Alasdair Stuart writes.
My attitude towards the Wachowski‘s work has changed a lot over the years. I was, it’s fair to say, not even remotely a fan of the final two Matrix movies. The CGI was catastrophic, the plot was scattered across multiple media and by the time the lobster robot angel turned up to take Keanu Reeves‘ body away it was more of a mercy killing than a big finish for me.
I’m still in no hurry to rewatch those movies ever again, but even I can’t fault their ambition. It’s something that’s characterized the Wachowksis’ more recent films too, from the 150% pedal to the metal commitment of Speed Racer to the labyrinthine plots of Cloud Atlas. The Wachowskis like big, ambitious movies, they’re exuberant and enthusiastic and whilst they don’t nail every landing they do try every jump.
Which brings us to Jupiter Ascending. The trailer was released earlier this week, and here are some things I noticed about it.
1.The Neo Effect
Superficially, Channing Tatum is playing a Neo analogue here. There’s even the same silhouette; the bad man in a long coat. But there’s something subtler, possibly even satirical to the role. Look at his pointed ears, the brand on his neck. He’s either re-spliced with animal DNA or is an attack dog [Brendon's note: he's part wolf, apparently], let off the leash when his masters have something they need. That’s a world away from the erratic, laconic hacker/wushu master we saw in The Matrix, and if it’s true, could even be seen as a gentle parody of that kind of character.
Also, Sean Bean refers to him as the ‘greatest soldier he ever went into battle with’. That could mean Bean’s retired but it could also mean Tatum’s character is dead and has been rebuilt. That would certainly speak even more to his outsider status.
2. Oh, Sean
I have never failed to enjoy anything Sean Bean has been in. Even The Island. But, let’s face it; grizzled commanding officer? Native accent? He’s deader than a dead thing in deadville by the third reel. There were apocryphal reports of bookies offering 33/1 odds on him making it to the end being reported on Twitter today. Not a bet I’d take.
3.Chicago, Chicago It’s my kind of town to brutally crush beneath the heel of an oppressive offworld regime
Chicago and San Francisco are the destructible cities of the moment aren’t they? Still at least Chicago’s only a bit blown up here. Also, our first view of Jupiter, played by Mila Kunis. As the shot ends she’s starting to look up at something which is interesting…
…because she might be looking up at one of these. The gravity beams are the first indication of just how high-end the offworld technology in the movie is. But when is this story set? Both Chicago, and Jupiter herself, look pretty contemporary to me.
Nice detail of the spaceship silhouetted against the night sky in this sequence by the way. Note also how the gravity beam and the skyscraper complement one another. It’s a very well composed shot and rather different to the Wachowski‘s usual visual style.
5. Jupiter Jupiter?
So are the other humans settled on other worlds in the solar system? When and how did they get there? That’s definitely Jupiter but what’s the world with the massive, possibly constructed, pair of rings at 0.54? It looks very Terran to me. Are we dealing with time travel? Or cloaked tech orbiting the Earth in the present day? The fact we see Sean Bean kneeling before Jupiter in a very modern, Earth-looking garden would suggest that.
6.Peru by way of Ancient Greece
The aesthetics of the space stations and ships are staggering. There’s elements of Greek to the designs of the statuary (Statuary! On a docking port! The Empire WISHES it was this badass!) but the ships seem very Incan. In other words, I have no idea what’s going on but I do know I’ll be first in line when the artbook for this is published.
Also? Those docking port statures are asymmetric. One seems to be holding up a scroll and the other is holding a large sword and what seems to be a severed head? Is there a caste system here? Different docks for different occupations?
7. Space Punching
Combine the Wachowskis’ design flare, with what seems to be very largely practical effects, some well placed CGI (Love Tatum’s built in shield) and a lead who’s a natural athlete. The fight scenes have the potential to be really, really fun.
8. Space Cathedrals
At 1.05 there’s a flash of an immense structure, maybe a ship, inside an even more immense structure. The color scheme has me wondering; is this civilization inside Jupiter’s upper atmosphere? The fog does look very Jovian…
9. Everyone Falls
Mila Kunis falls off a building, apparently for the first of two times. More visually interesting though is the ship we see drop, deploy a beautiful set of wings, fold them up and run like hell at 1.10 or so. Look closely at that. The back of the ship is either two extended engine pods or legs. Single person escape pod? Robot? Either way it’s pretty.
10. The Single Thing That Worries Me
At 1.25 there’s a couple of shots of Tatum’s character getting his ass handed to him by a colossal, winged, uniformed creature. Bits of the fight look nicely grimy and physical and hands on. Bits of it look like the most plasticky bits of the Burly Brawl. I really, really hope they’re not going back to the well of neverending rubbery CGI for this one.
11. Captains of Industry
The line about Earth being a very small part of a very large industry at 1.06 or so is fascinating. What industry? Humans? Clone parts? Gas? That would make sense of the other civilization hiding in Jupiter’s atmosphere. But are they?
12.Yes I think they are
The clouds that the logo flies through at the end? Look even more Jovian. So who is this hyper advanced civilization in the clouds? Why do they want to kill a woman in contemporary Chicago? Where are they from? And is Channing Tatum really wearing glowing hoverskates? We’ll find out on July 25th, 2014.
[Brendon's final note: Alasdair hasn't twigged that this is all a variant on Snow White and the Huntsman, but I can't say I blame him. The trailer doesn't make that reading clear even while other information has]