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Friday, 26 May 2017

DVD Of The Week: Jupiter Ascending (2014)


Never listen to film critics! I was all poised to pick Jupiter Ascending up when it came out on Blu-Ray, but when the movie was released it was met with a tide of scathing reviews that made me reconsider my investment.

I finally purchased it the other week (admittedly a lot cheaper than on its original release) and discovered that the critics had been unnecessarily harsh on it.

Written and directed by the Wachowskis, I can see that Jupiter Ascending might be an acquired taste, with its shifting tones and episodic nature this is space opera with a heavy dose of fairy tale.

But it was a taste I very quickly acquired.

Mila Kunis stars as Jupiter Jones, the daughter of a Russian refugee, working in her impoverished family's cleaning business, who finds herself drawn into the grand machinations of a feuding family of super-rich extraterrestrial nobles fighting over the ownership of Earth.

Grand ideas, beautifully-realised alien races, starships, space stations etc all provide the backdrop for the fairy tale romance between the "princess" (Jupiter Jones) and "huntsman" (satyr-like Caine Wise, played by Channing Tatum) on their picaresque journey through this 'new' universe, like a spin on The Odyssey mixed in with a large serving of Ancient Aliens.

The layered script bombards its audience with brilliant ideas; as well as learning the true history of the human race, the film throws out explanations for crop circles, the importance of bees, and much more.

Each of the three alien sibling nobles tries to court Jupiter in their own segment of the story. This is interwoven with other sub-plots such as the Brazil-like stop at a bureaucratic space-station where Jupiter is put through an ordeal by red tape to claim her rightful inheritance (this sequence even features, rather knowingly, a cameo by Terry Gilliam).

Accentuating the alienness of the humanoid antagonists, there is a lot of very mannered delivery - such as Eddie Redmayne's whispering turn as the main villain of the piece, Balem Abrasax - but I loved it, simply because it was so odd.

Jupiter Ascending is weird and wonderful, overflowing with innovation, and highly stylised in a manner very akin to that found in the two Guardians Of The Galaxy movies (although, admittedly, darker and without the constant flow of humour).

I'd hoped I would - finally - like this film once I got to see it, I just didn't expect it to speak to me as it did, touching on so many concepts I love to have rattling round in my head as fodder for my gaming.

Even the denouement, which I initially found a bit peculiar given everything that had gone before, I eventually realised was simply adopting a well-worn comic book trope of the superhero's secret identity (this was Superman putting on the glasses and returning to his life as Clark Kent, the mild manner reporter).

The main fault I found with the film was a technical one - because of the huge variation in sound levels, between some of the dialogue and the bombastic effects, I kept having to reach for the volume control, alternating between ensuring I could hear what was going on and not annoying the neighbours too much with the sounds of massive space battles.

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