Action Adventure

'Jupiter Ascending' Blu-ray Review: Big-budget spectacle at the expense of logic

June 5, 2015Ben MK

"You're a hunter who's been searching for one thing his whole life... The fact that you may have found it terrifies you. But not as much as the fact that she's down there..."

Feature Rating:  

In The Matrix, the Wachowskis envisioned a world where humanity was enslaved — bred for a singular purpose, to be nothing more than batteries for a master race of artificially intelligent machines. Now, sixteen years later, the sibling directors are back treading on familiar territory. Their latest film, Jupiter Ascending, once again imagines an Earth where the lives of its human populace serve a higher — ultimately nefarious — purpose. Only this time, the planet's savior isn't a man named Neo, but a woman named Jupiter Jones.

Who is Jupiter Jones, you ask? That would be Mila Kunis, who plays the daughter of an astrophysicist father who died before she was born, and whose mother illegally emigrated to the United States from Russia. Now Jupiter cleans other people's houses for a living, completely oblivious to the fact that she's actually the recurrence (that is, the genetic reincarnation) of the empress of Abrasax, one of the most powerful dynasties in the universe.

But wait, it gets weirder. Enter Channing Tatum as Caine Wise, who swoops in to rescue Jupiter when she becomes embroiled in a dispute of galactic proportions between the clan's three heirs: Lord Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Lord Titus (Douglas Booth) and Lady Kalique (Tuppence Middleton). As a half-man/half-wolf space mercenary who gets around on a pair of antigravity rollerblades, it's up to him to get Jupiter off planet Earth and to the planet Orous, where she must claim her rightful title as sovereign if she's to save the Earth and all seven billion human lives on it.

If none of that made a lick of sense, don't worry. Because if there's one thing you should realize about Jupiter Ascending, it's that its outlandish plot — a completely off-the-rails mash-up between The Matrix, the Star Wars prequels and The Fifth Element, which the Wachowskis have gleefully chocked full of genetically-engineered human-animal hybrids, evil corporations, dizzying space battles and gravity-defying acrobatics — really only exists to serve its lavish visuals. And the result is as gloriously preposterous as it is mesmerizing.

So does that mean Jupiter Ascending is so bad it's good? Well, that depends on how you look at it. It's the very definition of "event" filmmaking — a blockbuster spectacle aimed squarely at audiences thirsting for kinetically-charged action sequences and elaborately staged CG visuals. And if you go in expecting at least that, you'll be grinning from ear to ear. Just don't go into it anticipating much depth, because the movie often gets so lost in its own over-the-top theatrics that you might feel the Wachowskis needed a pair of antigravity rollerblades of their own. At least then they might have been able to tell up from down.

Audio/Visual Rating:  

Being the dazzling piece of sci-fi eye candy that it is, it's only fitting that Jupiter Ascending look and sound spectacular on Blu-ray. And boy, does it ever. This is the kind of HD presentation that sells 4K televisions, with razor-sharp and crystal-clear picture quality, resplendent colors and stunning black and contrast levels adorning an otherwise flawless image. Likewise, the movie's Dolby Atmos soundtrack (which decodes to a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track for home audiences not equipped with a Dolby Atmos-capable receiver) is immersive to the nth degree, surrounding viewers in a 360 degree soundfield brimming with "pew pew" laser fire, thunderous explosions, soaring spaceships and growling aliens. Still, it allows plenty of room for quieter moments of dialogue to breathe, as well as for composer Michael Giacchino's oftentimes bombastic and operatic score to shine.

Extras Rating:  

Warner's two-disc Blu-ray combo pack includes a DVD and an UltraViolet digital copy of the movie, plus about an hour's worth of Blu-ray special features:

  • Jupiter Jones: Destiny Is Within Us (6:56) - An overview of Jupiter as a character, as well as brief details about her journey, her relationship with Caine Wise, and the film's general plot.
  • Caine Wise: Interplanetary Warrior (5:18) - A piece that focuses on Jupiter's protector, Caine Wise, including the character's backstory, his costume and the on-set stuntwork.
  • The Wachowskis: Minds Over Matter (7:25) - A featurette in which the cast and crew chime in with what it's like to work with the Wachowskis, praising them for their imagination and for their attention to detail.
  • Worlds Within Worlds Within Worlds (9:36) - A piece celebrating the film's production, make-up and costume design, with particular attention paid to the human-animal hybrid characters (referred to as "Splices"), the spacecraft and the otherworldy environments.
  • Jupiter Ascending: Genetically Spliced (10:25) - Speaking of Splices, this featurette takes a closer look at several of the Splices featured in the movie, including wolf-man Caine Wise, rat-man Mr. Knight, bee-man Stinger Apini and owl-man Malidictes, plus the entirely computer-generated races, the Sargorns and the Keepers.
  • Bullet Time Evolved (9:35) - A piece that deals with the look and feel of Caine's antigravity rollerblades (technically called gravity boots), covering how the physicality of Caine's movements in the boots was developed, as well as providing some insight into how sequences involving the boots were shot, both on-location and in front of a green screen.
  • From Earth to Jupiter (And Everywhere in Between) (9:34) - The scope and grandeur of the Wachowskis' vision and the movie's sweeping visuals are the focal points of this featurette, which also touches on some of the higher level themes present in the film's sci-fi narrative.

Jupiter Ascending is available from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment as of June 2nd, 2015. The Blu-ray features Dolby Atmos and 5.1 Descriptive English audio, as well as Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1 tracks. Subtitles are presented in English SDH, Spanish and French. The film's runtime is 2 Hrs. 7 Mins.

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