Flawed Family Fantasy – ★★★
The Wachowski siblings seem like the Hollywood kids of divorcees that no one wants to talk to, but are happy to keep throwing money at. Their films no longer make much money in cinemas with V for Vendetta (which they wrote and produced) being their last bonafide “hit”, all the way back in 2006. Despite this, they’re some of the best “world builders” working in Hollywood, with the production design, mythology and visuals probably mattering more to them than things like plot or dialogue.
With Jupiter Ascending, Lana and Andy team up to bring us a story of a girl by the wonderful name of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a cleaner from a big Russian family living in Chicago. Unbeknownst to her, she is actually the heir to an alien dynasty who can claim to inherit the earth. These aliens (led by a wonderfully dour and stiff Eddie Redmayne) have been harvesting lifeforms from different planets for millennia and plan to tackle Earth soon. Everyone wants a piece of Jupiter but thankfully Jupiter has a saviour to help her, a wolf-evolved warrier by the name of Caine Wise (played by Channing Tatum) with a pair of flying boots and a shiny shield.
The romantic subplot between Caine and Jupiter is sickening and just does not work. You wish Kunis had gone the Harrison Ford Star Wars route and spouted the infamous line “you can type this shit, but you can’t say it!”, as it’s insulting to women and aspiring rulers of the Earth everywhere just how bad her swooning over Caine is. The humour and charisma that we know Tatum can bring to a dynamic like this is MIA so if you’re looking for that kind of fix, go check out the Magic Mike XXL trailer. This is strictly 12A, and most of the time would pass for PG.
Those issues aside, it’s impossible not to fall for this world and get wrapped up in the action. Cloud Atlas is one of the most underrated pieces of cinema from the last decade and deserved to be seen by so many more people. Similarly, if you can watch Speed Racer and not feel like a 10-year-old who just knocked back a bucket of skittles then you’re missing something.
The ruling Abrasax family are wonderful villains with all of them ramping up the “must be evil” dial to 11. Redmayne is quite likely to take home an Oscar later in the month and is going half-Brando, half-Boosh here as he has some fun after the physical challenges of playing Stephen Hawking on-screen. Kunis is someone you can root for and while she could have done without all the romantic shackles, she is still someone you want to see in charge. The Wizard Of Oz’s Dorothy is the obvious reference point, and while it is blasphemy to even suggest such things, the Wachowskis do hit on a lot of similar notes to the 1939 classic.
The Wachowskis make films that are unlike anything else being done by someone with $100million to make a film and while there are some serious flaws here, it’s still an honourable, shamelessly enjoyable, fantasy family film.
Oh and Ireland’s Maria Doyle Kennedy plays a Russian stereotype.
Released across Ireland on February 6th 2015