Time Out! No Way Is 'Cloud Atlas' The Worst Movie Of 2012

Cloud Atlas Time Magazine Worst Movie 2012

Here's an easy formula to get attention for your Worst Movies of 2012 list. Take the unfathomable big-budget box-office failure that's likely to top a lot of these year-end thumbsuckers — and make it number two. Next, single out an ambitious film by a trio of filmmakers with a passionate following. Put it at the top (or is it the bottom?) of your list and wait for their fans to scream. That's what Time magazine, in the role of media Old Georgie,  has done with its "Top 10 Worst Films" list for the year.  Writer Mary Pols chose the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer's collaboration Cloud Atlas as the year's stinkiest over Disney's bomb John Carter.

And I'm calling bullshit.

Before I explain, take a look at Pols' entire list:

10. One For The Money
9. The Odd Life Of Timothy Green 
8. What To Expect When You're Expecting 
7. Alex Cross 
6. The Lorax 
5. This Means War
4. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
3. Hyde Park on Hudson
2. John Carter
1. Cloud Atlas

Most of those movies are largely formulaic and, in some cases, cynical attempts to put asses in seats. They should be on the list, particularly the aptly named One For The Money and What to Expect When Your Expecting, which would have tied for worst movie had I been doing the ranking. (Even though Jennifer Lopez is the mother of twins in real life, I cannot summon the suspension of disbelief to buy her as a parent in the movies.)

Yes, Cloud Atlas is an unwieldy, problematic movie that could have used a good streamlining in terms of the sheer number of  stories that were adapted from David Mitchell's novel, but a film this ambitious — and unabashedly spiritual at its core — does not deserve to be on a list of the year's worst. Movieline's chief critic Alison Willmore explained it beautifully in her review:

Cloud Atlas strives continually for transcendence and only sometimes grasps it, but the sincerity with which it pursues the emotion and the very idea of the reverberating impact selfless actions can have is quite moving. It's rare, these days, to see a movie declare its aims for greatness so openly and without a leaden sense of self-importance. And though the film doesn't achieve all of its goals, it does offer an indelibly powerful vision of a throughline from the past to today and on through the end of things, that expresses faith in the ability of people to overcome animalism. It's spiritual but entirely humanistic, and salvation, when it comes, arrives from within or from other people — an outrageous, silly and beautiful ode to the better nature of mankind.

You won't see anyone writing that about What to Expect When You're Expecting. 


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  • Evan James says:

    Clint, I get that on the internet we all think we have to declare our opinions great and truthful without doubt. But for the sake of not sounding like an arrogant prick that thinks he speaks for the taste of every moviegoer the world over, why not just say you didn't like the movie and move on. Some of us liked it and that doesn't put you or your tastes in any higher of a tier of cinema appreciation. If anything, our taste in movies, like our minds, are broad free (Unlike yours which appears narrow and restricted). Friendly internet etiquette advice since I'm sure your not this arrogant of an ass in your personal interactions.

    • Andrew Boardman says:


    • Chris says:

      I thought the movie was awful as well as Clint. I watched every minute of the 3 hours and kept expecting it to make sense. It could have been great, but they ruined it. Too much senseless violence, too much jumping around, and in parts you couldn't even understand the actors as their lines were not always clear. I was so excited to see this movie, but what was advertised and what was delivery were not the same thing and I regret wasting 3 hours on this movie. I'm only glad I didn't pay any money for it and watched it on netflix.

  • AlohaTad says:

    Just saw it and loved it. Rather amused at how it brought out such vitriol in Clint and some others here. As for comments about the direction, did you notice that all segments were not directed by the same person/s? Clint will no doubt have researched this as he seems so intent on having his opinion prevail. And the research is required because he is pontificating about a film he didn't even watch in its entirety. By one account, he wasted four hours of his life - by another only half that. Not a very consistent chap.

