Certificate 12A, 127 minutes
Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Stars: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne
In Jupiter Ascending, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis, Oz the Great and Powerful, Ted) is living in Chicago. Her parents met in St Petersburg in Russia but, following her father's death prior to Jupiter's birth, where she is now working as a cleaner. Unknown to her, she is considered the reincarnation of someone dead, simply because her genes match. As a result, Jupiter is considered royalty.
Earth itself is owned by the Abrasax family, of which there are three primary heirs - the eldest, Balem (Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything), who actually owns the planet and has a base inside Jupiter's (the planet's) Great Red Spot, his sister Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) and the younger brother, Titus (Douglas Booth, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies). Balem, at the very least, wants Jupiter dead and has sent bounty hunters after her to do this. Balem also plans to "harvest" the Earth, which was seeded, something that sounds like it will not be pleasant for the inhabitants, as the three siblings are first seen on a now-deserted planet. The Abrasax family, or house, are apparently one of the most powerful known, although there does appear to be a central government of some description that tries to control things.
The universe depicted seems to be dominated by a few, powerful individuals and families, with everyone else merely existing to serve them. The worlds depicted are baroquely magnificent with extravagant architecture and ships, frequently far beyond what would be considered to be useful, with excessive adornment simply for the sake of it. The set pieces and scenery are stunning to look at as a consequence of this, and are the best part of the film by far. The technology is both hi-tech, yet also sometimes oddly primitive looking - a sort of hi-tech steampunk, or what steampunk would be if it evolved several centuries down the line and not a hundred or more years in the past. The imagery actually, to a certain degree, resembles that of the 1984 film Dune. In fact, it resembles that film in more ways than simply visually; elements of the society, dress and even the "plot" of the film also bear similarities. Not much time is spent on the actual society of the external universe, though, beyond Jupiter's, kind of amusing, interaction with the bureaucracy that runs things. Which is the worst excesses of government bureaucracy taken to the nth degree.
Jupiter Ascending is visually spectacular with some truly glorious imagery. As long as the scenery or the action is taking centre stage, the film is a pleasure to watch, and the 3D works well, with plenty of huge, computer generated scenes for the 3D to excel in. The problem arises when the characters start interacting with each other. At that point, it all falls apart. The plot of the film does not seem to be really present, but then, a plot is not always necessary. The characters are underdeveloped, and some of the actors seem to be struggling with their roles. It's not that there aren't talented actors in it either - Eddie Redmayne has recently done rather well for himself and Sean Bean is definitely underutilised as a secondary character. Eddie Redmayne seems to spend the entire film struggling to speak properly, never mind simply struggling with his role. It would probably have been better to let him speak in a more normal tone than the attempted hoarse, threatening whisper that simply sounds as if he is coming down with a serious throat infection. The motivations of some of the characters is also underdeveloped. For example, what is Kalique Abrasax trying to accomplish after all? This is never made clear. The setting itself is also not developed as fully as it could have been. The film is a visual treat, with everything - scenes, backgrounds, technology, dress - looking fabulous, but it could have been so much more and the start of a great franchise. Unfortunately, it fails to deliver on its promise. Jupiter Ascending is a lovely film to look at, but a rather poorer one to actually listen to.