Having been born on a ship in international waters, after her father was killed in a robbery gone wrong, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) considers herself an illegal alien. Living in Chicago and cleaning houses for a living, Jupiter’s life changes when she is targeted by aliens bent on murder. Rescued by Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered warrior, Jupiter is taken out of her world and learns her true genetic heritage; heir to Earth.
First things first, if anyone goes into the cinema to see this Wachowski film, demanding to see a film that is linear and clear, they have not been paying attention to the Wachowski’s career. The Matrix trilogy started well, before devolving into sci-fi madness, and last year’s Cloud Atlas erred on the side of truly bonkers. Happily Jupiter Ascending takes a leaf from Cloud Atlas’ book, and is truly, utterly batshit crazy.
The cast is a stellar one, made up of Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, the newly Oscar nominated Eddie Redmayne, our own Maria Doyle Kennedy, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean and a fantastic cameo from Terry Gilliam – perhaps a nod to the Gilliam-esque feel of Jupiter Ascending. Each does their role well; Kunis is great as a combination between Cinderella and a damsel in distress, Channing excels in the set pieces as an out of this world warrior, and if there were anyone to speak while lounging on various things and barely moving their mouth, it would be Eddie Redmayne.
Although the story comes off as complicated, The Wachowskis ground everything in a reality we can understand, and quickly clarify everything through a case of sibling rivalry, contesting a will and some hugely unethical and disturbing processes. Of course, this is a rambling space epic, so while we can understand the motivations of the characters, everything takes place in an odd steampunkian, retro futuristic world filled with flying reptiles, bees that can discern Royalty, flying gravity boots and tattoos made of light, and the story is wrapped in layers of repetition. The world is beautiful and mad, but the whole thing is underscored with the feeling that we have seen this evil before, in a different manner, which of course we have; the underlying plot is rather similar to that of The Matrix, although this time the saviour is a genetic heir, and not the one true god, or whatever Neo was supposed to be.
As directors, The Wachowskis excel in the set pieces, which are thrilling, fast paced and incredibly well shot, but fall down in the emotion sequences, which are either utterly predictable or come out of nowhere, leaving the audience struggling to keep up. Jupiter Ascending is nothing if not ambitious and, like the best bonkers movies out there, is enjoyable in its outlandishness, once the audience goes along for the ride, rather than trying to analyse everything. It mostly becomes clear in the end… Mostly.
With Jupiter Ascending, The Wachowskis have taken a leaf from Terry Gilliam’s book, and have created a beautiful sprawling space opera that’s one part Cinderella, one part Flash Gordon, with a healthy dash of batshit craziness thrown in for good measure. There are definite issues with the film, but it is as fast paced as it is visually stunning, and although Kunis ends up being saved a lot of the time – odd that, since she’s a saviour – Jupiter Ascending is a mad journey through a world of betrayal and morality that doesn’t always makes sense, but is always entertaining.