Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||The Wachowskis|
|Written by||The Wachowskis|
|Music by||Michael Giacchino|
|Edited by||Alexander Berner|
|Box office||$182 million|
Jupiter Ascending is a 2015 American–Australian space opera film written, produced, and directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski. Starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum, the film is centered on Jupiter Jones (Kunis), an ordinary cleaning woman, and Caine Wise (Tatum), an interplanetary warrior who informs Jones that her destiny extends beyond Earth. Supporting cast member Douglas Booth has described the film's fictional universe as a cross between The Matrix and Star Wars, while Kunis named indulgence and consumerism as its underlying themes.
The film was co-produced by Grant Hill, who acted as executive producer on The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions and as producer on V for Vendetta, Speed Racer, Ninja Assassin and Cloud Atlas, making Jupiter Ascending his seventh collaboration with the Wachowskis. Several more longstanding Wachowski collaborators since the creation of The Matrix films have contributed to the picture, including production designer Hugh Bateup, visual effects supervisor Dan Glass, visual effects designer John Gaeta, supervising sound editor Dane Davis and costume designer Kym Barrett. Other notable past collaborators include Speed Racer's composer Michael Giacchino, Cloud Atlas' director of photography John Toll along with its editor Alexander Berner and hair and make-up designer Jeremy Woodhead, who worked on both.
Although critics praised the visuals, world-building, and originality, the general attitude toward the film was negative, with most criticism focused on incoherence in the screenplay and an over-reliance on special effects. Despite this, the film has found a cult following, particularly among female sci-fi fans who appreciate the film's campiness, and that the film deviates from typical gender dynamics in a genre that is traditionally male-centric.
At the beginning of the story, Earth's residents are unaware that the human species on Earth and countless other planets were established by families of transhuman and alien royalty for the purpose of later "harvesting" the resulting organisms to produce a type of youth serum for the elites on still other planets. After the death of the matriarch of the House of Abrasax, the most powerful of the alien dynasties, her children, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), and Titus (Douglas Booth), quarrel over the inheritance, with Balem inheriting an enormous refinery on Jupiter and Titus declaring his intention to dismantle the youth serum trade, of which Earth is the next intended source. Protagonist Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) narrates that her father, Maximilian Jones (James D'Arcy), met her mother, Aleksa (Maria Doyle Kennedy), in Saint Petersburg. After Maximilian is killed in a robbery, Aleksa names their daughter Jupiter, after his dying wish, and they move to Chicago to live with Aleksa's family.
Many years later, Jupiter works with Aleksa and her Aunt Nino (Frog Stone) to clean the homes of wealthy neighbors. To buy a telescope, Jupiter agrees to sell her eggs with the help of her cousin Vladie (Kick Gurry), under the name of her friend Katharine Dunlevy (Vanessa Kirby). At Katharine's house, Jupiter and Katharine are attacked by extraterrestrial 'Keepers'; and when Jupiter photographs these, they erase her memory of the incident. During the egg donation procedure, the doctors and nurses are identified as Balem's agents, sent to kill her, and she is saved by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a former soldier sent by Titus. Stinger Apini (Sean Bean), an old comrade of Caine's, agrees to help Jupiter, but a group of hunters take her to Kalique's palace on a distant planet, where Kalique explains that Jupiter is genetically identical to the dead matriarch, and therefore the Earth's rightful owner. Supported by Captain Diomika Tsing (Nikki Amuka-Bird) of the Aegis (an intergalactic police force), Caine retrieves her from Kalique, and brings her to the planet Ores (the intergalactic capital city) to claim her inheritance.
On the way back to Earth, Titus detains Jupiter and Caine, to whom he reveals his plan to marry and then kill Jupiter and claim Earth before throwing Caine into the void; but Caine survives and saves Jupiter at the altar. Jupiter asks to return home, but learns that her family has been taken hostage by Balem. In his refinery in the Great Red Spot, Balem demands Earth in exchange for Jupiter's family. Realizing that Balem can "harvest" Earth only with her permission, Jupiter refuses. Balem tries to kill Jupiter; but she defeats him in a fight, and is rescued by Caine, Stinger, and Tsing. Jupiter's family is returned home with no memory of their disappearance, while Jupiter secretly retains ownership of the Earth. Her family buys her the telescope she wanted and Caine receives a pair of wings earlier removed from his body.
- Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones. Kunis describes her character as unhappy with her job and life, until Caine finds her.
- Channing Tatum as Caine Wise, a genetically engineered soldier: half human and half canine, though this is not immediately visible. He has a tremendously powerful sense of smell that allows him to track a gene through the universe. To perform the role, Tatum wore a mouthpiece to change the shape of his lower jaw, which prevented him from closing his mouth and gave him trouble speaking.
- Sean Bean as Stinger Apini, a "Han Solo-type character". Stinger is half human and half honeybee, which gives him wings, speed, special vision, and a sense of loyalty. He is a former comrade of Caine's, but lives on Earth with his daughter.
- Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax, Emperor of the House of Abrasax and the eldest of the three Abrasax heirs. Balem controls the wealthiest business empire in the known universe from a gigantic refinery in the Great Red Spot of the planet Jupiter. He feels threatened by Jupiter Jones' claim to Earth and attempts to stop her.
- Douglas Booth as Titus Abrasax, Balem's brother. Booth has described his character as "a bit of a playboy", mentioning his spaceship, as described in the script, as a cross between a Gothic cathedral and the Playboy Mansion.
- Tuppence Middleton as Kalique Abrasax, Balem's sister.
- Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Famulus, a half-human, half-deer combination.
- Terry Gilliam as the Seal and Signet Minister who bestows Jupiter's title to Earth, in a scene made to resemble Gilliam's Brazil.
- David Ajala as Ibis, the leader of the hunters pursuing Jupiter and Caine.
- Ariyon Bakare as Greeghan, a hunter sent by Balem; resembling a Western dragon or the cryptid 'Reptilians'.
- James D'Arcy as Maximilian Jones, Jupiter's father.
- Kick Gurry as Vladie, Jupiter's cousin.
- Bae Doona as Razo.
- Charlotte Beaumont as Kiza, Stinger's daughter.
- Tim Pigott-Smith as Malidictes
- Edward Hogg as Chicanery Night
- Nikki Amuka-Bird as Diomika Tsing.
- Vanessa Kirby as Katharine Dunlevy.
- Maria Doyle Kennedy as Aleksa, Jupiter's mother.
- Christina Cole as Gemma Chatterjee, a cybernetic Aegis officer.
In 2009, Warner Bros' president Jeff Robinov approached The Wachowskis about creating an original intellectual property and franchise. Development began two years later, with the production and visual effects teams doing pre-production work based on a first draft of the script, while The Wachowskis were shooting the future segments of Cloud Atlas. The story was partly inspired by Lana's favorite book, the Odyssey. "It was making me super-emotional," Lana has said. "The whole concept of these almost spiritual journeys and you're changed." Another inspiration was The Wizard of Oz which Lana contrasts to the Odyssey. "Dorothy is pretty much the same at the end as she is at the beginning. Whereas Odysseus goes through such an epic shift in his identity." The Wachowski's themselves describe the plot of the film as an effort to reverse the classical sci-fi-trope of the hero who is "emotionally withholding and strong and stoic." Instead, they tried to create a new form of female sci-fi-hero in the space-opera-genre. "[...] We were, like, 'Can we bring a different kind of female character like Dorothy or Alice? Characters who negotiate conflict and complex situations with intelligence and empathy?' Yes, Dorothy has a protector, Toto, who's always barking at everyone. And that was sort of the origin of Caine."
Producer Grant Hill and visual effects supervisor Dan Glass have noted that the Wachowskis never repeat themselves. Hill has described the design as an original take on the look of space environments, while Glass mentioned it was influenced by cities around Europe rather than science fiction touchstones. Examples include Renaissance architecture, modern glass and Gothic art.
The film was a co-production between the United States' Warner Bros. and Australia's Village Roadshow Pictures. Roberto Malerba and Bruce Berman served as executive producers. Principal photography commenced at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden on April 2, 2013. Filming also took place at Ely Cathedral in England.
The production remained in the London studio through June, then moved to various locations in Chicago, Illinois throughout late July and August. Minor reshoots to clarify plot points took place in January and early May of the next year, the latter of which took place in Bilbao, Spain. This was the second feature that cinematographer John Toll shot digitally, using Arri Alexas and Codex Recorders, after Iron Man 3, in part due to the visual effects element. Legend3D handled the stereoscopic conversion of the film, having recently integrated the Mistika post-production software into their pipeline. Vision3's Chris Parks is the stereoscopic supervisor of the film.
An eight-minute long chase sequence, code named "Fifty-Two Part" by the film's crew, depicts Jupiter and Caine fleeing from aliens and spaceships in downtown Chicago shortly after they first meet. It was the longest sequence in the script, involving some of the film's most difficult stunts. To complete it, Kunis and Tatum had to film every day for six months.
Several of the film's effects rely heavily on practical stunts instead of CGI. Tatum has noted there was minimal use of digital doubles and instead most stunts were done by the principal actors or stuntmen attempting to match the pre-vis sequences. For the scenes of Tatum's character flying using antigravity boots, Glass has stated that his team invented a way to use stuntmen instead of doing them digitally, despite the limited available time to shoot them. They created a rig of six cameras, called the Panocam, which was mounted on a helicopter and covered nearly 180 degrees of the action. During post-production, the directors could combine the overlapped filmed footage, essentially creating a camera that could swing around the action independently of the helicopter's actual flying path. The technique piqued the interest of other directors who have subsequently used it in their own movies.
