There's a simple test I've come up with to measure the pleasures of putative blockbusters, one that Jupiter Ascending, however nonsensical, handily passes: Is watching this movie more interesting than seeing all the millions they spent on it stuffed into a woodchipper aimed at the producers' faces? The movie's a fascinating mess, grand and gaudy, often hilarious. Wait until you see the bees of Earth decide that Mila Kunis is a queen of some sort. Or shirtless Channing Tatum, with elf-ears and a goatee, looking like he's playing Puck in a WWE production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
An early chase/battle set against the Chicago skyline bests the Marvel movies in vigor, coherence, and beauty. Too bad that the Wachowskis are three bang-up set pieces in before they tell us who anybody is. After that, the action gets more rococo and scattered. The Wachowskis may have vision, but they're hit-or-miss with clarity -- how come, sometimes, Tatum can crash right into flaming debris, and other times he has to dash around it in a panic?
Still, there's stellar weirdness here, including heaps of Big Ideas for the stoner crowd: As Kunis's everyday cleaning woman gets caught up in dynastic space warfare, we learn what really killed the dinosaurs, where crop circles come from, why some people seem truly to believe they've suffered alien abductions, and how human life on Earth came to be. We don't learn why the talking-lizard villains seem to believe that leather jackets look totally badass, but I just figure their planet never got Happy Days.
Director: Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Writer: Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Producer: Grant Hill, Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski
Cast: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton, Doona Bae, James D'Arcy and Tim Pigott-Smith