Bringer of Jollity

I swear, I didn't plan to have two sci-fi entries in a row! Things just shake out weirdly, sometimes. A friend wanted to know if I wanted to go catch an IMAX 3-D screening of the Wachowskis' latest movie, Jupiter Ascending, and I was instantly on board. It's not so much that I'm a mega-fan. But so much about this movie seemed interesting to me. I'd heard that it was spectacularly eye-popping. That it was a jumbled mess. That moving its release date spelled its doom. That its action scenes were technical marvels. That its production design was top-notch.

Curiously, all these preconceived notions came in equal amounts of positive and negative buzz, with the result I went in with basically zero expectations. Yay! Say what you will about the Wachowskis', but you can't claim that their movies are boring. I enjoyed Cloud Atlas for what it was, and admired its ambition, and after seeing Jupiter Ascending, I can report that I have almost identical feelings now.

Attempting to summarize the plot is a fool's errand, but let's give it a whirl: OK, so Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is a depressed house-cleaner in Chicago who lives with her big, loud, annoying family (except her dad, who was murdered while her mother was pregnant). Aliens soon show up to kidnap and/or kill her at the behest of some royal siblings from beyond the stars, who through a genetic fluke, are actually her biological children. They want to prevent her from taking her throne and thus inheriting the Earth, because that would end their plan of massacring planets for human juice that keeps people young forever. So an albino half-wolf man (Channing Tatum), who originally agrees to kidnap Jupiter winds up falling for her, and with the help of one of his old compatriots (Sean Bean) who lives in a house filled with bees, tries to assist her instead. This enrages the royal siblings, the most violent of which (Eddie Redmayne) doubles-down on his efforts to murder her.

Got all that? And that's only, like, 65% of the plot. As a deep, trenchant science-fiction movie, Jupiter Ascending doesn't work at all. It's full-to-bursting, and is kind of a disaster. But a beautiful disaster! As a hyper-kinetic, Cinderella-in-space fairy tale, it's a lot of fun. So nothing makes sense. Who cares? The action set-pieces are exciting, the hair and costuming are campy and gorgeous, and the actors are all game for the silly things they're called upon to do. Don't think of Jupiter Ascending as science-fiction. Think of it as futuristic kabuki. As long as you're capable of sitting back to enjoy the ride without putting too much stock in the plot, it is well-worth the price of admission.

Jupiter Ascending: B


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