Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Starring: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne

A Russian immigrant who scrubs toilets for a living learns that she is alien royalty and that one of the most powerful families in the galaxy wants her dead.

It's kinda funny that I'd cross paths with this movie so soon after watching Flash Gordon. In the Flash review, I lamented that there weren't more space operas. I suppose both films demonstrate why. Being expensive to make and not terribly likely to hit it off with the audience, producers generally won't touch the subgenre and when they do, they treat it with contempt and then act justified when their bungled handling results in poor returns. I mean, part of it is on the corporate side and part of it is just a matter of the audience. Still, you don't release a movie in February if you plan on making back your investment. Some commentators have noted that the failure of this film may be a career killer for the Wachowskis, at least as far as big-budget movies are concerned. A bit of a shame, but not entirely undeserved.

Let's talk about the movie itself. Speaking for myself, I liked it well enough, but I can certainly understand why it whiffed with a lot of people. Juxtaposing heated action with byzantine politicoeconomic wrangling certainly isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea and the pulpy romantic subplot is bound to fall flat for some (though making an angel/wolfman bodyguard crush played by an often shirtless Channing Tatum has to at least hit some women's moe buttons). If you're willing to enjoy the ride, as I was, it's a rewarding enough experience. I honestly wouldn't mind seeing more of this universe, even though the chances of a sequel are basically zero. I thought Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum were pretty good as the lead characters and it's always nice seeing Sean Bean in a supporting role. Eddie Redmayne as Belam Abrasax is a bit divisive. Either you're going to love his over-the-top villainy with his rasping whisper suddenly snapping into harsh screams or you're going to hate it (with some going as far to demand that he return the Oscar he got for The Theory of Everything). I can certainly sympathize with people who are more intrigued by a movie about the bounty hunters led by David Ajala and Doona Bae (they are fine examples of ensemble dark horses). The special effects are quite good, so you're not going to be lacking for spectacle and the action scenes are pretty well choreographed. I think the wrangling among the three Abrasax siblings makes the political side a little more dense than it probably should be given the runtime. Also, while funny enough, the fun with bureaucracy scene that seemed like it came straight out of the '05 version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy feels a bit dissonant (though I suppose it was suppose to lighten the mood between acts in keeping with the classic formula).

I can see why the studio didn't put it out in the summer of '14 as originally planned, as it would've been crushed by Guardians of the Galaxy, but I think it would've fared better if it was given its second slated release in the fall. If the movie clicks with you, the bungling that doomed it will be disappointing. It is, however, a bit of a mixed bag and if you've been burned by some of the Wachowskis' more recent output, you may want to pass. I think it's worth giving a chance, though. Give it a watch.

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