Jupiter Ascending 3D review

From sci-fi Cinderellas to jet-skating wolfmen, the Wachowskis' latest is truly out of this world

Rarely have promising filmmaking careers imploded quite as spectacularly as those of Andy and Lana (née Larry) Wachowski. Having impressed critics with their inventive crime thriller Bound in 1996, the duo then delivered 1999's best science-fiction film (The Matrix) – something few could have predicted in a year that would also see the long-awaited start of a brand-new Star Wars trilogy. Yet since then they've endured a steady decline through dismal sequels and epic follies. Which brings us neatly to the duo's new space opera, Jupiter Ascending

Essentially a space-age version of Cinderella, the film stars Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones, a Russian émigré who spends her days cleaning the toilets of wealthy Americans. Her life changes when she goes to a clinic to have her eggs harvested as part of a money-making scheme, only for the doctors to turn out to be aliens. Rescued by half-human half-wolf space soldier Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), Jupiter learns that Earth was actually seeded with human life by alien royalty, which is now getting ready to harvest us.

Still with us? Good, because it also turns out that Jupiter is the genetic reincarnation of the alien queen whose offspring are now arguing over the rights to humanity's future. And she can control bees.

Jupiter Ascending is quite simply a mess. While the Wachowskis once again prove to be wonderful world builders (this time cooking up an entirely new universe), they have seemingly forgotten how to refine their many, many ideas into a single coherent storyline.

Nor, it turns out, have they any idea how to write dialogue that sounds like anything a real person might say – 'Bees don't lie,' utters Sean Bean at one point, deserving a Best Actor Oscar for his ability to keep a straight face at the same time. And speaking of Oscars, is it possible to ask Eddie Redmayne to give his back as punishment for his bewildering, astonishingly awful performance as Jupiter Ascending's villain Balem?

The film's two leads don't fare much better. Channing Tatum handles the action stuff with ease, but looks ridiculous doing it. Someone decided to dress him like a space-skating escapee from Starlight Express with silly prosthetic pointy ears. Things are even worse for Kunis, who gets next to nothing to do in the movie apart from get captured and then saved over and over again. Progressive, this ain't.

With all that said, Jupiter Ascending isn't a complete write-off. The visual effects and production design are all superb, and the action beats are directed with the sort of energy you'd expect from the people who gave us The Matrix.

Picture: It may have been shot 'flat' and converted in post-production, but Jupiter Ascending delivers an excellent 3D experience on Warner's Blu-ray. Colour saturation and brightness are both comparable to the 2D version, while image depth is stonking, aided by the terrific clarity and sharpness of the 2.40:1-framed encode. Even the more hectic action scenes (Chapter 9's blockade run being a key example) are utterly convincing, with coherent use of volumetric space to immerse you in the onscreen action.

Unsurprisingly, the AVC-encoded 2D version of the film (supplied on a separate platter) looks equally impressive. Colours are bold, intricate textures are resolved perfectly and edge definition is flawless. Pure reference quality, from start to finish.
Picture rating: 5/5

Audio: Jupiter Ascending lands on Blu-ray with a Dolby Atmos soundtrack, but for the purposes of this review we’re sticking with the core Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix. As you might expect, it’s a hard-hitting soundtrack bursting with bold bass and spatial effects that makes explosive use of the full soundstage.

In fact, as far as engaging 360-degree audio is concerned, Jupiter Ascending is one of the most aggressive and enveloping examples we've encountered in some time. Sequences such as Caine's rescue of Jupiter are a riot of LFE thuds, whooshing space craft and pulsing space-age weaponry. Subtlety isn't the word here, but we're not complaining.
Audio rating: 5/5

Extras: The 2D disc is where you will find the bonus material – a modest selection of behind-the-scenes featurettes, but nothing particularly substantial (there are seven in total, ranging in length from five minutes to 10 minutes). Pick of the bunch is Bullet Time Evolved (10 minutes), which focuses on how the Wachowskis set about delivering Jupiter Ascending's set-pieces. Other topics explored include the characters of Jupiter Jones and Caine Wise, the film's genetically-created beasties, the Wachowskis themselves and the multi-layered world they created for the movie.
Extras rating: 2/5

We say: Fans of bad films are in for a treat with this spectacular looking and sounding cinematic folly

Jupiter Ascending 3D, Warner Bros., All-region BD, £28 Approx