Usually there’s a dearth of good films at this time of year, but lots of interesting themes and flicks are popping up prior to the summer movie blitz. The one I’ve been waiting for FOREVER is Jupiter Ascending. I love fantasy and sci-fi when well done. Guardians of the Galaxy was a hoot, but the JA space opera is being brought to us by the Wachowski sibs. I admit up front that I’ve not seen all of their works, but the ones I have seen, I’ve enjoyed, especially their knack for production design and the world order themes they tend to like and do so well.
Not for the Wachowskis is the one-dimensional storyline typical of many sci-fi fantasy works. Their scripts are loaded with subplot, allegory, and analogy. Cloud Atlas had the difficult task of creating many world settings. V for Vendetta was soaked in shadows and bleak settings to match the mood of the oppressed. The Matrix required the same settings each time but the stakes intensified with every installment. The Wachowski’s have very specific thematic designs for every film. While watching their films, your brain whispers familiarity, yet there’s no blatant visual stamp, such those seen in Kurosawa, Huston, or Hitchcock films. There’s an almost palpable sense of restraint. The theme shapes the visual result, not the vision of the writer, director, or producer. Happily, in most of the Wachowski films, those three jobs are done by the sibs.
No spoilers but I can pass along impressions. I expected Jupiter Ascending to dish up an artistic canvas on film and it succeeded. The storyline follows the often-used plot of a downtrodden or misfit protagonist, who discovers a world-saving talent-slash-ability-slash-gift. (I guess it’s more appropriate to say universe-saving when referring to this movie.) I liked the impressive costuming, conservative and elegant when necessary. Lizard-dragon soldiers were amusing. The music was a pleasant surprise. No nasal, atonal rap. No ear-numbing metallica. The musical score is intelligently written and not heavy-handed. If you stay for the credits, you’ll hear a vocalise reminiscent of the 60’s Star Trek with a twist of Sondheim. Nice touch. And Eddie Redmayne, ooh-la-la, what a delicious villain.
All in all, I give it a four. I can’t make it a five star, because I tend to get bored with the digital mayhem of constant smashing and blowing up stuff. As a matter of personal choice, I think it would have made for a tighter flick after a bit of editing.
There were a few questions never answered/completed, perhaps because there’s a sequel in the creative minds of the Wachowskis. Either way, it could be a stand-alone or the beginning of more good things to come. Who would have thought it—an artsy sci-fi. It hit the spot after a long, hairy week.
M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)
Follow on Twitter @RigdonML