When it comes to ambition, regardless of results, the Wachowskis always aim high. Be it the philosophy in The Matrix, the portrayal of lesbianism in Bound or the multi-period epic Cloud Atlas (adapted from a seemingly un-filmable novel). Their recent outing is the space opera Jupiter Ascending, and it’s typically audacious, despite its flaws.
It tells the story of Jupiter (Mila Kunis), a Russian-American girl who dreams of a better life. Her destitute existence alters forever as she crosses paths with Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically-engineered warrior, spliced with wolf DNA, who tells her she is the rightful heir to the Earth. She travels with Caine to cease the Abrasax family from claiming the Earth as their own.
As one expects on viewing the trailer, this film is meant to be taken as a fun quasi-camp romp. It isn’t self-aware like many recent postmodern films but is instead conveyed entirely straight-faced, both in the narrative discourse and in the acting. Eddie Redmayne’s Caligula-esque performance as Balem Abrasax is a joy to behold. The chemistry between the two leads, however, is questionable, in particular Tatum’s Caine, who never appears to be wholly sure of his interest in Jupiter.
Amid the enjoyably camp acting and wonderful (but wholly familiar) visual spectacles are moments of intelligence. There is an anti-capitalist, anti-industrial and anti-bureaucratic rhetoric coursing through it that will make intellectual fans take notice. The Abrasax’s reason to claim the Earth isn’t wholly simplistic and is ethically harrowing. There is even a Brazil-style moment with Terry Gilliam making a brief cameo appearance, which will undoubtedly please the cinephiles in the audience. Unfortunately these facets find themselves all too easily lost in the plot, resulting in only (very) brief moments of intellectual discourse as the film hastily returns to clichéd set pieces.
Jupiter Ascending is consequently another misstep from the Wachowskis. They have attempted to cram in as many space operatic tropes as possible, but the film’s noteworthy ambition prevents this from becoming a bore. It is an enjoyable caper that will please CGI-spectacle fans; the acting is solid for the genre and is packed with interesting ideas, be they intellectual or creatively and imaginatively daft. In short, Jupiter Ascending delivers what it promises.
Jupiter Ascending is released nationwide on 6th February 2015.
Watch the trailer for Jupiter Ascending here: