More Cloud Atlas Press Coverage, New Reviews, What I Hope Is My Final Statement on Red Skull -Gate

Note: this is an archived entry. Some links might not still work, but I have tried to ensure scan and video embeds are still in place. If any linked material is unavailable, please let me know and I’ll attempt to find a copy in my personal archives.

I’m hoping to get things back on track after the ridiculous geek outcry over Hugo Weaving actually having career ambitions beyond playing cartoon villains in perpetuity, but there’s been a lot of disinformation and myopic posturing out there… I’ve tried to comment-post facts to various sites which are making far more out of these comments than is necessary. Like certain factions of the GOP, a lot of fanboys don’t seem terribly interested in facts or data, or Hugo’s comments wouldn’t have surprised them in the least. He’s made similar statements about not wanting to reprise Red Skull for over a year, and has always said Transformers was a minor voice gig for him, and that neither franchise is the sort of film he enjoys watching. (Of course, the first Red Skull comments were in an interview about Uncle Vanya, something the most incensed fanboys would never have read anyhow.) 😉 But a few things need to be clarified. I’m tired of seeing Hugo and my friends who defend him insulted by people who clearly don’t know what they’re talking about.

1. Hugo Weaving negotiated with Marvel for months before signing a contract, and throughout his career has been consistent in not wishing to commit to multiple movies at once. I don’t think he ever misled anyone, and I certainly don’t think he changed his mind after doing one film. I think he reached a tacit understanding with Marvel that he’d only be asked to do one film, regardless of technicalities in the documents they make all their actors sign. Recasting is commonplace and expected in this genre, particularly at Marvel Studios.

2. No, Hugo’s work in multiple Matrix films (and LOTR/The Hobbit) isn’t the same thing. Hugo signed one contract for The Matrix and another for the sequels, which were filmed at the same time. He was initially reluctant to return, and only did so after the Wachowskis promised him the character would change in interesting ways. (Also, there’s a difference between playing a genre villain for the first time in one’s career, as Hugo did in The Matrix, and being typecast because of that success.) There was a similar motive in joining The Hobbit: Hugo noted the interest in playing a lighter, less pessimistic side of Elrond. Hugo said, after filming the Matrix sequels, that the process had been exhausting and that he probably wouldn’t sign on for another marathon shoot like that, which required him to spend nearly a year apart from his family. The Elrond role– in both trilogies– is relatively small, and in both cases Hugo flew into New Zealand, shot his scenes within a few weeks and went home. He wasn’t required to make the time commitment Ian McKellen, Elijah Wood, Martin Freeman or the actors playing dwarves had to make. The Megatron role requires maybe two hours in a sound studio per film. As Chris Rock once noted, voiceover roles are a ridiculously easy way to make five figures. I don’t blame Hugo for doing so in between demanding theatrical or indie film gigs which are much more work for much less money. I do hope he’s done with that franchise… I’m almost certain he’s tired of being asked about it.

3. Hugo isn’t here to do press for Captain America or Transformers, but for Cloud Atlas. Since he deliberately opted out of press junkets for both Hollywood franchises, reporters have ambushed him with questions about them when he’s trying to promote projects he cares about to a greater extent. (Cloud Atlas and Hugo’s indie films need him to help sell them much more than the juggernauts, which are presold to their audiences, and which are pretty much guaranteed to pile up profits, sell action figures, etc.) Hugo has never adopted a whiny, angry or jaded tone in an interview, EVER. Nor is he complaining about these franchises, just honestly stating his opinions and preferences. He always comes across as soft-spoken and thoughtful in video/radio interviews… perhaps fanboys who have never seen any of these are misconstruing his tone, perhaps just misreading everything and taking comments out of context because they only want him to do one sort of movie forevermore. I see plenty of whining on the issue, to be sure, but none of it is coming from Hugo. 😉 He’s been nice enough to answer questions about these movies in detail, say he had fun doing them, even speculate on what might have happened to those characters. Insulting or willfully misinterpreting him because he isn’t telling you what you want to hear is childish.

4. Hugo was challenged by the prosthetics aspect of Red Skull, but that isn’t the reason he doesn’t want to do the role again. If you saw the promotional material for Cloud Atlas, it’d be abundantly clear he’s more than willing to spend hours in the makeup chair for the right role. He clearly isn’t averse to playing villain roles either. He just doesn’t want to repeat himself or be trapped in an endless parade of sequels when more interesting work is available.

