Rated PG-13. Running time: 2 hour 5 min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 5; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 1.
Our star rating (1-5): 3
In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor— let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.
MANY years ago when I was a teenager addicted to science fiction, the genre in print form was divided between the high class ASTOUNDING Science Fiction and GALAXY Magazine and the lower class AMAZING Stories, THRILLING WONDER, STARTLING Stories and such. “Serious” science fiction was printed in the first, whereas the latter consisted mostly of “space opera,” a term adapted from Hollywood’s B-Westerns, dubbed “horse operas.” The latter consisted of non-stop action with the heroes and villains riding either in space ships or on horses.
The sibling director/screenwriters Lana and Andy Wachowski, who gave us the intriguing Matrix, here provide us with sometimes goofy space story that wisks us all over the galaxy as three descendents of a now deceased Queen strive against an Earth-born young woman who supposedly is her reincarnation with the exact same genetic make up. When we first meet her Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is a Cinderella in Chicago cleaning toilets with her Russian-born mother in Chicago. Her extended family had fled their native land when gangsters killed her father during a break-in. While undergoing a medical procedure the clinicians try to kill her, but muscular Caine (Channing Tatum) rescues her, literally sweeoping her off her feet as he flies out the window. Turns out the doctor and staff are shape-shifting aliens assigned to eliminate her. A sky full of them chase her and Caine, the latter wearing anti-gravity boots as he “skates” around and above the skyscrapers of Chicago’s Loop. Shooting holes in a countless number of buildings, the alien-piloted ships relentlessly pursue the pair. The fugitives finally escape into the countryside. This is the first of many episodes that move so fast that you have no time to think about the absurdity of the plot, such as when the next day at a secret farm hideout Caine and a colleague kneel to Jupiter because the bees on the farm swarm around her in homage. The bees, they say, instinctively know she is royalty. Sure.
But before she can legally claim her royal perogatives, they must streak off to a distant planet and conduct her through some kind of an intergalactic bureacracy where the haughty clerks send her from one office to another. This humerous sequence even includes a cameo by the director of the wacky film Brazil, Terry Gilliam, playing one of the weird bureaucrats. When at last Jupiter is certified, three other powerful heirs of the old Queen strive for her hand or alliance. Living on different planets around the galaxy (one of them, of course, on the planet Jupiter), they are the whispery-voiced Balem (Eddie Redmayne) who wants to marry and then murder her; the one female heir Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), inviting her to be her guest; and the youngest, pretty boy Titus (Douglas Booth). It seems that the old Queen owned Earth and now that its population has grown so large, the villains want to “harvest it,” a plot device that goes back to The Matrix. The film is up to date technically, but rather old fashioned in plot. Jupiter herself is more damsel in distress than strong heroine. Caine, whom we are told has some of the genes of a wolf, is constantly catching her as she falls from great heights to impending doom.
The art direction is a delightful throwback to the pulp fiction days of science fiction when Amazing and Startling Stories had brightly colored covers (and back covers in the former’s case) depicting gigantic cities in which machines and buildings towered miles high, populated with humans and strange beastlike aliens. The bizarrely designed spaceships are so large that they must require thousands of crew members. And, of course, when our heroes kill them off by the hundreds and thousands, there is no remorse because they are just part of the scenery. Some of the action and plot turnings are confusing (even incomprehensible to me), even silly, Caine falling and banging against objects with such force that it would have pulverized a real human. However, it doesn’t matter in this eye-candy of a film. If you are into spectacle and action, this might be for you, especially on an Imax screen.
This review with a set of discussion questions will be in the March 2015 issue of Visual Parables.