, a big name star, a passionate director, months of creature design - and it all fell away as Universal decided that it couldn't afford to support a hard R monster movie with a bleak ending and no romantic sub-plot. I'm of course not saying that seeing CLOUD ATLAS will suddenly resuscitate AT THE MOUNTAINS OF MADNESS, but I am saying that by seeing CLOUD ATLAS you may very well manage to give a future to many films like it yet to come.
CLOUD ATLAS was made for about $100 million. Yes, $20 million of that generously came from Warner Bros, but the majority of it was raised from various independent sources. So while the film doesn't bear the same massive price tag as did something like JOHN CARTER, the eyes of the industry are going to be no less upon it. CLOUD ATLAS is, in comparison to what came before, a massive experiment in storytelling structure. It is a fervent attempt to do something new and exciting and different, and while its success may certainly inspire some filmmakers to try new things with their own work the main end of its success could in theory be that we see a new age dawn where studios are more brave with their funding choices. More convinced that their chances will be acknowledged, and rewarded by the moviegoing public. The money you pay for a ticket to see this film may only be a single drop in a limitless ocean of life and profit and art. But as one character says in a triumphant turnaround at one point during the fiilm: “what is an ocean but a multitude of drops?”
At one point in the film, Tom Hanks speaks these words: "Yesterday, my life was headed in one direction. Today, it is headed in another... I feel like something important has happened to me." That's how I felt after seeing CLOUD ATLAS. Now I'm not promising you'll feel the same way if and when you see it. I'm not promising you'll love the film, or even merely like it. But give it a chance, both for the sake of challenging your own expectations and for the sake of having a hand in future films to come. We are more and more at a tipping point as big-budget action flicks and rom-coms rule the multiplex, and it's up to you to dictate the kind of filmmaking you want to see. There's nothing wrong with enjoying those movies, and no one is going to stop you if you do. But there are other kinds of films too, ones like CLOUD ATLAS that lie in an ever-shrinking grey area between indie experimentation and broad appeal and have to struggle harder and harder for the chance to be seen. To be felt. To be loathed, shared, loved, and challenged. It's up to us to give them their fair share and chance in the sun, because if we don't - who will?
So that's what I have to say. Thanks for reading, and thanks for loving movies. And if you can, go see CLOUD ATLAS this weekend. Not necessarily because it's good, but because you should.