The Wachowskis’ space fairy tale lacks the ultimate quality and annoys in some ways, but it’s still a great universe idea and it’s mostly fun to watch.
Directors: Andy and Lana Wachowski | Stars: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum
Budget: 176 million | Box office: 91 million (2 weeks)
I’ll repeat myself with disclaimer: The Matrix was the most important and influential film for me so I’ll always favor Wachowskis’ work and look at it through pink glasses. That was the case with Cloud Atlas, and it still is with Jupiter Ascending. It’s the first original Wachowskis’ film since The Matrix trilogy, so it was really interesting to see what idea they will come up with on their own, without any licensing constraints.
I really loved the premise and the universe of Jupiter Ascending. From the trailers it looked confusing and I was afraid that in order to make the connection with Earth they will create something similar to Thor universe or Green Lantern, which I especially hated. It seems it’s really hard to create compelling connection between the vast sci-fi universe and our planet, to find the role for it in the grander scheme of things. In Jupiter in the beginning it feels quite artificial and even annoying, but finding out more details the core idea of the film becomes clearer and it starts to be fun to follow and relate.
It really works for me that intergalactic royal powerful families rule the planets and fight for their resources (well, one most important resource, which thankfully is not so unimaginative as “unobtanium”) as feudal lords did it during centuries here in Earth. And our dear Earth is the center of current dispute. There’s a nice connection to modern times also, with notions to stocks and markets and profits being the ultimate goal, no matter what the means are. It‘s especially convincing when you hear it from Eddie Redmayne’s (award winning Stephen Hawking role) villain character.
Another thing which I really loved was the art direction and design of the distant worlds. It’s getting harder to be impressed by sci-fi concepts and alien worlds in the movies, especially if you play newest sci-fi videogames. But here I liked that they keep the connection to our world, fuse traditional elements with imaginary ideas. I’m sure that such royal families would decorate their spaceships with golden statues and chandeliers. The idea of dynamic fighting jets which have separate hovering parts forming different shapes during the combat was also great and seems quite novel to me. The praise goes to production designer and Matrix art director Hugh Bateup and the rest of art, set and costume teams which worked with Cloud Atlas, Star Wars, Gravity and other visually impressive films.
With that said, the first bigger issue with Jupiter is the lack of best possible quality. I can’t imagine how bad the film would have looked if they had not pushed it for six months. The budget seems adequate, the effects teams with lots of experience creating highest quality films, but it somehow feels a bit washed out, not reaching the full potential of the universe vision.
There are more negative feelings about the film, but I don’t want to detail them, there’s Metacritic opinions for that. I don’t share the general negative attitude towards all of the film’s screenplay and incoherent details as many call it. I look at it as a childish fairy tale, a playground for possibilities and imagination. Though I agree there’s too much of everything cramped together in one place and Wachowskis really need full trilogy to use all the ideas and connections to make it a truly believable and grand universe, worth the place in cinema history. For now it feels that there’s lots of potential which might not be realized based on early financial returns and critical bashing. But I’m crossing fingers for Wachowskis, at least I will eagerly wait for possible Jupiter Ascending sequels.