The Wachowskis go big and ambitious once again with a beautiful and intergalactic universe of dynasties, androids, aliens and monsters. While not as explicitly religious and symbolic as their previous work, most notably The Matrix, they still are at least dip their toes into the deep end of immortality, morality, spiritual warfare, human origins and destiny.
Jupiter Ascending is the journey of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis). Born with signs pointing to her being destined for great things, Jupiter lives a normal, hard-luck life on our planet cleaning bathrooms and generally not being that great. Her whole life and perspective changes when she is tracked down by Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered humanoid from a different world, and he makes her aware of her blood lineage and she truly is destined for greatness. She is whisked off of Earth where she meets several different family members of the Abrasax family dynasty, an intergalactic dynasty of humanoid industrialists, among which is Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne) who is plotting furiously to kill Jupiter for reasons unknown to her. Only as she meets strange aliens and humanoids is the mystery of her genetic lineage uncovered and the origins and fate of Earth’s people, and Jupiter’s family, revealed. These shocking revelations force her to fight to keep her new found importance as well as preserving the ones she loves, al while navigating the web of complex relationships and exotic worlds.
It is these fantastic vistas and imaginative worlds that consistently wow throughout Jupiter Ascending. When the Wachowskis are given the creative sandbox of their own minds, unlike Cloud Atlas where they were adapting from the novel or from the pre-existing world of Speed Racer, they fail to disappoint. Unlike The Matrix, which dealt heavily in darkness and grays, the multiple planets and spaceships that are visited in the film are incredibly unique and dazzlingly vivid, colorful, and meticulous. There is an amazing amount of minutiae from the golden statue of Titus Abrasax (Douglas Booth) on his ship to the intricate detailing of Balem’s armies and the guards of the Aegis and the escorts of Kalique Abrasax (Tuppence Middleton). The immense amount of beautiful costumes and detail were a visual flashback to the images, cinematography, and artistic direction of the Star Wars prequel trilogy. The Wachowskis are a bit of a spiritual and artistic heir to The Maker, and despite both of them being accused of style over substance, you cannot avoid being sucked into their vision and underlying religious and symbolic elements.
In the spirit of their most successful venture, the existential and philosophical substance gives the movie-goer plenty to chew on. Just like their last fully original sci-fi/fantasy trilogy, Jupiter’s journey from obscurity and longing for something more to discovering her true identity and significance is a spiritual journey and awakening (think the title; Jupiter Ascending). There are multiple explicit and visual references in the film to tenets, imagery, and philosophies of Christianity, Buddhism, New Age spirituality, and these are mixed together with science, technology, and genetics. It’s a fantastical combination of the anticipated trajectory of our planet with a vision of the future and an excavation of the human metaphysical experience.
Unfortunately, I am reading a lot into what was intended for this movie, as I ultimately think that the style, as well as the direction and acting, sand off any edges on this film and make it a slick and entertaining experience with little bite or payoff. The spiritual elements of the film shrivel up and lack significance as the narratives branch out and no flesh is given to them. You’re left with little to no answers to almost any of the big questions of the movie and any answers you get have little to nothing to do with the questions that were asked. Equally frustrating is a really toned down performance from Channing Tatum, an actor I had really come around on, and an obnoxiously gravelly and snivelling performance from Eddie Redmayne, an Oscar-nominee and fabulous actor. I found it incredibly entertaining, and I was certainly not bored or checking the time, but I was expecting more payoff from some of the more substantive elements of the film.
Ultimately, it is a movie that has much to discuss and look forward to revisiting this movie in the future, and I am interested to hear what you thought of the movie. Let us know what you thought about The Wachowskis, the world, direction, story, and anything else from Jupiter Ascending and keep the conversation going.