Directors: Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Starring: Mila Kunis, Canning Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton
Written by: Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Running Time: 129 min
Release date: 6th February 2015
Going into a film by the Wachowskis, you never know what to expect. Will you get a masterpiece? (Bound, The Matrix and, at a push, Cloud Atlas) or an unmitigated disaster? (The Matrix sequels, Speed Racer). So where does their latest, Jupiter Ascending fall? Right smack in the middle. You see, Jupiter Ascending is one of those films that is so bad, it’s good!
Jupiter is a young cleaner living with an extended Russian family. Every day sees the same routine until one day, when trying to earn some extra money, she is saved from being killed from a group of aliens by Caine Wise, a hunter who is part man, part wolf. In order to understand why she is the target, she soon discovers that she is a queen and of great interest to three siblings from another world.
The good stuff first. The special effects are, as you would expect from the Wachowskis, spectacular. Huge space ships, distant worlds and jaw-dropping imagery fill the screen. This is a cinematic piece of cinema. The only place to really enjoy it is in the darken auditorium of your local multiplex. If there’s one thing the Wachowskis understand, it’s how to use film in all its glory. You get a sense of each of the planets, the vastness of the crafts and the detail of the cities. Every penny of its budget is up there on the screen. Even to the point that the original release of this was pulled due to the effects not coming up to standard.
Now the bad stuff. This is bonkers nuts to the extreme. The story line is more barking than an angry dog! You are whisked from one bizarre sequence to another, each one inhabited by even more outlandish costumes and hairstyles. There are moments you give up trying to work out what is happening because none of it makes any sense. And yet, in a strange way, it does.
Halfway through, the film goes completely odd. Like an intermission to the rest of the story, Jupiter and Caine have to visit a planet in order for her to be registered as royalty. It’s like they have stepped onto the set of Brazil, with all the bureaucrats, suited and booted, sending them from one department to another, only for them to end up meeting Terry Gilliam! I kid you not! The director of the very cult classic, Brazil, is in his own tribute! Then it’s back to the action as if nothing happened!
The dialogue is awful. While the writers/directors can handle action scenes with ease, they have real trouble with romantic lines. It’s a real mixture of laugh-out-loud terrible and fist-bitingly embarrassing. When Caine announces that he has more in common with a dog than he has with Jupiter, she replies: “I love dogs, I’ve always loved dogs!”
If the visuals don’t distract you, or the corny dialogue, then the bombastic, overstated music score will. Whenever a large ship appears or a battle is fought, the music goes into overdrive. Imagine the music used in Star Wars turned up to 11, then you will know what I mean.
Finally the performances range from the acceptable to the down-right ludicrous. Channing Tatum, donning pointed ears and hover boots, is a believable action hero and he is stretched no further than that. Leave the good stuff to Foxcatcher or Magic Mike. Here, all he is called upon is to shoot aliens and save Mila Kunis from falling, which she does a lot. Kunis makes for an agreeable female lead, growing in statue as the film goes on until she is expected to kick butt too, which she does fine.
The crowning glory, however, goes to recent BAFTA Best Actor winner, Eddie Redmayne. Playing the lead villain, this is high camp at its most glorious. With a voice like a whispering Derek Nimmo (for younger readers, Google him), Redmayne, with his 80’s hairstyle, hams it up so badly, the meat stall at the local butchers want a few slices. I am surprised that he was even allowed in at the BAFTAs after this, let alone win a prize.
For all its muddled messiness and nonsensical story, Jupiter Ascending has plenty to enjoy. Coming at you like a 21st Century version of Flash Gordon, it is a pleasure to watch a sci-fi film that doesn’t boggle you with technobabble or high-brow science talk. It’s a straight forward space adventure, just like they use to make after Star Wars first came out. I’m pretty sure in years to come, this will be a cult favourite with the film geeks, who will laugh at the unintentionally bad dialogue and Eddie Redmayne’s camp baddie. Terrible, but a blast as well.