Jupiter Ascending Blu-ray Review
The Wachowskis are back with an insanely ambitious space opera that mixes Cloud Atlas’ reincarnation, Speed Racer’s fast and furious action, and The Matrix’s human harvesting.
What’s It About? Juptier Ascending is the story of Mila Kunis’s character Jupiter Jones, a cleaner in Chicago who one day discovers she’s actually Queen of the Worlds.
Yes, thanks to the fact that she has the exact same genes in the exact same order as the now-dead previous Queen of the Universe, Jupiter is set to inherit the Earth and more, which the former ruler’s three children are not very happy about.
Cue an interplanetary struggle for power and the appearance of Caine Wise, a professional tracker who’s been sent to Earth to find Jupiter.
Verdict: Jupiter Ascending is certainly visually spectacular. The Wachowskis have clearly gone all out to create a universe that’s vivid, beautiful, and richly designed. The sheer size and detail of their world-building is impressively epic. There are so many different types of architecture, space crafts, contraptions, costumes, and creatures on various planets that it’s really a case of “where to look?!” most of the time as there’s so much to see. With so much to marvel at visually, it’s a shame that at times we don’t get a chance to enjoy it all as it rushes by in a blur of action. But that’s exactly why this movie works so well on Blu-ray as you can watch it over again and catch all the amazing details you missed first time around!
The action, which there’s tons of, is frenzied and performed at break-neck speed. And it’s all set to a majestically operatic score composed by Michael Giacchino, whose work you’ll have heard on many movies including Star Trek, Pixar’s Up, and the Wachowskis’ own Speed Racer.
A particularly striking action sequence sees rival alien bounty hunters battle it out in an aerial firefight across Chicago. Channing Tatum zips, zooms, surfs, soars and whizzes about on a pair of flying boots, which I love so much I want my own pair!
Lights blast, flames roar, cars and space crafts crash, objects hurtle through the air, buildings are smashed to smithereens, and debris rains down… it’s everything you expect from big-budget movie destruction. I like the fact the movie briefly answers Jupiter’s question about how they get away with reeking so much destruction, even if part of the answer harks back to Men In Black.
When the action goes intergalactic though, lots of speeding about through space makes it’s hard to get a handle on where exactly the various planets we hop between are in relation to each other, and therefore exactly how this fictional universe fits together.
As for the actors, Channing Tatum does a good job as the strong and silent Caine Wise, who’s mostly man with a hint of wolf. Mila Kunis is likeable as Jupiter, but her damsel-in-distress role doesn’t really give her much to do, except wear loads of ornate costumes, fall a lot, get rescued and have plot points explained to her. The development of her character’s left till a little too late in the day, which is a pity as it would have been interesting to see her undergo more of a transformation.
There’s just enough chemistry between the two leads to make a romance believable, though that particular plot point could either have been more developed or cut completely. And we don’t really care about Jupiter’s rather caricatured family, which gets to be something of an issue.
Eddie Redmayne (The Theory Of Everything) plays our main baddie, Balem, one of that trio of siblings who were set to rule the universe before Jupiter got in the way. As Balem, Redmayne speaks mostly in hushed tones until he can no longer contain his rage and shouts at the top of his lungs. There’s something about him that makes me think of a sort of croaky-voiced, vampiric Loki mixed with Gary Oldman. But he’s also very much like the husky-voiced villain Baron Greenback from the 80s British cartoon, Danger Mouse. Basically, he’s super-memorable.
But my absolute favourite person in the film is Sean Bean, who plays Stinger, a kind of space-cop whose human genes have been spliced with those of a bee. I know what you’re thinking, and Jupiter herself says it at one point in the movie: ‘could this get any weirder?’ Bean is his usual fab self in the role, even managing to sell such unforgettable lines as “bees are genetically designed to recognise royalty” and “bees don’t lie”.
And there’s also a nice cameo from a certain movie director in a Kafka-esque, steampunky scene of intergalactic bureaucracy.
The tale that Jupiter Ascending tells is actually a fairly straightforward and familiar one, even though it’s overcomplicated with shed-loads of characters and concepts. Imagine what would happen if Star Wars, The Fifth Element, The Terminator, Flash Gordon, and The Wizard of Oz were mashed up with The Princess Diaries and Maid In Manhattan, with a bit of Brazil thrown in for good measure. And there you have it. Or to put it another way, it’s Cinderella spliced with Snow White in space!
Its 127-minute run time never feels long – in fact, I think that with a bit more screen time, some of the movie’s muddledness could have been unmuddled with a few less hurried scenes and some clearer scripting. Still, I didn’t look at my watch once during the film, which is a good sign that it is engaging.
It’s a wilfully mad world, and it’s one that’s eminently enjoyable. You just have to sit back and go with the flow. Which is not to say you should check your brain at the door when you sit down on your sofa to watch, as you’ll definitely need it to keep up with everything going on.
For all its flaws, Jupiter Ascending is plenty entertaining. It’s fun, it’s playful, and there’s a lot of action and great visuals. Yes, there’s a lot of exposition too, but I can live with that and the knotty, nutty plot.
In an age of reboots, sequels, and movies based on established properties, the fact that the filmmaker siblings returned with such an elaborate adventure that doesn’t have the shoulders of a comic book, best-selling novel, theme park ride, game, or movie franchise to stand on, is in itself worthy of a celebratory fist bump.
Extras: Jupiter Jones: Destiny Is Within Us, Jupiter Ascending: Genetically Spliced Caine Wise, The Wachowskis: Minds Over Matter, Worlds Within Worlds Within Worlds, Bullet Time Evolved, and From Earth to Jupiter (And Everywhere In Between).
Final Words: Jupiter Ascending is an insanely ambitious intergalactic saga that mixes the Wachowskis’ back catalogue with a myriad of sci-fi and fairy-tale influences to produce a visual feast that’s got plenty to keep you entertained despite its flaws.
Jupiter Ascending is available on Digital HD now, and arrives on Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & DVD on 29 June 2015.