Time to Remember
Once upon a time in 1999, two filmmakers wrote and directed a film that would change the cinematic landscape forever. With The Matrix , the Wachowski siblings showed great promise in fusing live action anime , pseudo-philosophical theories, and cutting edge visual effects (hello! remember the first time you saw bullet-time? Jaw dropping!) which resulted in a cyber-punk classic that did the near impossible: make Keanu Reeves seem relevant.
Unfortunately it seems that it was a one time affair, unable to be reproduced in the subsequent sequels that failed to eclipse the power of the first film. The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were bloated confusing affairs filled with More whiz-bang imagery but resulted in proving the saying that more is just ...more. Their next movies Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas (the latter of which I actually liked despite it's arty reach) failed to connect with audiences despite their acknowledged visual splendor.
Which brings us to their latest spectacle. Jupiter Ascending is gorgeous to behold (definitely worthwhile to see in HD 3-D Imax if you have such an inclination) and the story is...well, it's pretty straightforward in a slightly confusing way. Try to follow if you can. Jupiter Jones (played with plucky charm by Mila Kunis ) is a maid who longs for a life of more than cleaning toilets and sneakily trying on her well to do employers gowns and jewels. Besides her fashion aspirations , she one simple desire: to make enough money to buy a telescope just like the one her dead astronomer dad had ( hence her stripper cum sci-fi babe of a name). Her cousin drags her into a money making scheme that involves selling her eggs to a fertility clinic. Unfortunately, the clinic is manned by a group of alien hunters who have been tracking with the intent of killing her. You see, earth is not the original home of humankind. It was seeded along with many other planets in the universe by Alien royalty for the whole purpose of being harvested by said Royals once the human species has reached a genetic state of perfection and their "essence' is then extracted to create an age defying serum that grants eternal youth. To top it off, Jupiter is the heir to the dynasty as she is the genetic reincarnation of the recently deceased Queen of the universe and her "siblings" are hunting her to stop her from ascending to her rightful throne. The main baddie in the bunch Balem (played with laughable intensity by Eddie Redmayne who has the bad fortune of reminding me of Jaye Davidson in Stargate) wants her dead so he can claim earth as his own. His brother Titus (a prettily bland Douglas Booth) has his own agenda in retrieving Jupiter- he wants to wed her to share in her power, and so he sends Cain Wise (Channing Tatum sporting pointy ears and badly dyed facial hair), a wolf-dog-human hybrid ex-soldier to save the day. Dog-boy sports some natty hover shoes that help him zoom to the rescue, and in one particularly stunning set piece whisks Jupiter through the Chicago skyline.
To reveal any more would spoil the movie. It is filled with visual references and odes to other sci-fi visionaries (look for Terry Gilliam in one particular scene that could be directly lifted from his masterpiece Brazil). Actually, there is little that is original to the film. It generously borrows from so many films- a dash of Wizard of Oz, a sprinkle of Chronicles of Riddick, a scoche of The Fifth Element, and a wraparound of Maid to Order . Yet it is entertaining and stunning to look at. The cast seems to be in on the joke except for Tatum, who brings an earnest solemnity to his role. Jupiter Ascending is meant to be fun and diverting, nothing more. It is the type of movie that is rarely made these days with a detailed vision of other worlds, and with that intent, the Wachowski's soar.
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