    Also curious as to whether those decrying "racism" have read the book? I never thought of some of those folks as anything but characters of mixed race, but evidently others saw them as white guys playing Asians. And whether those were Asians of Korean heritage or not is also a leap having not read the book as many people cross borders in more recent times.

    Going directly to the journal of the Harvard educated scientist to see what other films he loved. His theory on brain activity and personality type making a huge difference in our tastes makes all the sense in the world. This would help explain why some works of art stimulate such divergent impressions in us.

    And looking forward to seeing Cloud Atlas again - as well as purchasing the soundtrack.

    Happy New Year!

  • The critic obviously did not understand the story nor could he follow the message, quite common for many unworldly, miss guided and miss informed Americans. Perhaps he should stick with slapstick comedy or predictable gun toting violent movies, more of the taste of the unsophisticated, bad woods colonials.

  • clint says:

    I am not on the same astral plane as the fans of this film, i think one of my ape ancestors would have liked it more, because of evolution my brain developed & i moved beyond liking such garbage films written by apes for apes to appreciate. I guess you all spend alot of time at the zoo too.

    • KarmaFairy says:

      You, sir, are a troll. Get back under your bridge.

      • clint says:

        Thats why the film lost 50 million at the box office, there must be 50 million trolls out there, or just a cinema going public who want something more than special effects & pretty pictures, just maybe they actually want a intelligent, coherent story, the critics hated it, the public hated it, & they are basic facts you can not comprehend, so who is the troll? you constantly praise this turkey of a film, when it is actually one of the worst films i have seen, golden child with eddie murphy being the other one.

        • Banko says:

          After seeing you comments I guess something is wrong with evolution.

          • clint says:

            I totally agree there will always be people like yourself who like bimbo chic films with as much story content as bum fluff on a teenage boys chin, & then there are people like my self who have evolved to like classic movies like cassablanca, as good as it gets, bladerunner, films that stand the test of time, where as cloud atlas is dated & garbage in this decade already. Keep eating the banana's banko & you will evolve someday & try walking on 2 legs & stay out of trees thats how my ancestors did it.

  • CloudAtlas Rocks says:

    Just wanted Cloud Atlas. In fact I watched it end-to-end twice. As others have said, the movie has its fair share of flaws, which is only logical, considering how ambitious it is. However, I am shocked and hurt to see it panned by critics. I think it is one of the most profound films in recent times.

  • Marquitos says:

    Sorry for those who do not understand the beauty of this film. Sorry for those who only find pleasure in violence and washed sweetheart comedy.

    • clint says:

      I have zero interest in violence films, like the vast majority of the cinema public we all like a good story be it cassablanca, or bladerunner, cloud atlas has many stories & not one of these stories is intelligently written

      story 1, old man in old peoples home plots escape, eventually escapes with help from scots in a pub who are supposed to hate the english & beat up those nasty evildoers from the home.

      story 2, a educated, wealthy doctor, decides to murder a man on a ship on a very long voyage knowing all to well that once he does it he still will be on that same ship, how many murderers are happy to be at the scene of the crime after they murder someone? & all for a ring & a magic key one can only assume its the lord of the rings ring.

      story 3, a young English musician who is bisexual who would shag a lamp post, tries to hump his hot 80 year old mentor who refuses him then blackmails him to compose music for him, how fucking interesting that was.

      story 4, post-apocalyptic man tom hanks looking like a victorian beggar, gets visits from this boring black chick from the future who could cure insomnia with her acting, 1st he believes her then doubts her, then believes her, then doubts her, and this belief & doubt in her persists for the entire story leaving me doubt my insanity, at which point i left the cinema 50 minutes before the end & being very jealous of the 10 or 15 people that left well before me, i said goodbye to my family & waited in the lobby for a hour & watched a fascinating spider in its web wait for a fly on the ceiling, so much more interesting than the 100 million mess that i just saw.

