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Jupiter Ascending: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Review

Jupiter Ascending (2015) movie poster Jupiter Ascending

Theatrical Release: February 6, 2015 / Running Time: 128 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Writers/Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski

Cast: Mila Kunis (Jupiter Jones), Channing Tatum (Caine Wise), Sean Bean (Stinger Apini), Eddie Redmayne (Balem Abrasax), Douglas Booth (Titus Abrasax), Tuppence Middleton (Kalique Abrasax), Nikki Amuka-Bird (Diomika Tsing), Christina Cole (Gemma Chatterjee), Nicholas A. Newman (Nesh), Ramon Tikaram (Phylo Percadium), Aryion Bakare (Greeghan), Maria Doyle Kennedy (Aleksa), Frog Stone (Aunt Nino), David Ajala (Ibis), Doona Bae (Razo), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Famulus), Edward Hogg (Chicanery Night), Tim Pigott-Smith (Malidictes), James D'Arcy (Maximillian Jones), Jeremy Swift (Vassily Bolotnikov), Kick Gurry (Vladie), Vanessa Kirby (Katherine Dunlevy), Terry Gilliam (Seal and Signet Mister)

Buy Jupiter Ascending from Amazon.com: Blu-ray Combo Pack Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack DVD Instant Video

Andy and Larry (now Lana) Wachowski made a landmark original science fiction film in The Matrix. Since then, the siblings have kept busy, making the movies they want with the high budgets their imagination demands. But the movies haven't been all that well received and since the Matrix sequels, they've been outright disasters commercially.

As anyone could see far in advance, Jupiter Ascending did not follow in the footsteps of the original Matrix, but of the Wachowskis' costly failures like Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas. Jupiter is a complex action-adventure film full of characters, mythos, and visual effects. It is comparable to other epic fantasy franchises, only it will consist of a single film and does not have its basis, as most do, in comic books or literature.

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) gets a rescue and a ride from lycantant splice Caine Wise (Channing Tatum).

The film's titular narrator and protagonist, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), explains she was delivered aboard a boat in the Atlantic Ocean. She was born without a country, a home, or a father. Now, she works in Chicago as a maid and lives with her relatives, a tight-knit clan of Russian immigrants. About to donate her eggs to a fertility clinic, she is instead accosted by a group of aliens.
Before they can do as they please, Jupiter is rescued by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a "lycantant." An oft-shirtless hunk with certain lupine features, most notably pointy ears, Caine carries Jupiter around the Windy City, dodging trouble and limitations with his "gravity boots."

Brought to the country residence of Caine's fellow skyjacker Stinger (Sean Bean), Jupiter discovers she is royalty. Bees recognize her as such, flocking around her with evident admiration. Jupiter's fellow Earthlings have no reason to know this young woman who cleans toilets for a living has such importance to the rest of the galaxy, specifically a distant planet whose hierarchy resembles those of ancient Greek and Roman cultures. Caine and Stinger are acting on behalf of the powerful House of Abrasax, whose three siblings are several thousands of years old, but appear to be in their twenties.

Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), Titus (Douglas Booth), and Balem (Eddie Redmayne) take turns dropping knowledge on Jupiter unknown to the rest of mankind. She considers a marriage proposal and a peace treaty while developing feelings for Caine. In her own words, she's always loved dogs!

In the same month he won an Oscar for playing Stephen Hawking, Eddie Redmayne gets weird as powerful ruler Balem Abrasax of the House of Abrasax.

You don't need to see a couple of hundred new films every year to spot a flop of these proportions in the making. The Wachowskis struck gold on just their second outing in director's chairs. The first Matrix sequel was even a bigger hit, its predecessor having grown its following as the first truly must-own DVD. It's all been downhill for the Chicagoans since then, starting with the negative reaction to trilogy-ender The Matrix Revolutions, whose front-loaded gross was deemed underwhelming given the big budget, elevated expectations, and built-in audience.