But on to more important matters. Real fans have actually read Hugo’s interviews over the years and have understood and respected his motives. Lots of new photos are surfacing of the October 13-15 Cloud Atlas press conference and the separate interview sessions (see previous entries for E! News and Access Hollywood interviews pairing Hugo with Susan Sarandon… and usually letting her monopolize the conversation. Yeah, that’s how “whiny” and “jaded” he is. ;)… First up, four new WireImage pics taken by Vera Anderson:

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – OCTOBER 13: Hugo Weaving at the ‘Cloud Atlas’ Press Conference”

Hope footage of that press conference gets posted soon. There are a series of lovely photos of most of the actors at AP Images, but unfortunately they’re all heavily watermarked. I post this link in hopes someone has clean versions. Some might possibly “clean up” well too… will try when I get the current wave of new material posted for you. And I’ll add some caps of Hugo’s three recent interviews with Susan Sarandon between review excerpts.

Jaime Paisley, Nuclear Salad: “Aiding “Cloud Atlas” in it’s goals is the epic talent of its cast. Tom Hanks seems to be channeling characters of old, but enjoying the ever-loving hell out of it, reminding me of his gleeful turn as The Professor in The Ladykillers. Halle Berry is a bit hit or miss in her two prime roles as Luisa Rey & Meronym. Wachowski favorite Hugo Weaving appears rather late in the film and is most convincing in his Rumplestiltskin-like Old Georgie. But I was most pleased with the appearance of Keith David and the use of his most potent talent, his voice. Jim Sturgess must be taken in tandem with Doona Bae and while both are fine at acting through some rather iffy yellow-face and white-face, respectively, they remain ancillary and rather one note… well, one-and-a-half notes during the futuristic sequence in Neo Seoul. Conversely, Ben Whishaw, as per 1930’s convention, must barely be glimpsed together with his love. However, Tykwer’s handling of that sequence gives depth and understanding to a character who, at his heart, is rather a terrible person when surrounded by the same. Without guidance of his paramour, James D’Arcy, Wishaw revels in his selfishness. Jim Broadbent’s prime roles as both composer foil to Whishaw & comedic turn as modern-day Timothy Cavendish give us the most drastic picture of mirrored characters. Though both of these remain in Broadbent’s wheelhouse and present nothing new. Which is not to say that’s a bad thing. But stretching himself, indeed, is Hugh Grant playing wildly different villainous roles right up to his quite unrecognizable cannibal in the latter-most sequence.”… Is “Cloud Atlas” successful in weaving layers as seamlessly as possible? Yes. Will it speak to you, personally, in a meaningful way? I can’t say. But is it *worth* that chance for a first-viewing? Yes, I do think so.”

Mark Keizer, “Public reaction is destined to be mixed, as many will proclaim the six-minute extended trailer released last July a more affecting experience than the complete film… Its noble failings aside, Cloud Atlas is a technical triumph, especially in its editing. Cutter Alexander Berner miraculously manages to keep all six stories straight and vary the pace beautifully over a 171-minute haul while letting themes, visuals and dialogue bridge the centuries in a single cut. It’s even more impressive that the enterprise coalesces as well as it does considering there are three directors (two if you want to count the Wachowskis as one entity, since they’ve never directed a film separately)…Both book and movie stress the interconnectedness of souls, which the filmmakers dramatize, to mostly positive effect, by having the actors play multiple parts. In a nod to the difficulties of funding a film of this magnitude, the cast features internationally known, top-draw names. Yet it’s the lesser known performers who register the strongest, since getting lost in this world is crucial to its impact and, let’s face it, Tom Hanks with a beard and a putty nose is always going to be Tom Hanks.”

Gus Bendinelli, Culture Milk: “For the most part, the acting in Cloud Atlas is great, and the phenomenal makeup work makes for some truly amazing character transformations. Tom Hanks and Ben Whishaw stand out, but the whole cast does an amazing job balancing and differentiating their characters….  The temporal design of Cloud Atlas is also very impressive, and the editing style works surprisingly well. A variety of great thematic cuts tie the various time periods together in a creative way (e.g. cutting on moments involving water or hands). However, John Toll and Frank Griebe’s need to intercut between various story lines without interrupting the pace of the film (which often results in bland telephoto closeups) effectively clips the wings of what could have been some of the most spectacular cinematography in recent history…  Thematically, Cloud Atlas is quite exceptional. It’s a treatise on the power and importance of cause and effect and the motivations behind human actions and emotions…. With Cloud Atlas, Tom Twyker and Lana and Andy Wachowski take an enormous leap of faith and mostly land it, if somewhat awkwardly. The film’s messages are timeless and incredibly powerful, and the final act is executed in a way that is particularly effective. While their efforts are admirable, there is a somewhat disappointing sense of unrealized potential in its execution — perhaps only because the themes tackled inCloud Atlas are so gargantuan that anything short of perfection is a letdown. Cloud Atlas is far from perfect, but it is an epic and unique cinematic experience that should not be missed. I look forward to a potential director’s cut.” (79/100)

