Directors/screenwriters/producers Lana and Andy Wachowski (Matrix, Speed Racer) focus on the disparity of rich and poor with many other prevalent themes on family, consumerism, sustainability, power and Earth’s ecological elements in the sci-fi adventure Jupiter Ascending. If they choose, audiences can immerse themselves in a vivid future with a high concept plot and characters that work well.
Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a seemingly normal household worker who quickly becomes the interest of several interplanetary parties including a genetically engineered warrior named Caine Wise, played by Channing Tatum. His physical appearance reveals his genetic background and considerable power while Kunis shows her value expands beyond her stature, which is eventually revealed to the audience before she knows – a satisfying experience to watch her take that journey that is nicely dovetailed in a repeat sequence in the end where she continues her regular profession on Earth with a changed attitude.
Jupiter and Caine’s relationship echoes a Beauty and the Beast dynamic, but has enough originality to make a worthy center to the other events and characters surrounding this space epic. This duo forms the character core along with four others. Oscar® winner Eddie Redmayne plays the antagonistic tyrant Balem Abrasax while Sean Bean plays one of Caine’s associates, Stinger Apini. Douglas Booth plays Titus Abrasax and Tuppence Middleton plays Kalique Abrasax.
Redmayne’s screen presence is as impressive as his physical disposition that has a great impact in the plot and helps explains his Balem’s motivation/drive. Redmayne’s voice delivery will pull you in further or sour the experience – there is no in between. Filmmakers wisely consider an audience’s tolerance/concentration level during his scenes without compromising his character.
Kunis handles the narration, so audiences can actively ease their minds in assuming her character won’t die. She also becomes the voice of the audience by often commenting on situations and events from a similar perspective. Each world feels complete as the Wachowskis offer enough explanation through Jupiter’s perspective. Audiences also get decent expositions usually through whichever character is on-screen with Jupiter who dominates the screen time.
The Wachowskis film the action extremely well, especially during a thrilling chase scene set in the urban heart of Chicago, Illinois, Jupiter‘s hometown. This location is quickly recognizable to some audience members and should have been mentioned at the film’s beginning for audience who might not recognize it. The visual style works fine and the impressive camera transitions really elevate the action sequences to a high level.
Filmmakers do not use text on the screen for times and locations – only for some dialogue translations during the mildly humorous “bureaucrat” sequence. The film also features some fun, functional gear like gravity boots, which factor well into the plot elements for audiences to consider and enjoy.
Emotional dialogue lines like “the more you care, the more the world finds ways to hurt you” and “some lives will always matter more than others” are memorable, but the passion in the ideals and battles come through in the performances of Kunis, Tatum, and Redmayne, which rightfully equal their respective characters’ importance in the plot.
Filmmakers also avoid using flashbacks while the visuals and camera shots match very well and make a very strong 3D experience. Some audiences may not be won over by the heavy special effects needed to film an epic space adventure, but Jupiter Ascending still evokes genuine wonder and appealing characters for a recommendation (*** out of four stars). Rated PG-13 for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity. Available now on home video. Hopefully a longer director’s cut version is on the way as well.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler