Jupiter As­cend­ing

The Banks job

SFX: The Sci-Fi and Fantasy Magazine - - Cinema -

Re­lease Date: 6 Fe­bru­ary

12A | 127 min­utes Di­rec­tors: Lana and Andy Wa­chowski Cast: Mila Ku­nis, Chan­ning Ta­tum, Ed­die Red­mayne, Tup­pence Mid­dle­ton, Dou­glas Booth, Sean Bean

How will the Wa­chowskis

be re­mem­bered when the time comes for them to hang up their me­ga­phones? Some 16 years af­ter Neo’s first ground­break­ing adventure in cy­berspace, “the mak­ers of The Ma­trix” is still the main way they’re de­scribed. Yet that ig­nores the fact that in the decade and a half since, their out­put – while of­ten flawed – has never been less than in­ter­est­ing. From the overblown Ma­trix se­quels to the sugar rush of Speed Racer and the mind- bend­ing Cloud At­las, Lana and Andy have so fre­quently pushed the en­ve­lope of what it’s pos­si­ble to put on screen that they de­serve the ben­e­fit of the doubt when it comes to the oc­ca­sional sto­ry­telling mis­step. No­body makes movies quite like they do.

Jupiter As­cend­ing is ev­ery­thing you’d ex­pect from the sib­lings’ first trip into or­bit, a fun, in­ven­tive, vis­ually stunning piece of space opera. Given free rein and a mega- bud­get to play among the stars, the duo have plun­dered ideas from a di­verse range of sources ( both screen and page), and mixed them all up to make some­thing that feels un­like any­thing we’ve seen be­fore. In­deed, this is pos­si­bly as close as cinema has ever come to match­ing the vast scope of Banksian lit­er­ary SF, such is the de­tail of the pro­duc­tion de­sign – the sheer den­sity of things hap­pen­ing in each frame is mind­bog­gling.

Both vis­ually and in the ac­tion stakes, Jupiter As­cend­ing could give pretty much any space movie a run for its money. One ver­tigo- in­duc­ing scene set above Chicago, where Chan­ning Ta­tum’s alien sol­dier Caine Wise protects Mila Ku­nis’s Jupiter as he evades alien at­tack­ers while fly­ing among the sky­scrapers on rocket boots, is truly ex­hil­a­rat­ing, and feels so real you can al­most feel the wind in your hair.

But go in ex­pect­ing Guardians Of The Galaxy and you’ll be dis­ap­pointed. Yes, it has a hu­man whisked away from Earth at its cen­tre ( in this case, Mila Ku­nis’s epony­mous toi­let cleaner). Yes, it has a mega­lo­ma­niac vil­lain who cares not a jot for the lit­tle peo­ple ( quelle sur­prise). And ob­vi­ously the A- grade spe­cial ef­fects are a given. But that’s where the similarities end.

Where Guardians pulls off that tricky bal­anc­ing act be­tween hav­ing its tongue in its cheek and be­ing cred­i­ble science fic­tion, Jupiter opts for a dif­fer­ent route, tak­ing it­self en­tirely se­ri­ously. It gets away with it too, be­cause even at its most camp and out­ra­geous – and it’s of­ten un­de­ni­ably both – you al­ways feel that ev­ery­one in­volved be­lieves 100% in what they’re do­ing. Yes, you even buy that Sean Bean is a sol­dier whose genes are spliced with a bee’s. Per­versely, it’s when Jupiter ac­tu­ally tries to be funny – in a cou­ple of botched one- lin­ers and the rather broad por­trayal of Jupiter’s Rus­sian fam­ily – that it feels least as­sured.

As in The Ma­trix, it’s the vil­lains who stay in the mem­ory. Ed­die Red­mayne, cur­rently grab­bing head­lines for his role as Stephen Hawk­ing in the awards- hoover­ing The The­ory Of Ev­ery­thing, is bril­liant in an en­tirely dif­fer­ent way as Balem Abrasax. The schem­ing el­der sib­ling of an uber- rich and pow­er­ful fam­ily, he’s try­ing to claim the Earth for him­self in a per­for­mance of unashamed pan­tomime vil­lainy that comes with just enough men­ace to keep him threat­en­ing. His in­ter­ac­tions with sim­i­larly Machi­avel­lian sib­lings Kalique ( Tup­pence Mid­dle­ton) and Ti­tus ( Dou­glas Booth) play out like Dal­las In Space, with whole plan­ets tak­ing the place of oil fields. Luck­ily, how­ever, the po­lit­i­cal machi­na­tions here are rather more ex­cit­ing than they were in The Phantom Men­ace. It’s just a shame that you re­ally have to keep your wits about you to keep track of who’s do­ing what to whom and why. If you find your­self get­ting

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