Sunday, 15 March 2015

Jupiter Ascending

We very nearly missed Jupiter Ascending, just barely catching her last gasp in UK cinemas. We were so oddly committed to seeing the film we actually trekked to a 10.40am – yes, 10.40am – showing, at a Cineworld buried deep in the bowels of Shopping City, Wood Green. I’m glad I didn’t miss the movie. I enjoyed it.

I’m not entirely sure where the really bad notices are coming from. I could never award one or two stars to a film purely on the basis of it being daft. Jupiter Ascending is plenty stupid, but it entertains far better than, say, Prometheus (which bored me silly) and it never made my teeth grind like Pacific Rim (which I had to switch off after five minutes and will never attempt again).

All of these B movies suffer from being made in our Age Of The Bloater (Prometheus is 124 minutes, Jupiter is 127, Pacific Rim 132). But Jupiter is so light hearted that it only lost me for twenty minutes or so, during the space wedding sequence. Otherwise I was right there with it.

Anyway, a few thoughts:

Oop - there she goes again
Jupiter Descending

Jupiter does spend an awful lot of time tumbling from a great height, only to be scooped up by Wolf Boots, or whatever his name is. She is rather kicked around by events – which wouldn’t matter so much if she had better lines. Kunis has a long association with comedy (albeit Family Guy’s nasty stuff) and I’m surprised the Wachowskis didn’t tilt the part in that direction after casting her - Jupiter has one or two moments that cry out for a zinger that never comes. Kunis isn’t great, but better anyone than the originally mooted Natalie Portman, who should steer well clear of this stuff.

Jupiter Viewing

Well, let Jupiter drop, fall, plunge and plummet to her heart’s content – so long as I can see what the hell is going on. It’s not perfect, but the film does manage to occasionally show the audience what is happening - and that has been rare in the Bloater age. The skies are never overcrowded in the aerial battles, and the combat in general is never overwhelmed by machine gun cuts and too close close-ups. All of the action sequences are enjoyable for their willingness to step back and let you see.

Give over, there's nowt wrong with your ears
Jupiter Strutting

To do that requires confidence, and the Wachowskis have it in spades. The movie has a cocksure stride and humming energy that endeared me to it instantly. I like a film that knows it place and can tell what’s important: so while it pauses a moment to mock the idea that we are alone in the universe, it doesn’t bother to ask Sean Bean to try a different accent. I can imagine how this quality might wind up some viewers: Jupiter’s convenient leaps in understanding (she memorises interstellar law in a jiffy) might seem like carelessness. But to me they indicate the Wachowskis urging the story on, not stopping to try and Polyfilla cracks along the way. Start picking at them and you’ll realise how structurally unsound the whole thing is. Anyway who cares? The bees are fighting the aliens! 

Jupiter Looking

The visual experience is a strange cocktail of the ludicrous and the accomplished. The outfits in this movie have drawn Flash Gordon comparisons, and that’s appropriate: one particular shreddy-skirted number Kunis sports is at least as funny as Max Von Sydow’s pointy beard. Yet even as I hooted and slapped my thigh, a shot of the Great Red Spot would appear, churning on Jupiter’s surface, and I would be impressed. The aliens are decent too - it seems to me a lot of care was taken to give the two main species convincing gait and movement. OK, so the film doesn’t let you think too much of it, jolting you with more of Channing topless, of Redmayne in a neck bracelet. But what the hell- I can gasp and chuckle too, can’t I?

Jupiter Speaking

Among the explosions of glitter the film finds a little space to talk about class. Jupiter’s character isn’t the best means of delivering the message – what her part says on the subject is something of a muddle - but the idea of a creepy, hidden caste of aristocrats, drooling over the Earth as if it were one giant stock, is one that resonates. OK, so the script doesn’t ever bite on the subject, but Redmayne and his siblings are there, squabbling over humanity like a jar of Nutella - and their very presence is clearly there to show us the shadow of a looming Feudal system. For a movie in which a David Bowie cameo would have come as no surprise at all, that is something of an achievement.