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Andy and Lana Wachowski, while not universally beloved, are undoubtedly two of the most interesting and confident filmmakers in Hollywood. Who else could have possibly followed up the ludicrous eye candy of 2008’s Speed Racer with a highly cerebral adaptation of the once-thought unfilmable David Mitchell novel Cloud Atlas? Their next effort, the science fiction space opera Jupiter Ascending, is less of a departure for the duo, but the trailer above makes me think this might actually be the most accessible film of their high-concept careers. And that’s saying something, considering it stars an oddly-bearded Channing Tatum in eyeliner and elf ears playing an alien military man whose genetic make-up was combined with a wolf.
You can always count on a Wachowski movie to feature visual splendor that works just as well when the volume is muted, and they’ve created an entire universe for Jupiter Ascending that will allow viewers to travel from one dazzling planet to the next in spaceships that were apparently built by people who really loved Transformers. I hope the figurative world-building is as strong as the literal world-building on CGI display here, because this has a good chance of being the next great sci-fi epic that this year’s Elysium and that one with Tom Cruise failed to become.
The story is mostly centered on Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a lowly Russian immigrant whose average earthbound life belies an extraordinary destiny she never could have imagined. Everything changes for her once Caine (Tatum) arrives, pointy ears in tow, alerting her to Earth’s low status on the totem pole of intelligent life. He tells her she’s being hunted by minions of the Queen of the Universe, who has conspired to kill Jupiter for being the only other being in existence sharing the same perfect genetic code.
It isn’t the simplest of tales, nor is it the most original, but there are bound to be themes and ideas that didn’t make it to this first trailer, as the directors hinted at by saying this film will be unlike anything we’ve seen before. We’ve watched buff and tough men save helpless women before, so I’m hoping the focus on Caine’s character is a little deeper than just showing how heroic he can be, with some thought going into the Queen’s motivations. Still, just from what we can see in the trailer, I’m impressed enough to stay intrigued.
The film also stars Sean Bean as something of a mentor to Caine – and I think we can all assume he will die a most honorable death before the three-quarter mark, and James D’Arcy as an android with a funky voice. You can also expect to see Douglas Booth, Eddie Redmayne, and Terry Gilliam in a bit role. At this point, it’s only going head-to-head with Brett Ratner’s Hercules epic when it hits theaters on July 25, 2014.
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