Magazine article Variety

Jupiter Ascending

Magazine article Variety

Jupiter Ascending

Article excerpt

FILM REVIEW

Jupiter Ascending

DIRECTORS: The Wachowskis

STARRING: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum

In "Cloud Atlas," the Wachowskis wildly overreached while tackling the notion of reincarnation via a daring, genre-spanning nonlinear narrative that challenged the very limits of conventional storytelling. Now, with "Jupiter Ascending," the subject arises once again, albeit in the most banal, been-there-done-that way imaginable: as a garish, "Phantom Menace"-esque space opera in which a lowly Russian cleaning lady (Mila Kunis) is born with DNA identical to that of the most powerful woman in the universe. The movie refers to this statistical improbability as a "recurrence," which could also describe the painfully familiar feeling we get from watching the Wachowskis fail once again, this time on an unrecoverable $175 million budget, despite whatever boost Imax 3D ticket sales can add.

Originally slated to open on July 25, 2014, the Warner Bros, release slipped back more than six months under the excuse that the production needed more time to finish its elaborate visual effects - which, to be fair, arc among the most stunning ever witnessed in a genre known for mind-blowing imagery. But in the meantime, the studio has made little attempt to communicate to audiences what the film is: a fairy tale writ on the largest possible scale, embellished with a love story between the oblivious princess Jupiter Jones (Kunis) and the chivalrous skyjacker Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), who rips her out of her dreary existence and reveals her true destiny.

One day, Her Majesty is scrubbing toilets in Chicago hotels; the next she's being pursued across the galaxy by three greedy intergalactic royals - Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique CRippence Middleton) and Titus (Douglas Booth). As the surviving members of the Abrasax dynasty, the trio is threatened by the fact that this less-enlightened human shares their dead mother's genetic identity, thereby entitling her to claim control of the vast tracts of interspace real estate they all covet. It's a weird loophole in conventional inheritance law: If the deceased party should happen to be reborn, all property falls to her - the odds of which are about as good as someone finding a Bombay street urchin with fingerprints that match those of the Queen of England.

But what do we know? According to the film's own mythology, Earthlings are just entering the genetic age. Meanwhile, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, an elite clan of humans discovered a way to extend their lives almost indefinitely by extracting a glowing opalescent liquid from other humans, whom they plant on conducive worlds, then wait patiently for millennia until overpopulation exceeds their allotted planet's ability to sustain life, at which point, the Abrasax landlords swoop in to harvest the entire species.

Simple cloning didn't work out so well for the Abrasax rulers, although their over-decorated homes appear to be crawling with new species, as well as several interesting genetic hybrids. Gugu Mbatha-Raw appears with big rodent- like ears, for example, while Tatum's character turns out to be a Lycantant, a crossbreed of a wolf and a man. Apart from his greenish-blond goatee and everso-slightly pointed ears, he doesn't look all that inhuman, though he claims to have more in common with a dog. …

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