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June 2015

Jupiter Ascending

cast: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, and Tuppence Middleton

directors: Andy and Lana Wachowski

127 minutes (12) 2015
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Warner blu-ray region free

RATING: 7/10
review by Steven Hampton

Jupiter Ascending

The makers of Cloud Atlas and The Matrix trilogy return with a hectic combination of Cinderella meets Captain Marvel, against a dark space-opera backdrop reminiscent of Dune. Very much an adventure in the astronomatrix, this is certainly not a remake of Al Adamson's soft-core skiffy musical farce Cinderella 2000 (1977), a minor cult flick that remains practically unwatchable when compared to the Wachowskis undeniably spectacular melange of Barbarella, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, and several other SF icons we might point a telescope at as significant models for what appears in Jupiter Ascending.

Mila Kunis (building modest integrity upon mildly notable genre credits since Oz The Great And Powerful, Ted, The Book Of Eli, Max Payne) plays a chambermaid named Jupiter, the unsuspecting genetic recurrence of cosmic royalty, and uncrowned queen of planet Earth. Jupiter is rescued from mercenary stalkers by prince charmless Caine Wise (Channing Tatum, 'Duke' in the G.I. Joe movies, White House Down, soon to be mutant Gambit in Rupert Wyatt's X-Men spin-off), a breed of spacer-hunter wolfman who quite effortlessly sweeps his absurdly calm princess up, up and away to the stars, to go swanning off through the jaw-dropping regional headquarters of a vast imperial decadencia.

Our girl Jupes is wanted because she's a rival heiress to galactic fortunes currently in the investment portfolios of the Abrasax clan of immortal despots, the worst of whom is leering Balem (Eddie Redmayne, who recently portrayed Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything). There are treks to distant worlds through warp-field star-gate portals and increasingly unsettling mortal dangers make themselves known when the preternaturally unruffled heroine falls headlong into a power struggle for control of a harvestable resource for perpetuity, with all life on Earth hanging in the balance. Be a toilet cleaner or the super-heroine owner of a planet? Ah, that's a difficult decision for anyone, but especially when played by an actress who only got this role because her pal Natalie Portman didn't want the job!

Terry Gilliam revels in a neat little cameo as the galaxy's only sympathetic bureaucrat but, elsewhere, in the almost infinitely expansive Abrasax realm, clunky geek humour abounds. (Sean Bean appears as expositionist, and his character's still alive at the end of the movie!) The Wachowskis prove that they are enthusiastic referents, in the widely approved manner of Tarantino sampling; borrowing many influences from a genre spectrum of TV and movies, and paying thinly veiled tributes to all 'n' sundry sci-fi favourites. However, even taking into account all of their cod-gothic visual compositions - like the doomed cloud-base in the red-spot atmospheric storm of gas-giant Jupiter - their wannabe auteurism often fails as they struggle to produce dialogue of any merit as anything more than obvious riffs on their own back catalogue. (For instance, "Life is an act of consumption" harks back to Cloud Atlas.)

In conclusion, this is not a bad movie. As another CGI Hollywood exercise, it's fine. Just don't expect all of its suicidally-compressed political commentary and comically-exaggerated economic criticism to be blatantly obvious on your first viewing. There is a hidden depth in this spacetime odyssey but, buried by mega-gigs of CGI, it is kept under a hat that's as old, and old-fashioned (in genre terms), as something from "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away."

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