The film's score was composed by Michael Giacchino, who also scored the Wachowskis' 2008 film Speed Racer. On June 10, 2013, Giacchino tweeted that Ludwig Wicki was conducting the film's score at Abbey Road Studios in London. In August, Giacchino stated: "We're actually recording all the music first, before they're even done shooting. It's been done sort of backwards, and it's much more freeing doing it that way. I'm not locked down to any specific timings and what the film is doing. I can do whatever I want. It opens up a lot more possibilities." The Wachowskis first used this approach during production of Cloud Atlas at the recommendation of co-director Tom Tykwer who has made all his movies this way, and have since commented they will never make a movie without recording the music first.
The film was initially to be released on July 25, 2014, but it was later shifted to July 18, 2014. On June 3, 2014, the film's release was delayed to February 6, 2015 due to additional time needed to complete over 2,000 special effects shots of the film and prepare an effective marketing campaign. The film was released in IMAX 3D, as was its competitor Seventh Son from Universal Pictures.
Jupiter Ascending grossed $47.4 million in North America and $134.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $181.9 million, against a budget of $176 million.
The film was originally expected to gross between an estimated $21–23 million in its opening weekend. The film also features in the list of "The Riskiest Box Office Bets of 2015" published by screenrant.com. The film reportedly earned a gross of $1 million from Thursday preview. However, the film was a box office bomb, earning an estimated $6.4 million in its opening day, and later being forecast to open at around $18 million. The film earned an estimated $7.6 million for its second day and an estimated $5 million on its third day, for a gross of $18.4 million in its opening weekend by playing in 3,181 theaters, with a $5,776 per-theatre average. It finished in third at the box office behind The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water ($55.4 million) and American Sniper ($23.3 million).
Despite a disappointing North American debut, the film opened in the top spot overseas, earning a solid $32.5 million playing in theatres of 65 markets in other territories. Among top markets were Russia, where the film earned a gross of $4.7 million and topped the box office. It also opened in markets such as France ($2.5 million), South Korea ($2.1 million), the UK ($2 million), Brazil ($1.9 million), Mexico ($1.8 million), Germany ($1.8 million), Italy ($1.2 million) and Spain ($1.1 million). The film also debuted in Asian markets, bringing in $6 million in total from Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The film opened in China in March ($23.2 million) and the opening in China took it to the top spot in the international market for the weekend.
Jupiter Ascending has received mixed to negative reviews from critics. Criticism has centered around the incoherence of the film's screenplay and its over-reliance on special effects, although the visuals and originality were praised by some. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a rating of 25%, based on 195 reviews, with an average rating of 4.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Pleasing to the eye but narratively befuddled, Jupiter Ascending delivers another visually thrilling misfire from the Wachowskis." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 40 out 100, based on 40 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". In CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, cinema audiences gave Jupiter Ascending an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale.
David Edelstein of New York magazine was highly critical of the whole film, calling it "inane from first frame to last...it's miraculously unmiraculous." Joe McGovern of Entertainment Weekly was also critical of the film, giving it a C+, writing that the film was "just another incoherent sci-fi spectacle."
The film received a "secret screening" at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival which was invitation only and did not include members of the press. Variety 's Ramin Setoodeh reported that the theater was half empty, a handful of patrons walked out during the movie, and once it finished, reactions were negative. An attendee was quoted as having hated it for being "just ridiculous" while screenwriter Neville Kiser liked it and commented that the PG-13 film would fare better with its intended audience of teenagers. Setoodeh reported many people were in agreement that the choice of Sundance was odd.
Amid the criticism, the film picked up an enthusiastic following, particularly among female sci-fi fans who have embraced the film with the general attitude of: "This movie is garbage, but it's OUR garbage!" Donna Dickens of HitFix.com noted that many viewers found the film attractive for providing "the wish-fulfillment of prepubescent girls". Dickens explained that where Hollywood typically portrays strong women in action films as "Arnold Schwarzenegger with boobs", Jupiter Ascending presents Kunis' character differently. "Women don't always want superhuman robots to look up to. We want to be the same klutzy nobody who is cosseted and petted and told we're special – despite all evidence to the contrary," she wrote. Gavia Baker-Whitelaw of The Daily Dot had a similar perspective, praising the film for avoiding sexist jokes. Baker-Whitelaw described the film as "catnip for a certain subset of geeky, self-aware young women", adding that it "is dumb, and weird, and beautiful, and it wants you to be happy." David Blaustein of ABC News wrote that the film "is a campy visual sci-fi spectacle that could very well become a cult classic."
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