Writers/directors The Wachowskis stunned the world back in 1999 with their mind-blowing and visually ground-breaking movie The Matrix. The movies that followed – including two Matrix sequels and the loopy Cloud Atlas – never reached the same heights but much was expected of Jupiter Ascending, a science fiction adventure set on Earth but, as with The Matrix, an earth not quite as we know it.
Jupiter Jones (Kunis) lives with her extended Russian family in Chicago, cleaning houses with her mother. She’s not as ordinary as she thinks, however – apparently Jupiter is the reincarnation of a queen whose family rules over the universe and counts the earth as just one of the many planets they control. One member of the royal Abrasax family wants Jupiter dead so she won’t (literally) inherit the earth, while another wants her brought to their world so she can claim her rightful place on the throne. It’s up to human/wolf hybrid warrior Caine (Tatum) to protect Jupiter from other-worldly hitmen and explain to her (and the audience) what on earth (and in space) is going on.
As you’d expect from the makers of The Matrix, this is a stunning movie to look at, populated by weird creatures that look like dinosaurs or wolves, and featuring some head-spinning chases and battle sequences that must have depleted the world’s CGI supplies. However, it all looks a bit awkwardly retro at the same time – there’s an out of place segue to a planet’s authoritarian underbelly that’s essentially a rip-off of Brazil (and even features a cameo from that film’s director, Terry Gilliam), while Caine’s gravity-defying boots that allow him to fly actually resemble the roller skates from 1980 musical Xanadu.
The plot itself is almost unfathomable – why are two brothers and a sister fighting over the planets and who is the bad guy/gal again? What is going on between Caine and Sean Bean’s character Stinger? And what’s the deal with the bees? – and it’s really just an excuse to put Kunis in a succession of over-the-top outfits and have British actors like Douglas Booth and Eddie Redmayne chomp their way through the scenery, spitting it out in camp fashion as they go.
Fans of the likeable Tatum will be disappointed that he has very little to do and will puzzle why the filmmakers have chosen to hire him and then plaster him in unattractive alien makeup. A romance between his character and Jupiter comes out of nowhere and doesn’t convince (but then what should we expect from a movie that is about a toilet cleaner ruling the world) and it all adds up to a visually impressive, unevenly entertaining and completely bonkers adventure.
Is Jupiter Ascending suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This is a 12A certificate, due to some bad language and mild violence.
Children over the age of 9 should be fine watching the film, and while characters are often threatened, it is not scary.