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Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Jupiter Ascending (Andy and Lana Wachowski 2015)

"Life is consumption"
The Wachowski's return to big budget science fiction in the fantastical space opera Jupiter Ascending. High on action and filled to the brim with science fiction tropes, the film does fall into typical Hollywood tentpole territory but that doesn't stop it being a great feast for the eyes and a lot of fun. The film (3 days after release) has been slammed by most critics and has been labeled a flop, however I encourage you to watch Jupiter Ascending, its bound to be a half guilty pleasure for science fiction fans for years to come!

I will admit I feel a little defensive about liking this film considering the critical feedback so I will try not to sound like I'm fighting whilst writing this article...

The film centers around Jupiter (Mila Kunis(Meg Griffin)) and her rise to power from a toilet scrubbing Russian immigrant to princess of the universe and owner of Earth. Defending her and ultimately falling in love with her is space splice lycan ex winged cop Caine (Channing Tatum(21 Jump Street)), yes... All of those things... The sheer detail in this universe and world building is insane, its a science fiction dream. Whilst many have likened it to, well everything from Mass Effect to Fifth Element, the real inspiration, according to Lana, is the artwork of Meobius, the inspiration for countless science fiction franchises. This shared inspiration makes things seem familiar however almost all of Jupiter Ascending's crazy concepts fit together beautifully creating a vast universe that if anything we needed to see more of. Whilst it now seems unlikely we will ever see any more of the universe of Jupiter Ascending it is one worth more exploration, at times in the film things happen and don't get thoroughly explained, the amount of exposition in the film is still high so the choice to withhold information is a smart one that leaves audiences wanting to know more about the worlds the characters inhabit. The story moves at a startling pace and unfortunately the heavy exposition doesn't give time for emotional connection or give the potentially beautiful scenery space to breathe.
Whilst the CG feast in space works stunningly it is less effective on ground, the few fight scenes early in the film overuse the hardlight shield and overpowered hoverboots. These fights are weak when compared to the plain fist fight between Tatum and Sean Bean (that guy that died in that thing you watched) who plays a fairly typical ex military struggling single father.

Contrasting the complex world building is the indulgently simple rags to riches fairy tale (in space) which is littered with cliches and happily ever afters. In a time where The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones constantly punch you in the face through your favorite characters deaths, a nice story was kind of refreshing. On the other hand you never fear for the characters, they always arrive in the nick of time, you never feel as though anybody is in any real danger which leaves the film lacking emotional gravitas.

Performances from the whole cast are strong but do get fairly swallowed up again by an overcrowded story, no characters really get a time to shine. Whilst Mila and Channing get most of the screen time both Sean Bean and Nikki Amuka-Bird (Luther) shine through the clutter in interesting supporting roles.

The film suffers in the shadow of the Wachowski's Matrix Trilogy, and I will agree I was expecting more. I am hesitant to throw away any meaning or subtext because knowing the Wachowki's it is there in spades, just buried under those awe inspiring visuals. I have heard their original cut was eight minutes longer, its not a lot of time, but I can imagine that short eight minutes giving the film the lingering space it really needed.

If you can't tell I want more! I am sticking images from the film all over my wallpapers, it was beautiful, but at the pace it raced across the screens I never felt as though I got the time to really appreciate the beauty of the cinematography. Jupiter Ascending is at least a beautiful and fun space opera that is worth a watch, however it had and has a chance to be a great franchise and universe, it may even be a subtextual delight already, once my eyes clear from the dazzling space ships I will look further into the subtext and potentially bump it up to and 8 or 9. Either way I have to thank the Wachowski's for creating the latest film to make me argue passionately with haters.

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