With many planets containing humans simply monetary commodities for massively affluent space-faring dynasties, the fate of Earth lies in the hands of a girl that three major players seem hell bent on attaining, her only protection being a gene spliced mercenary originally hired to locate her.
The Wachowskis, formally The Wachowski Brothers (owing to the fact that one of the sibling’s has changed gender), have had a rough time of it since they became cinema’s best new hope, back in 1999 with the release of the original Matrix film; following the near universally despised sequels, the two went into a sort of seclusion, only producing a penning films before their less than triumphant return with the derided then forgotten Speed Racer adaptation.
Yet more seclusion/producing/writing ensued until six years later when, seemingly from nowhere, their little anticipated yet impressively trailed comeback hit the screens with this week’s release of Jupiter Ascending.
Ostensibly packing everything geeky into one nerd-parcel, judging by the reviews to date, Jupiter Ascending looks set to fail in the same manner that Sucker Punch did when it attempted to play the same hand, falling short in almost every department and emerging as a bit of a mess.
While this reviewer can’t disagree that both films are guilty of exactly what they are accused of, I very much enjoyed Sucker Punch nonetheless… And I enjoyed Jupiter Ascending too, despite its many, many flaws.
So let’s go over those flaws, which, when all is said and done, boils down to two things, we have good actors wasted on hammy dialogue in, often, cheesy scenes, and creators that are trying to be too clever for their own good.
In what should be a very simple plot, the story is rammed with far too much unnecessary detail which ends up tripping over itself due to the fact that much of it only goes half explained, and we’re left with something that feels really sketchy, like an adaptation of a long book, a la the latter Harry Potter films, all info with little nuance, or perhaps a three hour film that has been edited down to two (in this case a full edit would be very interesting viewing). Not a desirable commodity for one of the few original concept blockbusters of the year.
This sort of extends to the action sequences too, in an effort to be technically outstanding (which they sometimes are), they become stagy and none too gripping.
All this is a damn shame, and most will see it as a reason to wash their hands of the film altogether, but in throwing the baby out with the bathwater you’d be missing some treats and examples of genuinely breathtaking ambition and ingenuity, not least insofar as the design teams go.
Despite the messiness the story plays out with, the intention of the excellent mythology created for the film encapsulates all things genre, including horror, supernatural, martial arts, cyberpunk and pseudo-religion all wrapped up in a sci-fi bow. With this mythology, all manner of myths, legends, conspiracy theories and religions are attempted to be explained away in a flurry of alien related power brokering with the Wachowski’s classic stance that humanity on Earth is simply a commodity to be had.
I’m not kidding, there are Immortals, alien greys, alien abductions, werebeasts (sort of), gargoyles, angels, crop circles, mind wipes, hovering boots, lazer guns, space battles, creationism AND evolution… it’s a rich tapestry alright, and all realised with the most wonderful design work, from space-based cathedral cities to dirty starships, reworked creatures of myth to classic looking alien sterotypes… and say what you will about the Wachowskis but they certainly know how to put a good looking shot together.
So, yeah, what you’ve heard is mostly true, it’s something of a narrative mess, with plot holes aplenty and a good cast misused or hamming it up to all hell, but it’s spectacular to look at and has a rich mythology, both of which beg to, nay, deserve to be seen, at least in my opinion.