I’m aware I’m kind of behind on this review, what with it coming out in February. But I’ve only just got the chance to rewatch the beauty that is Jupiter Ascending, and confirm that yes, all my initial impressions were right.
What is there to be said about Jupiter Ascending? It’s not a movie; it is An Experience. I daresay in the future it will become a religion. It’s Flash Gordon but somehow sillier; it’s The Great Gatsby drunk in space in the eighties as imagined by the sixties as imagined by Michael Bay; it’s every novel I tried to write when I was fourteen transposed verbatim to the screen.
Mila Kunis is sinfully pretty as toilet cleaner Jupiter Jones. We are treated to a fifteen-minute opening sequence showing her parents meeting, her father dying, her being born etc., which is good because I wouldn’t have understood the rest of the movie if this hadn’t been included. She hates her life and is exhausted by her huge Russian family, but her dream is to buy a $2,000 telescope from eBay. Having no money, she goes to sell her eggs for cash; unfortunately the clinic is staffed by aliens who try to kidnap her. But then Channing Tatum, as a wolf-hybrid albino spaceman, shows up in his hover boots and takes her to Sean Bean, who is a were-bee. Turns out bees can smell princesses, and Jupiter is really a space princess who owns the earth.
There is too much plot to fit into a short review, but rest assured that is but the tip of the iceberg. The highlight of the film is undoubtedly Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax, the villain of the piece. He’s… well, where do you start? He’s an angular Cumberbatchian creature, wrapped in an Oedipal complex wrapped in a glittery cape. He not only has no indoor voice; he has no “within the same mile radius of me” voice. Actually that’s not quite true; his voice has two modes. “Brian Blessed at a foghorn convention”, and “Giles Brandreth the day after the foghorn convention, trying to recover his strained voice as he tells a mouse a bedtime story.” I love Abrasax. I could write entire theses on him. I’m going to name my firstborn after him. Redmayne invokes what I like to call “ the reverse-Oscar-retraction effect.” To demonstrate: after seeing House at the End of the Street, I grouchily demanded Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar for Silver Linings Playbook be returned. Same with everyone involved with Seventh Son. After seeing Jupiter Ascending, I demand Redmayne be presented with as many Oscars as his pale, bony hands can carry. Reward the boy. He may save us yet.
There is sincere credit due; the Wachowskis have created a stunningly gorgeous world of Art Deco spaceships, human-animal hybrids and glittery blue life-sustaining liquids. Even if I had not been entertained by the film I would grudgingly admit it was beautifully rendered. Design buffs will have a great time with the sets, costumes and makeup, and a few knowing nods to other sci-fi greats. After a ten-minute sequence that seems to be an homage to the bureaucratic gymnastics of Brazil, Terry Fucking Gilliam himself shows up in a cameo as the Seal and Signet minister because of course he fucking does. (Incidentally, I just tried to imagine Jupiter Ascending as directed by Terry Gilliam, and it may well be the only narrative in history that would be made less crazy by Gilliam’s directorial input)
Is it a good movie? “No” is the short answer. Did I like it? It’s going to be near the top of my “favourite movies of 2k15” list. And by Jupiter, did I have a good time. In a fantasy/sci-fi market saturated by anaemic Hunger Games rip-offs, Jupiter Ascending was a breath of fresh (glittery, camp and very silly) air. So gather some friends and have a home viewing. Make sure you’re sober; you’ll need to retain your full faculties to fully appreciate everything. And maybe have a group discussion afterwards. With slides. Doors are locked on the outside.