Whenever a book is called "unfilmable" or has a huge following, it’s almost impossible to please both diehard fans and newcomers. The Harry Potter movie series, for example, caters to book fans while forgetting that some viewers are new to the material and don’t know the backstory.
In other cases, the screenplay is too accurate and lacks new depth. Example: 1974's The Great Gatsby.
Now comes David Mitchell’s acclaimed science-fiction novel Cloud Atlas, which has been given the Hollywood treatment by three talented filmmakers, Tom Tykwer and Andy and Lana Wachowski.
Set in six eras of reincarnation in an alternate universe, Cloud Atlas features Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Jim Broadbent, Susan Sarandon, Ben Whishaw, Jim Sturgess, Doona Bae and James D’Arcy as characters with the same birthmark. The film goes from the Pacific Ocean in 1849 to 1936 Scotland to 1973 San Francisco to modern-day London to a futuristic South Korea and a far-off primitive Hawaii.
Because the actors play characters who transcend race, some wear makeup and prosthetics to appear Asian, Mexican and black. Tykwer (of Run Lola Run fame) and the Wachowskis (who directed The Matrix) do the best they can with the material, although the race-inspired makeup is a bit distracting at times.
The cinematography and performances (particularly from Hanks, Berry, Grant and Bae) are stellar, but it will be interesting to see if Cloud Atlas, as a film, will resonte more with book fans or new viewers.