By Don Simpson | February 5, 2015
Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Writers: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Starring: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, James D’Arcy, Sean Bean, Douglas Booth, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tuppence Middleton, Charlotte Beaumont, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Doona Bae, Christina Cole, Jo Osmond, , Neil Fingleton, Jeremy Swift, David Ajala, Tamela D’Amico
The spine of Jupiter Ascending‘s plot is a revisionist take on a classic Disney tale that is bedazzled with heady Wachowskian tropes. The child of poor Russian immigrants, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is a house cleaner, as well as the oblivious reincarnation of a 90,000+ year-old matriarch of the universe’s most elite family. Living with her mother and several other relatives in cramped Chicagoan quarters, Jupiter dreams of a better life, but is hopelessly trapped by the glass ceiling of her working class existence. Jupiter is, essentially, this film’s every[wo]man; and with this set-up, the Wachowskis boldly toss three-dimensions of xenophobia, classism, and sexism into our collective faces.
The hyper-royal Abrasax family learns of Jupiter’s existence on earth. The three Abrasax siblings — Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), and Titus (Douglas Booth) — are keenly aware that a special clause in their mother’s Will and Testament will pass ownership of the Earth to an exact “Recurrence” of the former matriarch’s DNA; and considering the much prolonged lifespan of the Abrasax siblings — thanks to genetic regeneration baths — the seemingly improbable occurrence of a genetic “Recurrence” is made much more mathematically probable. Upon their mother’s death, the three siblings inherited planets across the universe which they “seed” then eventually “harvest” in order to maintain their youthfully wrinkle-free appearance, but it should be noted that Earth was their deceased mother’s favorite planet. Earth currently belongs to Balem, but all three vampiristic siblings see Jupiter as the prime key to harvesting the fatty, oversized crop of Earth as their very own.
Jupiter is totally clueless about her status as the rightful owner of Earth until aliens attempt to assassinate her. Enter Jupiter’s Lycantant (a genetically-spliced hybrid of wolf and man) knight in shining armor and valiant ex-skyjacker, Caine (Channing Tatum). From this point forward, Jupiter Ascending descends into a seemingly endless loop of Jupiter getting kidnapped, then rescued by Caine. (Caine is an obedient canine — thankfully, Jupiter loves dogs!) Even as Jupiter’s sociopolitical consciousness evolves, she remains an oh-so-helpless damsel in distress — but let’s give her some credit, she does make the right choices when it comes to choosing between a royal or working class life, as well as saving her relatives or home planet.
Endless set pieces — albeit it visually stunning — give way to very little advancement in a dizzyingly cylindrical narrative; and, admittedly, Jupiter Ascending only really succeeds when it delves into its more philosophically profound existential concepts. (Yeah, sure, the Brazil homage is woefully out of place, but it is nothing short of entertaining, especially when it concludes with a boldly obvious Terry Gilliam cameo who effortlessly squeezes the quintessential Orwellian line of “27B stroke 6” into his dialogue.) Where Jupiter Ascending truly transcends Hollywood science fiction is in its verbose originality. First and foremost, the Wachowski siblings proudly present a universe in which the “good” see beyond the superficial differences of race, sexual orientation, and genetic reengineering; all the while, they prey on our (human) fearful nightmare of being mere pawns in the inner workings of a much grander universe. No matter how self-obsessed humans are, their problems are minuscule in the scheme of things; even the highest class on Earth are mere slaves to the true powers of the universe, thus elevating the evils of Capitalism to a whole new perspective.