      None of you fans have responded to these very limp stories i have listed above, this is hardly Arthur C Clarke material, or HG Wells, or Jules Verne, cloud atlas was written by a hippy high on weed, sure you all loved the effects the pretty pictures, but the reality is the story sucked, if your under 16 its a great film, if your a mature adult with a brain it is a appalling film, the stories are limper than the worst story in in a bad soap opera, the above represents a accurate content of the stories.
      Films like "its as good as it gets" with jack nicholson are non violent yet was a huge success, down to 2 things a excellent STORY, and excellent CASTING, in cloud atlas you have no story & the casting is a joke.

      • Lee Aequus says:

        Quoted for truth, Clint. The real shame is; if done right, this tapestry serves as symbolic-simultaneity between two entities—the consciousness and the cinema. Potential in an elegant rhetorical device is squandered blindly in this pretentious film.

      • byang920 says:

        Ebert rated it 4 out of 4. He isn't under 16 and I'm more inclined to trust his opinion than that of a random internet troll. I loved the film, which was based on an award winning book by the same name. The stories were fine, I don't understand what was your problem about them. What ISN'T interesting about a bisexual writer who gets blackmailed and writes a masterpiece before committing suicide? And by the way, there were six story lines, not four. Did you even watch the film? I'm pretty sure you just didn't understand the connections between them and it was simply too complex for your underdeveloped mind.

        P.S. I loved "As Good As It Gets" as well.

      • Also you inaccurately recounted the stories and the fact that you couldn't spot the links between them shows that you didn't have your thinking cap on when you watched the film.

    • Ann Alexander says:

      Little snobbish, eh? It isn't for a lack of understanding as to why people did not enjoy this film. It's pretty arrogant to state such nonsense. I can't stand that type of person; "You must not have got it." No, we got it. In fact, the movie became almost too mundane for words - do you need a character from each of the fifty plot lines to recite the same couple of lines again and again, so that we fully understand the intent of the film? No. That actually cheapened the movie. It was like reading the Complete Idiots Guy to Deep Thoughts.

      Cloud Atlas was ambitious, at best. Once you went around the block a couple of times, the different plots were easy to follow. It captured the high and low points of each piece at the right times, as well as the climax of each piece. That was done pretty well. However, what made this such a disaster to some people is that it was all over the place. It had practically every genre of movie rolled into one, and there's a reason why we have genres. You stick everything into a single piece, and it's overkill. There needs to be a more fluid connection, and this was about as fluid as caked mud.

      Each and every one of these plot lines could have been made into its own movie. When you take so many and try to combine them all into a single movie, you're probably biting off more than you can chew. When you have 2 or 3 of them that have an almost identical theme, and then move off to one that weakly represents the main theme, and then one comedic pitch that does not fit anywhere in the movie, then you have a mess. Wait - no, you have a trilogy. There is not a way in the world to have made this a watchable trilogy, so they tried for the full punch in one movie. It was overkill, at times redundant, and at the end, it was all tied together very recklessly.

      At the end, even the actors couldn't save it. Another point, too. There's a reason why you had an albeit big name cast, but a cast of actors and actresses who largely have not made much of a splash in the film scene lately. There's likely a long list of actors and actresses that didn't want to touch this thing.

      This movie is certainly not everyone's cup of tea. It will never be universally liked or heralded as a great film. If you liked it, that's great. However, don't be so snide as to infer that alternate tastes that did not enjoy this are less than three dimensional beings.

  • Andrei says:

    Honestly, the first half was kind of confusing and almost near boring because the movie seems to be heading nowhere. (However, we were already warned by the narrator) But as soon as the end comes near, as soon as each story reaches their climax, it all becomes clear. And then the characters of Somni and Adam say the most beautiful lines about humanity's struggle for good.

    I believe this film needs to be included in the best films of 2012. To watch this film, you need an open mind and patience. NEVER listen to reviews, they're useless!

