JupiterAscending-1When a movie moves from a June release date to the grave-yard month of February, it is never usually a good sign. Despite studio insistence that the extra-time was needed in order to complete complex visual effects, there is no escaping the feeling that the studio did not have faith in the film in question to compete in a summer blockbuster climate. Such is the case with the Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending, which was pulled from its June release last year merely a month before it was due to be unleashed. The Wachowski’s relationship with Hollywood has been difficult at the best of times, as they have never quite captured the thrills exhibited in the opening chapter of The Matrix trilogy. While I am a fan of some of the more divisive work (Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas), Jupiter Ascending was not one I was particularly thirsty to see, due to the somewhat clichéd ‘chosen one’ concept. Yet, what the Wachowski’s have produced is a bat-shit crazy concoction of numerous concepts and Sci-Fi thrills that is perhaps the most fun you can have in the cinema right now, for better and for worse.

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is fed up with her life, working as a cleaner and living in a house with most of her JupiterAscending-2extended family. She desires a life to call her own, a purpose in which to strive for. She gets more than she bargained for when she is rescued from a group of aliens by a genetically engineered solider, Caine (Channing Tatum). She soon learns that the Earth is owned by an alien royal family, the House of Abrasax. With the Queen recently deceased, her children battle for inheritance of the Earth in order to exploit it in order to produce a Youth Serum which keeps them youthful. Jupiter learns that she is the reincarnated form of the deceased matriarch of the House of Abrasax, and is the rightful heir to the Earth. With the help of Caine, Jupiter seeks to fulfil her destiny and stop the battling siblings from taking the Earth into their own hands.

Jupiter Ascending is a bizarre cocktail of Sci-Fi movies from the past. There’s a dash of the Wachowski’s own Matrix trilogy, a dollop Star Wars Operatic visuals of , a generous helping of the grandeur of Dune, as well as a few drops of Soylent Green. It is at once bizarrely original, yet familiar often both at the same time. The Wachowski’s are quite brilliant at the practice of world-building, and with Jupiter Ascending, they seem to be doing all they can to put every single Sci-Fi idea they have ever concocted into one film. There’s a whole monarchy that one can delve in to her, as well as an industrial element on the planet of Jupiter. Add to that an Intergalactic Police Force and you’ve got one hell of a loaded shaker.

JupiterAscending-3This over-abundance of detail and conceptual components make it rather hard to keep up at times, as so many ideas are often revealed all at once. It helps that the central plot at hand is simple, chosen one must fulfil destiny, stop the bad guy, fall in love, yadda yadda, roll credits. The vastness of this world does make the viewing experience a little frustrating, but at least it certainly invites you to re-visit the film in the future in order to engage with the more interesting aspects. The aristocracy in particular could be interesting to explore, even if the film does forget from time to time that it technically has three villains, albeit with varying degrees of ulterior motives.

What lets a lot of the far out ridiculousness down is the cast being seemingly uncomfortable with the sheer nuttiness of it all. Tatum fails to revel in the fun of riding on gravity boots, Kunis is fairly colourless as the lead hero, while Sean Bean phones it in as a Bee-hybrid (mumbling through such wonderful lines as ‘Bees never lie’). Eddie Redmayne, who is the chief antagonist come the final act, seems to be channelling something akin to the love-child of Ming the Merciless and Sting in Dune. It is quite frankly a terrible performance, but at least he seems to be echoing the self-aware camp-ness of the proceedings. JupiterAscending-4

What marks Jupiter Ascending as a worthwhile cinematic venture is the stunning visual effects, the kinetic (and thankfully coherent) action, as well as some of the most glorious examples of production design of recent memory. From character designs, to costume, to sets, the Wachowski’s clearly have a lot of affection for their world. a world which is presented with such a knowing lightness of touch that its ridiculousness must be intentional. Right? Intended or not, Jupiter Ascending holds a great deal of thrills, laughs, and visual splendour within an imaginative world that’s over-flowing with so many ideas that you’ll find it rather difficult not to become involved.

3/5- A bona-fide camp classic in the making, Jupiter Ascending is imaginative, yet completely and utterly ridiculous. But, heck, at least it’s fun.

 

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