Sean Munro, What Culture: “Andy and Lana Wachowski’s latest, a collaboration with Tom Tywker (Run Lola Run, The International), proves to be a jaw-droppingly ambitious effort; a lavish, mental, messy and moving event-film-cum-tone-poem that rewards patient, open-minded viewers, and is unquestionably the Matrix directors’ best work in about a decade…Better a film felt than one endlessly picked apart – and surely one which will open up during multiple viewings – it has much in common with Darren Aronofsky’s divisive The Fountain. Indeed, it is a story about love’s permanence and ability to bind our planet (and beyond), but is also a visual spectacle quite unlike anything else; opulent and sprawling as a period piece, while claustrophobic and deliriously frenetic during its futuristic, Neo Seoul excursion. Quite unexpectedly for a film of its kind, Cloud Atlas almost instantly defies the expectation of a high-budget fantasy, throwing gratuitous violence, swearing and sex into the mix, a bold move that will likely enhance its crossover appeal with those over-indulged on extravagant but sexless sweeping operas. This is a refreshingly adult outing, making the best of its raw moments to heighten the emotional intensity of its challenging composition…. Cloud Atlas is bound to be uneven to a point, with several stories floating to the top while others don’t quite measure up. The best of show are easily Ben Whishaw and Jim Broadbent’s musical partnership, the exhilarating sci-fi segment, and the various interactions of Halle Berry and Tom Hanks’ “incarnations”.. As various actors step into the shoes of other genders, races and species, the playful quality of trying to discern who is who becomes undeniable (and a mid-credits reveal will likely show you a few you didn’t notice). Granted, one prosthetic element used to give Hugh Grant the likeness of an old codger feels a little phoney, yet the other efforts on the whole fortunately do not encroach upon their actors’ ability to emote and express. Meanwhile, the film score – composed by Reinhold Heil, Johnny Klimek and Tykwer himself – drives the simple but effective bombast and emotion home; the stand-out leitmotif, put to wonderful use at the thrilling climax, is especially affecting.”

Raymond Padilla, RPadTV: “I’m certain that Cloud Atlas will be one of the most divisive movies of 2012. There are parts of it that are wonderfully written, skillfully acted, deftly directed and beautifully filmed. There are also parts of it that are jarring, confusing, and incongruous. Some people will love its boldness and complexity. Others will find it a sloppy mess. As for me, my head is still spinning five days after watching the movie. After having time to digest it, I still feel that Cloud Atlas was more interesting than good…  Individually, I liked or loved most of the stories. In the book they’re tied together [more] organically….The transitions between stories — of which there are like 100 — can be disconcerting. The constant time-hopping makes the number of characters hard to keep track of, especially in the beginning. At times, the movie made me feel a bit stupid. Generally speaking, enjoyable entertainment shouldn’t make you feel dumb…. I’m confident that some people and critics will find Cloud Atlas bold and clever. I’m also confident that some people and critics will find it confusing and haphazardly constructed.”

“Don’t listen to those sniveling fanboys, Hugo!” 😉

[CJ– Interesting, because if anything, I faulted the film for being too obvious and not challenging enough. 😉 The earlier comment that the film’s six-minute trailer is more evocative than the three-hour version is also valid… the former is impressionistic and allows room for the viewer’s imagination. The film is nervous enough about confusing viewers that it tends to overexplain or overstate some things. I’d also love to see a longer edit, as this might show some scenes/moments unfolding less frenetically, with more nuance and small moments between actors– in the book, for example, you live in and understand Sonmi and Zachry’s worlds much more before they’re running for their lives. But my emotional response to the book’s “multitude of drops” sentiments was similar muted, because Mitchell is so much more effective at conveying human failings and societal entropy. In the face of this, and knowing where it leads, Ewing’s words seem naive. (Cont. below…)

The film is much more romantic in its vision (and changes both the final destination and birthmark location in the book.) The review below is by the same writer who posted the OscarWatch Podcast earlier in the week; both feature comments from her 14 year old daughter. I enjoyed these posts particularly because I do think the film might find its greatest resonance among young viewers, not cynical cranks like myself. 😉 In other words, people who will hear Ewing’s words as a call to action rather than an impossible dream. Change in human behavior happens at an impossibly slow pace and there are often many failures for every success. But someone needs to believe it’s possible and if the film helps inspire that in people, that’s worth much more than my misgivings, or the cynicism of those who finds it thunderingly obvious.) 😉 ]