The Matrix trilogy earned the duo enough money and power to follow their whims and a Speed Racer movie didn't seem like a terrible idea, given the success of yesteryear's children's properties like Transformers and The Flintstones. Cloud Atlas was bigger still and much stranger. You figure a nearly 3-hour sci-fi epic based on an obscure novel would disappoint financially, even with Warner keeping a theater count down to around 2,000. Still, the $27 million domestic gross on a Tom Hanks film with a 9-figure budget is about as awful an outcome as imaginable. Other producers, studios, and filmmakers might have been humbled by that experience and try to rebound with something small and personal. But somehow, the Wachowskis got a greenlight to go even bigger, following that independently financed bomb up with this $176 million-budgeted space opera.

Kunis and Tatum may be stars, at least in the right projects. But neither of them nor their respective fanbases seem like people drawn to an all-original, big budget, sci-fi extravaganza. In fact, it's tough to think of a lot of people drawn to such a spectacle film lacking a well-known origin in some other medium or a connection to a proven hit. Originally assigned a mid-July opening that Warner typically reserves for heavy hitters like Harry Potter, Dark Knight Rises, and The Conjuring, Jupiter Ascending was delayed some seven weeks before its scheduled debut to February 2015. Ostensibly bumped to complete effects shots, the delay repositioned the movie from certain summer flop to "maybe the studio can save face among winter's lighter competition."

Jupiter would end up earning $47 million in North America and another $134.5 M from the rest of the world. Those numbers can only sound like a lot to people who pay no attention to cinema's business side and those overlooking the more than $200 M spent to make and market this film. After such astronomical setbacks, one has to wonder if the Wachowskis can again be trusted with another one of the big movies they clearly relish making. No one can claim investment in such undertaking to be financially sound in any way. Still, there must be those who will vouch for the duo's artistic value beyond the original Matrix. Cloud Atlas presently sits with a quite respectable 7.5 user rating on IMDb and V for Vendetta, which the Wachowskis adapted and produced, remains highly regarded.

"Jupiter Ascending" has no shortage of explosive effects shots.

In an alternate universe with a dramatically different cinematic timeline, Jupiter Ascending could very well have been the first Star Wars. Its DNA is similar down to the epic space canvases and eccentric names and faces.
Perhaps in a world not shaped by that original Star Wars, George Lucas' franchise-launcher as is might be dismissed by critics and laughed off the screen by moviegoers. One can never know these things. What we can do is to decide whether the pitiful majority opinion is warranted here. That's an easier argument to take than the opposite.

Jupiter is an extravagant misfire. Epic spaces are set ablaze with elaborate visual effects you get mere glimpses of. So much money has been spent with no chance of recouping it. Then there is the time, not just the six years from development to release, but its day-to-day demands of the giant crew needed to assemble such a production. There are some glimmers of hope, like a nighttime set piece in downtown Chicago that dazzles. But it's difficult to buy in on the big picture. Jupiter and Caine's romance is soapy and ludicrous. Eddie Redmayne, whose Oscar win for The Theory of Everything spared this film Norbit-like status, speaks largely in a sick old man's whisper with a few petulant outbursts. Most characters are little more than a showcase for costume and hair design. Objects and logos introduced are of greatest interest to production designers. Apart from one scene, a pre-ascent maze of bureaucratic red tape recalling The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the work of cameo-making Terry Gilliam, the movie doesn't have a sense of humor or awareness that such content, though once unprecedented, is released on practically a biweekly basis these days.

The only thing to really distinguish this film from other forgettable would-be tentpoles is just how out there this is willing to get. Was no one willing to question the Wachowskis' instincts, even after the utter shunning of the kindred Cloud Atlas? Jupiter feels like a couple of aliens took a cursory look at Earth's film culture and determined that PG-13 movies set in space historically do quite well. Throw in enough high-octane action, some well-liked, attractive young actors, all the visual effects money can afford, a love story, and a slew of big concepts...and you get this. A mess, but one whose ice cold reception may make you more forgiving of it than, say, lowest common denominator blockbuster fare (e.g. Transformers sequels).

