The parents of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) met in Russia, her dad an astronomer and her mother (Maria Doyle Kennedy) passing by a river he was beside while looking through his telescope when chance dictated they should soon be in love. They moved in together, her mother fell pregnant, and just as Jupiter was about to arrive a gang of criminals barged into their apartment and stole the telescope, pausing briefly to shoot her father dead when he tried to stop them. So it was her surviving parent headed over to the United States as an illegal immigrant and her daughter grew up to be a maid, cleaning toilets and the like, bemoaning her depressing life yet unable to change it. But what if she wasn't only an illegal alien?
What if Jupe was an actual person from outer space? It's a lot to swallow, not only for her but for all of us in the audience in part of the string of ambitious, big budget flops The Wachowskis created on a fantastical theme, coasting on their reputation as the siblings who created The Matrix, and not the siblings who created the Matrix sequels, though they were that as well. Here they served up a cacophonic combination of The Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy and Flash Gordon (1980 flavour) with a dash of a lovey-dovey Terminator, only with the humour drained out of it. Supposedly the directors had included a more lighthearted tone to the project than they had before, so you were not supposed to take it so very seriously.
Which was just as well when it seemed nobody particularly was taking it seriously anyway, and if they were they would have a hard time seeking out the jokes, aside from the one everyone picked up on about loving dogs, except they thought that was meant to be sincere character development. Why would Mila's heroine mention her preference for canines? And why was she named after the brainbox leader of The Three Investigators, popular crimefighting paperback series of old? You don't discover the reason for the latter, but the reason for the former is because one day she is minding her own business, selling her eggs as instructed by her manipulative cousin, when Channing Tatum as a half-wolf man bursts into the operating theatre and starts shooting the medical team.
You can tell from that this was not a conventional beginning to the average would-be blockbuster, yet for all its eccentric trappings this was a disappointingly ordinary space opera we were delivered, leaving you latching on to the weirder elements because they were what made the movie entertaining. It still wasn't a laff riot or a wholly immersive science fiction epic, and most of that was down to the viewer feeling a curious sense of deja vu if they'd seen enough science fiction on film down the years, but perhaps the biggest problem was the perspective. This was wish-fulfilment, fair enough, but was the wish to be a Cinderella who finds out she's royalty (from space) or was it to be the intrepid wolfman who saves the beautiful lady in the nick of time over and over again?
Maybe it was both, but that yearning to be swept up in the big, strong arms of a dashing hero was a recurring theme, one that went along with an anti-authoritarian bent you often had with this sort of fantasy, which linked into a suspicion of bureaucracy that was so dedicated it brought in Brazil director Terry Gilliam himself for one scene. As it was a British co-production, there were a bunch of thesps from that region of the world putting on some silly makeup more often than not (Gugu Mbatha-Raw couldn't have believed her ears, and neither will you), with head baddie Eddie Redmayne adopting an evil Ian McKellen persona for his Emperor Ming stand-in and Sean Bean showing an affinity for bees, so of course was playing Sting. Sorry, Stinger. The whole shebang looked very expensive, if far too busy to be truly appealing, and hobbled by the need for Jupiter to have the plot explained to her - and us - every five minutes. Show, don't tell! But for all its multiple missteps, it was so maligned that if you liked the unlikely underdog you may find a soft spot for Jupiter Ascending. Music by Michael Giacchino.
Reclusive American director who, along with brother Larry, now Lana, wrote and directed the Matrix trilogy. The Chicago-born Wachowski brothers debuted with the lesbian gangster thriller Bound, and followed it with 1999's sci-fi epic The Matrix which was a critical and commercial smash and set a new standard for special effects. Sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were less well received but still scored at the box office. What did not score was their live action version of cartoon Speed Racer, their adaptation of the bestselling book Cloud Atlas or their original epic Jupiter Ascending, though cult followings were not far away. Also wrote the screeplays for Assassins and V For Vendetta. Born Andy, and credited as such on her first films.
Lana Wachowski (1965 - )
Reclusive American director who, along with brother Andy, wrote and directed the Matrix trilogy. The Chicago-born Wachowski brothers debuted with the lesbian gangster thriller Bound, and followed it with 1999's sci-fi thriller The Matrix which was a critical and commercial smash and set a new standard for special effects. Sequels The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions were less well received but still scored at the box office. What did not score was their live action version of cartoon Speed Racer, their adaptation of the bestselling Cloud Atlas or their original epic Jupiter Ascending, though cult followings were not far away. Also wrote the screeplays for Assassins and V For Vendetta. Born Larry, and credited as such on her first few films, she became Lana in the 21st century.