For a woman in a movie called Jupiter Ascending, Mila Kunis sure spends a hell of a lot of time falling off things. She doesn’t get splatted into jelly because Channing Tatum keeps catching her, and somehow Channing Tatum has an understanding with the laws of physics which lets them look away when he collides at sixty miles an hour with a hot chick travelling at terminal velocity in the opposite direction. This is terrible nitpicking on my part, since it’s not as though anything else in the movie is respecting the laws of physics, but you give mile long starships travelling through force portals more of a pass than people acting like they’re in a road runner cartoon.
Jupiter Ascending is one of those movies where you can see every dollar on the screen and still not see why they put it there. It’s a great looking movie, but …
… every now and then, as I’ve said before on this blog, I just stick the DVD of The Matrix on and skip to the lobby demolition scene. Which is a magnificent, pointless piece of violent destruction that doesn’t make a lick of sense and arguably doesn’t advance the plot a single centimetre. It doesn’t matter. It’s glorious. Somehow the Wachowskis achieved perfection - sure, a very limited form of perfection - in that scene. There are scenes all over Jupiter Ascending which are far more spectacular and visibly cost even more money to stage and which move the plot along in some way, and which I don’t care if I never see them again.
So, stick a pin in that bit. Jupiter Ascending looks as good as anything you’re likely to see in a cinema this year. It’s in 3D, and as usual it doesn’t make any real difference but at least it doesn’t look murky and it doesn’t have that child’s shoebox diorama staging that has ruined a lot of other 3D movies. They spent a fortune on effects and released almost a year behind schedule getting them right and you can see every penny up there. You will not, however, spend any time the next day telling people “And then …."
Other than that, tell me if any of this reminds you of another movie; the heroine is living a boring humdrum existence but secretly has a destiny which can change all of reality. There are invisible creatures who can drop into our reality at will, wreak havoc and then cover it all up as if it never happened. There’s a vast conspiracy using human lives as fuel for their own ends. Aided by a bunch of professional badasses in black leather with their own badass spaceship, the heroine discovers her destiny, uses it to save the world, and ends the movie flying around with the chief ass-kicker. The only thing which wasn’t already in the Matrix; family troubles. Two sets of them, when I come to think of it; Jupiter’s actual family, which is Russian and cheerfully useless, and Jupiter’s space family, who badly need to be nuked into the stone age.
Possibly inspired by their source material, the Wachowskis seem to have told Channing Tatum to dial everything down to Keanu levels of woodenness, and then told Mila Kunis not to show him up, so that two of the funnier non-comedians in Hollywood are largely playing straight and dumb. Then they threw platoons of English ringers at the screen until I thought that I was watching a very special episode of Dr Who. For some reason, everyone in outer space sounds English; meanwhile Jupiter Jones’ whole family is Russian, including a game Maria Doyle Kennedy pulling off a Russian accent I’m not qualified to second guess. I fear it sounds every bit as ridiculous to Russians as the average Russian trying to talk like a leprechaun sounds to me, but what could the Wachowskis do? There are literally no Russian actresses in the wild any more, just as George Clooney had no choice but to cast an Australian as a Frenchwoman.
In fun news, Sean Bean finally doesn’t die in a movie, an event which surely presages the end of global warming, honest politicians, and a balanced Greek budget. Though not, of course peace in the Middle East, because that would be ridiculous.
Snuck into the middle of the whole thing is what I can only think was a guest directing appearance by Terry Gilliam, as Jupiter attempts to navigate space bureaucracy in order to claim her inheritance. Instead of vast space battles on a huge canvases, Jupiter gets stuck in a series of every more claustrophobic office spaces populated by an ever-escalating parade of grotesques. It’s bonkers, it’s brilliant, it’s straight out of Brazil, and it’s more comforting to believe that Gilliam snuck onto the set and directed it while no-one was looking than it is to ponder the thought that the Wachowskis had it in them to do that scene and still went ahead with the rest of the movie.
Still, unlike The Matrix, it’s unlikely to have two sequels which suck all the joy out of the first one retrospectively, even though it shows every sign of being the set up for a trilogy in which Jupiter Jones will save the galaxy from a bunch of stuff (the title alone hints that Jupiter will be doing something height related in at least one other movie, and while she saves this world in this movie, the rest of the galaxy needs a LOT of work).