Jupiter Ascending

Directed by The Wachowskis
Starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean and Douglas Booth
In UK Cinemas February 6th, 2015

by Haresh Patel

The Wachowskis are a funny bunch. The first time I saw The Matrix was three years after all the hype had died down from its initial release, and had been firmly established in the geek world as Like, A Very Important Film, Dude. “Oh my god, this film is awesome”, my friends all said. “Meh, maybe later” I replied.

That lazy post-party viewing in 2003 of their iconic film was world-perspective altering. I really did question the existence of the world outside the room. It was like watching an updated They Live, with mind-bending, essay-worthy philosophy and visual effects. Since then the Wachowskis have pursued their singular vision, both within The Matrix trilogy and beyond, with Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas. You have to admire their sheer bloody-minded commitment to baffling ideas, epilepsy inducing eye-candy, and a style of acting that could easily give pre-McConaissance Matthew Mahogany a walk in the woods. And you have to admire the studio financiers who let them do it. I’d love to hear how those meetings go.

This film has left me very conflicted. You see, I love cheesy Sci Fi films. One of my fave films is Chronicles of Riddick. Its unapologetic ridiculousness is, to me, glorious. Jupiter Ascending, which references this obliquely, amongst many other Sci Fi films, is certainly in that category of unapologetic ridiculousness, but a crucial wit is missing. It’s all oh-so-very-serious, lacking the two finger salute and a hug for its knowing audience.

Imagine the DVD collection of a cartoon YA / SF nerd, swimming in the bottom half of the Internet. That collection would be drenched in Iron Man, Tron (Legacy, not the good one), Cinderella (the new one, not the good one), Fifth Element, Underworld, Twilight, the Star Trek reboots, Riddick, Snow White and The Huntsman, Hunger Games, Transformers, Manga lizards, and Star Wars episodes 1, 2 and 3 – trade and tax conflicts and all. Now, imagine zapping through them all in an orgy of clips, pastiches and tropes – a high speed YouTube clipshow. You show it to the Wachowskis and they run with it, pouring millions of dollars and trillions of pixels onto it. That’s Jupiter Ascending. With a comedy Russian family thrown in.

Every character is an almost Airplane-style cartoon of every franchise character you’ve seen this century. Between all the running and jumping Mila Kunis struggles not to corpse through the brief acting bits. It’s odd to see her old fashioned damsel in distress Jupiter Jones in these kick-ass feminist times. The onscreen ‘chemistry’ with Classic Moody Beefcake With Spock Ears Version 1.5 Channing Tatum is in direct flat contrast to the dizzying digital explosions and all that ‘shiny shiny’. Eddy Redmayne’s Balem Abrasax just needed a fabulous ‘Mwah-hah-ha’ laugh to complete his Evil Villain, who just wants to cash in his capital investment on Earth so that, you know, he can have a really nice bath. His performance feels like a direct lift from Charlize Theron in Snow White And The Huntsman. With a seemingly limitless supply of zero-hours side characters, each one an eye-gougingly pinsharp dot in the blizzard of whirling, snarling, ultra-earnest eye storm, Jupiter Ascending pummels you into your chair, vigourously aided by composer Michael Giacchino’s reheated leftovers. And don’t even get me started on sound designer Dane Davis. Lazers that actually go pew-pew?!

Still, if you like comically dumb Sci Fi and / or Mila Kunis in a ball gown on a spaceship, or Channing Tatum’s chest in IMAX 3D, you’re sorted. Just leave your brain at home next to the bust of Arthur C Clarke.

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