Sasha Stone, Awards Daily: “Because Cloud Atlas doesn’t follow traditional storytelling it resonated with [my daughter] more than the more traditional stories I’ve been trying to force upon her all of these years. The freedom of vision, the imagination set free, the impossible realized — it spoke to her in a way that most movies don’t. You see, my daughter’s generation is moving a lot faster than Hollywood can keep up with. To them, in their high school here in Los Angeles, gender is a fluid thing. They see gay couples as ordinary couples. There isn’t any sort of cultural or ethnic division. Cloud Atlas is a film that does the same thing — it has erased the lines both between hetero love and same-sex love, and with cultural and ethnic diversity. There are no specific lines drawn in Cloud Atlas — it is about the internal, not the external. It is about a personal revolution and political activism. It is about soul mates and eternal love. It is about reincarnation and the beauty — the enduring tragic beauty — of life. It blew my daughter’s mind… It reminded me of the power cinema has to change who we are. I know that my daughter’s love for this film will lead her down so many paths. She’ll start with the book Cloud Atlas. She’ll probably visit all of the films by Andy and Lana Wachowski – seeing Lana as Lana and not Larry. She’ll know that movies don’t have to fit into any specific structure – if they work, they work. Cloud Atlas was a daring risk by the studio and the filmmakers. An unfilmable book, many locations, lots of costumes and makeup — would anyone buy it? It’s possible that the movie will still hit with a thud. It’s possible it will be known as a bomb… I will probably never know what it must be to be 14 and to have your mind blown like that. It is probably a once in a lifetime experience. To me, it is a near-masterpiece with one part that doesn’t quite work. The part that doesn’t work is dwarfed by what does work, though it’s enough to make it not “perfect” and thus, fodder for annoyed critics to tear apart…What really works in the movie is the futuristic sci-fi storyline with the stunning Jim Sturgess and Doona Bae. It’s the part of the movie you keep wanting to return to. The other great part is Ben Whishaw’s love story with James D’Arcy. They thread themselves through all of the other story lines, too… It is one of the great challenges of actors on stage to play multiple parts. It isn’t attempted much on film and it only barely works in Cloud Atlas – but it works….[The film] makes me hopeful that there is still evolution in Hollywood and in literature. We adhere to the rules of the past to help us comprehend the way the world changes around us. But a young mind like my daughter’s is simply open to the possibilities.”

You can listed to Stone and her daughter talk about Cloud Atlas here, beginning 45 minutes in.

Also: Halle Berry and Tom Hanks trade quips (and promote Cloud Atlas) at O Canada, Lana Wachowski discusses her motivation in being more visible to promote the film (despite still desiring privacy) at Movieline, and Tom Hanks resigns himself to Weather Dance footage that will probably be replayed until his funeral while discussing Cloud Atlas (with Halle Berry, who discussed how masculine her Dr Ovid role made her feel) at Entertainment Tonight (below):

As I’ve said before, watch this space… more is doubtless on the way. I’d also like to thank the James D’Arcy and Jim Sturgess fans on Twitter (and Hugo stalwart Elisa, as always) for continuing to help track the new onslaught of material… it helps when one has to attend to unfortunately necessities like work and sleep to know that someone is always out there looking. And nicely demonstrating the movie’s theme too. 😉 Also, thanks to the fans (and, yes, comic  and scifi fanboys) who been understanding of Hugo Weaving’s statements and intentions amid “Red Skull Gate” 😉 I do feel it’s only a minority who’ve been peevish (if very vocal)… a lot of fans understand the value of originality and finding new challenges (and creating new characters). No one keelhauled Jack Nicholson for only playing The Joker once, or expected Jeff Bridges to keep playing Obadiah Stane for the rest of his natural life; I don’t know why some can’t be grateful for what Hugo has already done and embrace the full spectrum of his work.

STOP PRESSES! Another new Hugo Weaving/Susan Sarandon interview (8 minutes long) via Trailer Addict. They call this a “generic interview” because it was provided for multiple media outlets rather than one specific one. Certainly the content is far from generic. 😉 And yes, Ben Whishaw/James D’Arcy fans, there’s one for you guys too, along with Hanks/Berry and Bae/Sturgess.

Re Susan Sarandon initially being approached for Nurse Noakes… interesting, because I thought she might play her sister, Mrs Judd. I actually think casting Sarandon (or Hugo) against type in this film might have been even more fascinating. I know they’re both good enough to be up to the task… maybe next time.


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