MOVIE REVIEW: JUPITER ASCENDING / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: ANDY WACHOWSKI, LANA WACHOWSKI/ SCREENPLAY: ANDY WACHOWSKI, LANA WACHOWSKI / STARRING: CHANNING TATUM, MILA KUNIS, EDDIE REDMAYNE, SEAN BEAN / RELEASE DATE: FEBRUARY 6TH
Moving from the busy July blockbuster release window to the cold territory of the following February usually doesn't bode too well for movies, however for the Wachowski siblings the delay to complete special effects work may have been a blessing in disguise for their latest, Jupiter Ascending. Whatever impact it could have managed back then would surely have been obliterated just a few weeks later with the release of a small sci-fi film by the name of Guardians of the Galaxy.
After an initially slow start and some unnecessary cutting between Jupiter Jones' (Kunis) hum-drum Chicago-bound existence, and action in space, Jupiter Ascending settles down to a chase movie where everyone seems to want Jupiter, some alive, some would prefer her dead, but she's no idea why. Eventually protected by bounty hunter Caine Wise (Tatum), a "lyncantant" whose DNA is spliced with that of a dog, and his nifty flying "skyjacker" boots, Jupiter needs to find out why everyone is after her, negotiate the various machinations of the individual members of the powerful intergalactic Abrasax family, and discover why everyone keeps avoiding explaining what exactly "harvesting a planet" entails when it comes to the industry underpinning the intergalactic economy?
Once the film starts firing on all engines, it turns into a quite enjoyable action film, albeit one with a bit of a reliance on falling set pieces (thanks to those flying boots) but definitely one with its own sense of style and some interesting background details. The Wachowksis may not have come up with a world as rich as Frank Herbert's Dune, but the inspiration is clear to see with references to family houses, their roles as space-based industrialists, and a peace-keeping "Aegis" corp to make sure everyone plays by the (corporate) rules. It may not have the spice melange but it has its own version of the most precious substance in the universe.
First and foremost, though, Jupiter Ascending is an action film, and one that, at first, comes as something of a disappointment from the makers of The Matrix. Many of the action sequences appear less ambitious than their previous work, perhaps because of the added work required to make the audience believe a dog-spliced human can fly. Caine's skyboots are pretty cool, along with the motions he uses to control them, but the Wachowskis focus on him at just the wrong moments, either a few seconds too early or too late, leaving the resultant slo-mo sections looking stilted. The practical and CGI creature effects fare better, with some excellent lizard aliens, but the action does improve as the film progresses and moves into space, with tech and ships which mostly consist of whirling pieces of metal held together by force fields.
The space station from 2001: A Space Odyssey appears to crop up in an odd cameo, as does a very well known director whose appearance caps a comedic set-piece in an over-the-top bureaucracy that seems only to exist to set up his cameo. Kunis gets some jokes here and there but mostly it sticks to the action beats.
For 90% of the film, the 3D is almost unnoticeable apart from one or two vertigo-inducing sequences near the end, more of which would have been welcome.
Kunis and Tatum do their usual stand-up job as likeable leads, although the film does rely a little too much on relegating Kunis to damsel in distress in the first half. This is down to her relative powerlessness against the threats she faces, however once she's clued in she becomes a much more formidable character without suddenly becoming an unrealistic badass overnight.
As for the rest of the cast, Sean Bean gives a good "Sean Bean" and Eddie Redmayne entertainingly competes for the "Michael Sheen Twilight: Breaking Dawn Sudden Onset Overacting Award" with multiple interpretations and intonations of Sheen's unpredictable giggle from that film.
The result is an enjoyable space adventure and slightly weak love story with an interesting background that takes some of the action of Guardians with some... well... a little, maybe a spoonful, of the brains of Dune, that would have most likely been lost in the wake of Marvel/Disney's blockbuster last summer but should hopefully find an audience now.
Expected Rating: 6 out of 10
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