Stellar: Jupiter Ascending (A)

Rolling in on a wave of bad advance publicity, Jupiter Ascending is pleasantly amazing! Haters gonna hate, but I think adventure and sci-fi/fantasy fans gonna like this latest Wachowski venture.

Ever since they scored a direct hit with The Matrix it's become apparent that the Wachowskis march to the beat of a different drum that only sometimes resonates with modern audiences. And here I use "modern" to be the opposite of what you might suppose: I mean that the Wachowski movies are so original and ground-breaking that it sometimes takes viewers a few years to catch up to the speed of the films, so to speak, and appreciate them.

It was like that for me with V for Vendetta, Speed Racer, and Cloud Atlas. For all three films I had mixed, lukewarm feelings upon the first viewing but once they'd "aged" a year or two (or I had, rather), I found each one remarkably compelling, poignant, and thought-provoking. As a particular example, critics panned Speed Racer in part for having just too much action going on and being too hard to follow action-wise. In retrospect it's right up there with other modern action films pacing-wise.

All of that makes me worry that I won't like Jupiter Ascending in a couple years because it's something special out of the gate! I mostly kid - The Matrix was solid on first viewing and remains solid to this day and so I think this actually a case of the Wachowskis and I being on the same page from the get-go.

Enough jibber-jabber. What's the deal with this movie?

High concept: Jupiter Ascending is to Flash Gordon (1980) as Battlestar Galactica (2003) is to Battlestar Galactica (1978). Take Flash Gordon, subtract out the cheese, enhance the "Earthling swept up in fantastic interstellar drama, politics, and adventure", and add more white-knuckled tension to it and you've got Jupiter Ascending.

As you may have gleaned from the previews, Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, who discovers that she's long-lost interstellar royalty and that her three genetic kindred are all schemers that each want to use her for their own purposes.

The highlight of the movie is the fresh, rich, and fully realized sci-fi universe that at least half the film takes place in (with the other half set on Earth). As with Star Wars and Avatar, there's nothing that makes my heart sing more than a cohesive, fantastic, and substantive vision of a fantasy universe to enjoy.

The film has a few small issues. The action sequences are a little bit too long even though they've very engaging. It's a little light on the political intrigue, which I would have liked to have seen more of. But on the other hand everything feels fresh and polished, the bad guys are interesting, there's no tedious action or dialog, and I really liked the message of the movie.

My grade: A. Try it out!