The Wachowskis have delivered an extremely varied range of films, from cult classic 'The Matrix' to the extremely dividing 'Cloud Atlas' - yet the common thread throughout their work has always been the strong elements of science fiction. Their latest creation, 'Jupiter Ascending', is what you'd call their blockbuster-iest film to date, but can they keep Hollywood happy and appease the geeks at the same time?
Mila Kunis stars as the titular Jupiter, a girl from a downtrodden but close-knit Russian family who have immigrated to America to clean rich people's bathrooms. When, unbeknownst to her, a group of humans from outer space (yes, you read correctly) try to capture her, she discovers, with the assistance of the canine Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), that she wasn't destined for scrubbing toilets but for royalty. Explosions ensue.
The most important thing to say about this film is that it looks absolutely exquisite - and I'm not just talking about the lead cast. 'Jupiter Ascending' has been crafted with some of the finest visual effects seen on film, let alone in 3D, the latter of which is handled very subtly. We travel through space with galaxies in blooms of pinks and purples, and venture inside Jupiter (the planet this time, not the person) to witness its deadly yet mesmerising beauty. We voyage aboard spaceships elaborately crafted in gleaming metals, no detail overlooked. It truly is stunning to take in.
The rest of the film, sadly, is not quite as exemplary. While Mila Kunis actually pulls off an impressive performance - down-to-earth (no pun intended) and vulnerable whilst still oozing bravery and beauty - the same cannot be said for Channing Tatum. His work in this role could easily have been done by a cardboard cutout. Perhaps this lack of dimension is a character construct, the stoic hero, but there's no conflict, no heart, no believability to the role. However, I guess the reason he's really there is to stand around and look pretty, so it's worth noting he's shirtless for the majority of the film. The Abrasax trio adequately play their stereotypes; Douglas Booth as smarmy and slimy, Tuppence Middleton as kind and sickly sweet, and Eddie Redmayne as diabolically evil. It's also good to see Aussie Kick Gurry pop up in a comedic role as Jupiter's cousin.
While the direction from the Wachowskis is, as always, of the highest standard, there are some issues where there script is concerned. There's not too much in the way of cheesy dialogue, fortunately, however the overall plot is a bit scarce. Sure, there's a lot of details to this story, but when you get to the crux of it, there's not a great deal of plot development, nor twists and turns. It's a pretty linear road once we discover Jupiter is royalty, and comes to a conclusion with a fairly stock standard boy-rescues-girl plotline - which, in itself, could be considered a bit of a cop-out. In fact, the whole Jupiter/Wise dynamic is a bit on the nose; though Kunis refuses to play the damsel in distress, it becomes frustrating seeing her time and time again try to fight her way out of dangerous situations, only to inevitably be rescued by Wise.
'Jupiter Ascending' has been crafted with some of the finest visual effects seen on film.
When you get down to the nuts and bolts of it, this is a better-than-average action sci-fi film. Perhaps I went in expecting more, but in truth that's what was delivered. And let's be honest, the target audience is for the 16- to 25-year-old science fiction fanatics, and the partners they drag along. That being the case, they've nailed it. For the rest of us, we'll be thrilled by its aesthetics and action sequences, which are definitely worth your $20 and the two hours of your time.