Jupiter Ascending

Nothing is too over the top or ostentatious for the Wachoswki’s latest crazy space opera.
In many respects Jupiter Ascending is exactly the sort of film you’d imagine the Wachowskis might deliver. It is unashamedly over the top, packed with a raft of exposition and something of an interior designer’s worst nightmare. Chandeliers on a spaceship? Ostentatious gold statues everywhere? Really? Yet buried somewhere in the midst of this smorgasbord of film fantasy motifs is a decent enough idea struggling to make itself heard above the aural and visual din.
A typical low key scene from Jupiter Ascending.

Ok, so Jupiter Jones is the daughter of a Russian woman whose American star gazing husband was killed by gangsters before she was born. Now aged about 20 she works as a cleaner and lives in an overcrowded house that looks like it’s in Moscow but is actually in the States with her extended Russian/ American family You’ll have noticed she is already overburdened with unnecessary backstory; the whole Russian thing just gets in the way and looks like it’s from another film, not the last time something like this happens.
Anyway Jupe as she likes to be called and which precisely nobody calls her (so why mention it?) agrees to donate to a fertility clinic because her half- brother needs cash (!) but the place has been taken over by alien creatures who try to kill her. She’s rescued by an augmented wolf/ man Caine who possesses extraordinarily handy flying boots which get them out of countless scrapes and which nobody else seems to have. Turns out Jupiter is – I think- a sort of re-incarnation of the mother of three quarrelling but powerful siblings who between them rule most of the Universe (!!). Earth is merely a farm for them to harvest humans to keep themselves ageless. Each of the trio want Jupiter for reasons that remain vague but none of which are liable to do her much good while she develops an attraction to Kane who is a former prisoner who had wings but they were removed….(!!!)
And that’s enough plot for any film. Jupiter Ascending seems to be driven mostly by its set pieces which the story is built around however preposterous the narrative leaps may be. Admittedly these sequence do look terrific. The first chase sequence zipping around skyscrapers is rattlingly good setting the tone for a number of similarly frantic affairs and culminating in a crumbling spaceship so gloriously overdone that you can only admire it. Random moments seem to have also been included on a whim in particular a strand about how bees recognise Jupiter as a Queen which, again, seems like another film altogether. Even more anomalous- and also the film’s best sequence- sees our heroine negotiating an arcane Victorian steampunk bureaucracy manned by a battery of eccentric characters. Its great fun but- you guessed it-seems like a different film. Even when the narrative sticks to its course there are echoes of other movies, notably Stargate and Thor and also tv shows like Babylon 5.
It’s to the Wachowskis credit then that they somehow salvage something vaguely involving from this melange. Mila Kunis seems an unlikely choice for the role of Jupiter but her deadpan and sometimes caustic responses to proceedings makes her increasingly likeable. Channing Tatum manages to convey Kane’s thawing emotions with subtlety. Not a quality we can pin to their enemies however. It’s tempting to imagine a parallel universe where it is this film for which Eddie Redmayne wins his Oscar simply because it would be great to see a clip at the ceremony. It’s a performance that suits the film but his choice of a high pitched voice renders his Balem a slightly silly villain. Much better are the flying lizards he uses as henchmen. There are also good reliable performances from a clutch of British actors in supporting roles
There is no doubting that, once it gets going, Jupiter Ascending is exciting to watch in the atmosphere of the 3D IMAX cinema for which it is intended but subject it to any serious scrutiny and its flaws are exposed. Had its makers stripped away some of the clutter it could have been far better but as it stands this is a fun couple of hours but nothing more substantial.
"Ok I've done this NOW BRING ME MY OSCAR!!"

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