    • ericmvan says:

      Actually, reviews are very helpful; you just have to know how to use them. If you have broad enough tastes, a nice high Rotten Tomatoes or Metacritic score is pretty much a guarantee of a good movie. (Not necessarily a movie you'll really like, because it might fail to play to your weaknesses, e.g., Of Gods and Men was, I'm sure, a terrific movie but it assumed a certain level of familiarity with and sympathy for Catholicism which I lacked.)

      However, as you suggest, a mediocre RT score is NOT necessarily an indication that a movie wasn't good or even great. Movies that are ahead of their time and try something new are often missed by many or most critics. Blade Runner got largely negative reviews and would have scored quite a bit lower than Cloud Atlas did on RT, had it existed back then. The Wizard of Oz and Vertigo got mixed to negative reviews.

      What you want to do, then, is look at how often a movie gets mentioned on critics' Top 10 movies of the year lists. Because even if most critics don't get a movie, some will, and if it's real good or great, it will show up reasonably often on these lists. There were 650 or so movies released last year. Right now Cloud Atlas is 22nd for Top 10 list mentions and 18th for #1 movie of the year mentions. Since these lists are often dominated by art-house flicks, that's a better performance than many Oscar best-picture nominees (including The Help, War Horse, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close from 2011).

      Another thing you can do is only pay specific attention to the two critics in America who have the combination of intelligence, broad tastes, the ability to always see the movie that was intended rather than the movie they wished or assumed had been made, and the understanding that their reaction is subjective. One, of course, is Roger Ebert, and the other is Andrew O'Hehir of Salon. Incidentally and not surprisingly (and this happened long after I reached this opinion), they both loved Cloud Atlas.

  • Tihomir says:

    the cloud atlas, dont know about the book if it exists, but the movie is a true sf fan delight, best movie in last 5 years, just by viewing, as all sf (science fact) materilas, it has a truth of a mind, for a fact, something that ctritics overlooked. something like holocaust and second world war, something that a pleasent smile of a lie in the knowledge that people unknowing dont speak of the monstrosoties unknown. and all that truths are ones that shape my life right now, and the imegined lifes of the parcipitants of the story. it is a trualy masterpeace, not of the capitalistic rotten system of death blind to the mind. and to the future. maybe the story of us in the coming days. am an sf fan for all my life and give 5+ on this masterpiece 🙂 it is owervhelming for the mind and imagination 🙂 if u dont like it go watch footbal and drink bear, because tomorow is a new work day 🙂 chus :*

  • In 1996 he was the mastermind behind arguably the most famous classic tuxedo suit for women, 'Le Smoking', and was also the first designer to use black models in his runway shows

  • Emilio Largo says:

    You are spot on about Time magazine, however, Cloud Atlas is an easy movie to pick on. Even though there are merits to this story, film is the wrong format for it. I found the movie incredibly plodding, tedious, and incredibly disjointed. For sitting through it, there wasn't enough of a payoff at the end to justify it. This isn't the first pile of rubbish from the Wachowskis if you look back on Speed Racer. I agree with you that this is not the worst of 2013. Battleship, Alex Cross, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter are nearly unwatchable and at least I made it to the end of Cloud Atlas where the others I turned them off half-way not even caring how they ended.

  • hugopoetry says:

    as a fan of the movie, it's quite gratifying to see it has now turned a profit, thanks to international audience's. I took two friends to see it in the cinema on release, and I will make sure to buy the DVD and soundtrack CD too. books movie making like this must be supported wholeheartedly by those who enjoyed it. those who didn't ; your comments make the joy of my experience all the sweeter. thanks!

  • Connor Tyler says:

    The critic obviously couldn't grasp the concepts in Cloud Atlas. It was one of my favorite movies by far. Although, it was extremely confusing in the beginning. The movie really made you think, which intrigued me. I personally loved the different types of worlds and where they eventually intertwined.

  • Don says:

    F you for puttig cloud atlas first it seems that this isn't even a critic.