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Cloud Atlas | Subnautica

Back and forth through time, and deep under the sea.


MOVIE REVIEW /// Cloud Atlas

Movie summary: An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution. (IMDb)

First off, let's get the biggest issue with Cloud Atlas out of the way: with many of the cast playing roles across the six different time periods, there are times when actors are portraying people of the opposite sex or a different ethnicity than their own, which obviously isn't a good look. It's something the book this movie was based on didn't have to worry about, being a non-visual medium after all, and I can't think of any other way to show the same 'souls' meeting each other over and over again, but it's something that may put many of nonetheless.

This re-using of actors also leads to another issue, which is that the make-up, hairstyling and prosthetics used to alter sex or ethnicity sometimes doesn't look right at all and can be immersion-breaking at its worse, making you wonder why they didn't just use someone who fit that particular role a little better. On the other hand, some of the work is incredible and showing who played who in certain eras will definitely surprise you when you watch the end credits.

The last of the major issues I have with Cloud Atlas is that cutting across the six featured time periods and plots doesn't always work, especially when it involves the 2012 setting as that particular story is more light-hearted and comedic than the others, which can be a little odd to adjust to when coming from one of the more serious stories in the other settings.

Then again, some of the switching between time periods can really work as tension increases across multiple stories at once, often cutting away from something you desperately want to see resolved only to be reminded that you also want to find out what happens in the story you're now watching. There are a few moments when this happens and each time it feels like these sections of the movie could be a grand climax for most other films.

That epic scale and scope is a huge part of the reason why, despite the issues above, I love Cloud Atlas - the six time periods cover centuries, and yet there is a link from each one to the next that reminds you how everything is connected, fulfilling Sonmi-451's (Bae Doona) speech near the end of her story set in the future about how each life is connected through time.

Effectively, this is a 'cinematic universe' in a single movie, albeit with a far smaller cast , if not number of characters. I don't think the individual stories would stand too well on their own, but they're not meant to, so it would be strange to mark them down for that, as they do combine wonderfully to create a movie which always stirs something inside me when I watch it.

Despite what could be seen as an ultimately 'good' ending in the far future, Cloud Atlas feels more bittersweet than anything thanks to the pain, suffering, sacrifice and death it took to get to that point in the first place. Considering slavery or other oppressions to varying degrees are a core part of every time period, this isn't an entirely uplifting movie, but rather hopeful one with a dose of fatalistic realism mixed in.

The biggest key to realising this mood is the score by Johnny Klimek, Reinhold Heil and Tom Tykwer (who also co-directed the movie with the Wachowski sisters), which is mind-blowingly beautiful and would be worthy of praise even if it had nothing to do with the film; it's a perfect example of music not just enhancing the action on-screen, but being excellent in its own right.

I do think that Cloud Atlas won't be for everyone, and would probably be made for TV today rather than a movie, if only to have the right actors cast for a character's sex and/or ethnicity and have the time to establish the connection between them and characters in the other time periods. The sometimes poor make-up and editing may put others off too, but I still think this film is much, much greater than the sum of its parts and would definitely recommend it.

Cloud Atlas is a great movie, even if the cutting between stories doesn't always work, while some of the make-up - especially when changing an actor's sex and/or ethnicity - can look poor, with said changes not exactly looking too great from a representation standpoint either. But the sheer scope and scale of things, with each time period affecting the next is still hugely enjoyable, and it's great fun to see some actors in roles you wouldn't expect too - plus the score is truly sublime.

[8/10 - Very Good]


GAME REVIEW /// Subnautica

Game summary: Descend into the depths of an alien underwater world filled with wonder and peril. Craft equipment, pilot submarines and out-smart wildlife to explore lush coral reefs, volcanoes, cave systems, and more - all while trying to survive. (IMDb)

The very first thing to state is that I played the PS4 version of Subnautica, thanks to Sony giving it away, although I would've preferred it on PC - as it turns out, that initial preference would prove to be vital. Some games work better on PC than console thanks to the opportunity to use a keyboard and mouse, and this is definitely one of those titles.

Most of the game is spent underwater, navigating the myriad locations you can discover, in addition to the wildlife of highly-varying sizes and lethality, while building equipment, vehicles and somewhere to survive when not out exploring. The issue is that the control scheme here doesn't feel like it was designed for a controller and it can be awkward to get around.

That's not an issue of it being in first-person either, with there being plenty of games that control just fine on a pad in first-person, but I think more a case of a small team converting a game designed around mouse and keyboard controls doing their best to adapt a game for a control system not quite suitable for the complete three dimensional movement of spending most of the playing time underwater.

The controls don't ruin things, but certainly feel like more of a hindrance than they really should, given how fiddly it can be to interact with some things in the game that the precision movement of a mouse makes simple. If you stick with Subnautica, I'm sure you'll get used to the odd controls, but I imagine it could be off-putting to some, especially in the first few hours of gameplay.

I hope it doesn't put too many off though, as Subnautica is still a very, very good game otherwise. The game is certainly stylised, but it's almost entirely consistent, although there are certain moments that might break immersion thanks to a clash of some realistic environments with the more elastic and cartoony animations and wildlife hanging around.

The sound design is the real star of the show though, and I'd advise using the best sound system you have or some quality headphones to enjoy everything this game has to offer. The more peaceful moments are enjoyable enough as it is with the underwater environment proving relaxing as hell, but then you hear a roar in the distance and it's enough to make your hairs stand on end.

Thanks to being set underwater, there's a legitimate reason for limiting how far the player can see around them and Subnautica uses that beautifully to shock and scare you when you encounter some of the (much, much) bigger animals swimming around with you. Just remember that hearing a roar in the distance doesn't mean the animal that made the noise is going to stay that far away from you!

There's also a pretty decent story, even if it's nothing particularly special - at least it guides you to new locations and forces you to explore in a way that feels natural and makes both gameplay and narrative sense, which is something a lot of story-heavy games struggle to do. You probably won't remember or care too much about it when it's over, but the sights and sounds along the way will fill that gap in the experience.

If you have a choice, I'd definitely recommend choosing the PC version of Subnautica, simply because so much of the time you'll spend playing it will involve moving around in the water and interacting with some small, precise items at time that it's more for the sake of easing frustration than anything else. If you do get it on console, you'll still have a good time, but it won't be quit the experience you could otherwise have.

Subnautica is a really good game that suffers on console from not feeling quite right to control, especially lacking the precision a mouse can give you. It does unfortunately spoil things somewhat, as movement and interacting with everything around you makes up the overwhelming majority of the game. If you can get used to the controls though, there's a decent story and a lot of stuff to see that will keep you occupied for a long, long time.

[7/10 - Good]



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