Four months after beginning its disappointing, front-loaded global run, Jupiter Ascending hit stores this week on DVD and in Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D combo packs.

Jupiter Ascending: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-ray: Dolby TrueHD 7.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (English DVS, French, Spanish, Portuguese)
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, Descriptive Service, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish; BD-only: Portuguese
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled
Release Date: June 2, 2015
Suggested Retail Price: $35.99
Two single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-50 & DVD-9)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as standalone DVD ($28.98 SRP), Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack ($44.95 SRP) and on Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

No matter what you think of the film (and many outright hate it), Jupiter Ascending is a treat on a purely technical level. The Blu-ray's sharp and vivid 2.40:1 presentation shows off the visuals that are potentially impressive enough to be remembered for effects awards 8 months from now. Making an even greater impact than the pristine picture is the 7.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. This appears to be Warner's new standard audio offering for new movies, a change in format and channels from the far more commonplace 5.1 DTS-HD master audio. With its effects and prominent Michael Giacchino score, some would say this mix is way over the top at times. I don't know that I'd disagree with them, this being the kind of movie you have to watch with the remote in your hand, ready to adjust volume levels. Still, it's absolutely demo material for those who like their movies L-O-U-D.

Siblings Lana and Andy Wachowski discuss their latest concoction in making-of featurettes. Actor Sean Bean shares his thoughts from a scenic garden.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The Blu-ray's seven HD featurettes begin with "Jupiter Jones: Destiny Is Within Us" (6:56),
which discusses the film in terms of its heroine.

"Caine Wise: Interplanetary Warrior" (5:18) considers the film's leading man, with comments from Channing Tatum, co-stars and filmmakers complementing behind-the-scenes footage.

"The Wachowskis: Mind Over Matter" (7:25) celebrates the writers-directors for their ambitious, imaginative brand of sci-fi storytelling.

"Worlds Within Worlds Within Worlds" (9:36) covers the film's elaborate locations and sets.

Concept art envisions the animal-derived genetic splices. Behind-the-scenes looks are aplenty in the Jupiter Ascending bonus features.

"Jupiter Ascending: Genetically Spliced" (10:25) covers the film's "splice" race and their varied appearances.

"Bullet Time Evolved" (9:35)
illustrates how action visual effects have advanced, with plenty of looks at green screen shoots.

Finally, "From Earth to Jupiter (And Everywhere in Between)" (9:34) turns our attentions to the film's worlds and concepts.

The Blu-ray opens with trailers for San Andreas and Pan. The DVD, which only includes two of those seven featurettes ("Jupiter Jones" and "Genetically Spliced"), starts with those trailers and proceeds to promote The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Focus, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Batman vs. Robin.

The basic main menus attach an excerpt of Michael Giacchino's score to static poster/cover art. The Blu-ray resumes unfinished playback.

Your unique code and directions for redeeming the Digital HD with UltraViolet version of the film included with purchase is all that joins the two plain black discs in a slipcovered keepcase.

Bees recognize Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) as royalty in "Jupiter Ascending."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It is rare to encounter miscalculation as grand as Jupiter Ascending. The Wachowskis' struggles continue with this ambitious, original, and ludicrous sci-fi adventure. The visuals and effects are seriously impressive, but they are not enough to compensate for an off-the-wall story that rarely resonates.

Warner's Blu-ray combo pack features some of the most attention-grabbing picture and sound out there, though the hour of making-of featurettes runs together and fails to excite.

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Related Reviews:
New: Focus Strange Magic The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water | Directed by the Wachowskis: Speed Racer
Mila Kunis: Oz the Great and Powerful Black Swan Third Person | Channing Tatum: The Lego Movie 21 Jump Street Foxcatcher
Sean Bean: National Treasure Flightplan Percy Jackson & the Lightning Thief | Eddie Redmayne: My Week with Marilyn
Gravity Looper Sunshine Interstellar Spaceballs

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Reviewed June 4, 2015.



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