By Bill Arceneaux
Could Jupiter Ascending be the new Dune? A comparison of the two movies has been made by many a critic, and it’s easy to see why: both films had high budgets and were helmed by playful and experimental filmmakers. Back when Dune came out, studios were trying to duplicate the success of Star Wars with a new kind of sci-fi space saga franchise. It didn’t work, as the result was incoherent goofiness. Bold incoherent goofiness, but still. For Jupiter, its release comes at a time of superhero blockbusters and young adult adaptations, and any project with even a possibility of becoming a series that can capture that demographic, will be made – no matter the final cost.
Again, it didn’t exactly work.
The Wachowskis are more than capable as filmmakers to deliver stories that are compelling both visually and narratively. For this critic, it doesn’t get any better than Cloud Atlas, at least when it comes to their catalogue. Silly makeup design aside, that movie exists as an almost miracle, transferring a near “unfilmable” book into a piece of cinema that recalls the works of D.W. Griffith (not the racist works, mind you). The Wachowskis are also grown up children, who love to play around with the toys at their disposal. I remember an interview one of them did for the first Matrix movie, where they talked about the concept of “Robots vs. Kung Fu” in the giddiest of ways.
It’s not that much of a jump to go from The Matrix to Speed Racer, or even from Cloud Atlas to Jupiter Ascending. The Wachowskis have many an idea, and are lucky enough to put them up on the big screen, darn it! What is Jupiter Ascending? It’s that little sister from The Lego Movie writing and making her own space opera is what it is. I’m almost discombobulated in trying to figure out if my giggling during the film equals enjoyment or disdain. Maybe both? I think you can feel both things towards a movie, and at the same time, too.
What is Jupiter Ascending? It’s Eddie Redmayne and gravity boots. What must’ve been intended as a much longer story (there are too many hard and awkward cuts and transitions) has been trimmed down to only two memorable elements: an Oscar nominee turning schlock into gold and a new method for capturing stunts. Redmayne plays his part – that of an heir to a space fortune – as a momma’s boy with momma’s boy problems. Everything is spoken in a whisper and then A QUICK SHOUT before going back to whisper. For a sci-fi villain, he’s also not too clever, as he ends up committing the most overused plan of all time to get what he wants. With all of this technology at his disposal, to resort to thug level extortion is hilarious. His whole role and performance is hilarious, and I have to believe it was meant that way.
And the gravity boots. Every moment Channing Tatum is using them to whiz through the air, I am happy. The first big chase sequence, shot above Chicago, supposedly took half a year by itself to shoot. They even developed a special rig to capture it all. The end result is pretty dazzling.
“Meant to be hilarious” and “pretty dazzling” are the key phrases here. Further exploration might uncover that this movie is some sort of mirror held up against the current state of Hollywood, with The Wachowskis shouting “LOOK AT IT!” Though, as of this writing, that remains mere speculation.
Is Jupiter Ascending the new Dune? No. Is it the new Space Truckers? The new John Carter? Maybe. It’s lavishly goofy, decadently indulgent and courageously bold. Most of the time, you’ll find the images to be laughable, and some of the time you’ll find them to be downright pleasant. Laser guns, genetically spliced humanoids, talking dragon like creatures, warships that zip through wormholes – almost everything you could ever want in a single movie. And it’s all so crazy. And ridiculous. And fun.
You know what? Let’s end the speculation. This is a mirror held up to Hollywood. With a nice middle finger in the center, too. Thank you, Wachowskis. Thank you.
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