For months, trailers for Jupiter Ascending have built up my expectations for this new movie from the Wachowskis (The Matrix, Vendetta, Cloud Atlas…). Finally, last Tuesday I had the opportunity to see a preview showing of “Jupiter Ascending” in 3D, and was not disappointed!
I should start by admitting that I am life-long fan of spectacular special effects, cutting-edge CGI, and fancy artistic design in films. A film’s plot can be a total dud and I will still enjoy watching it if it has enough eye candy. On that “eye candy” scale, this film gets a 9.9/10 in my book (the lizard aliens’ mouth and facial movements didn’t quite convince me, or else it would be a 10/10). I totally agree that if an advanced, age-old spacefaring civilization exists, it should use a form of Gothic, Art Deco, and/or Renaissance-style architecture! Really, I’m not being sarcastic here. The effect is breathtaking. When I become a fabulously wealthy space aristocrat, I am hiring this art team to design my cities and spaceships. If you want a taste of what the visuals are like, and a look behind the scenes at the artistic ideas that made it happen, check out the official on-line “Look Book”.
Then, there is the action. A lot of it! One of the best action sequences happens towards the beginning of the story – an incredible chase scene that also involves major damage to Chicago landmarks – but there are exciting sequences throughout the film. Seat-clenching, hold-your-breath sequences. However, the film isn’t action from start to finish. There are some slower interludes for political machinations and humor.
As far as the plot goes, it isn’t the most original story in the world, but it isn’t a remake or a rip-off either. It incorporates familiar “archetypal” fairytale and sci-fi elements with which we are mostly familiar, and that’s fine with me; there are basic stories and characters that resonate with us and that we like to hear over and over again in different forms. The story isn’t preachy but does send some good messages about things like the value of each person being rooted in the human individual as such, regardless of social status, and the fact that who we are depends more on our decisions than on our genes or wealth. And I enjoyed all the references to UFO conspiracy theories and subculture. (I only recently learned that there are supposedly several recognized and categorized alien species that have visited earth; this film includes two or three of these “traditional” species.)
The acting is pretty good; despite some criticism from reviewers, I think Eddie Redmayne does a good “snobby insane megalomaniacal quiet but explosive villain.” A bit over-the-top, perhaps, but in the context, it works.
Certainly, the film isn’t perfect. Some of the dialogue isn’t great. There isn’t time to get explanations for everything, nor for all the characters to be fully developed. As one critic said, this movie might have benefitted from being a mini-series instead of just one film. There is one comic interlude that seems almost out of place with it’s change of tone compared to the rest of the film, but I feel it is still worth including because of the point it makes. There are also one or two cuts that seem abrupt – like last-ditch efforts to get the running time down closer to two hours; I would willingly watch an extended version to see what was missing.
Most critics didn’t like it, but I loved it. Flashy and full of CGI? Overstimulating? Sometimes absurd or bizarre? Sock it to me!