Film Trailers

Trailer Watch: Mila Kunis Gets Her Own Hero’s Journey in The Wachowskis’ Sci-Fi Spectacle Jupiter Ascending

Must we fall for this again?

Yesterday, the internet’s collective head exploded in reaction to the trailer for Jupiter Ascending, the latest film from writing/directing/producing pair the Wachowskis.

Here it is:

Since they last blew us all away with The Matrix (1999) the Wachowskis gave us the two divisive Matrix sequels, the off the wall, seizure-inducing, largely reviled live-action adaptation of Speed Racer (2008), and the ambitious, stunning, but odd and confusing Cloud Atlas (2012).  They also wrote and produced V for Vendetta (2006).

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Speed Racer was one of the biggest box office bombs of the past 10 years, after marketing costs are factored in.

Cloud Atlas was their most ambitious effort yet, weaving together six storylines through different settings while recasting its actors in various roles throughout time and space.  It’s no wonder they needed Tom Tykwer around to help co-direct it.  It was just too much for audiences to accept, though, in no small part because it’s nearly 3 hours long.  Made for an independently raised budget of just over $100 million, Cloud Atlas flat out bombed domestically (only $27.1 million despite the presence of Tom Hanks) while doing good enough internationally to end with a worldwide gross of $130 million.  It’s a tad surprising after that performance that their next movie is coming so quickly, and at a major studio at that, with Jupiter Ascending being a co-production between Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures.

In other word, the Wachowskis’ track record is mixed, but they remain the people who made The Matrix. The level of ambition displayed in their subsequent projects means anything they do demands our attention if perhaps with lowered expectations.  They’ve been developing Jupiter Ascending since at least 2011, at which time Natalie Portman was a rumored potential star.  If after watching the trailer you’re still not entirely clear what this is about, the official plot synopsis might help (from CinemaBlend):

“Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is an unlucky Russian immigrant who cleans toilets for a living. She encounters Caine (Channing Tatum), an interplanetary warrior whom the Queen of the Universe sent to kill Jupiter. Caine tells Jupiter that the stars were pointing to an extraordinary event on the night she was born, and that her DNA could mark her as the universe’s next leader.”

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Kunis isn’t actually Russian, but she is from the Ukraine, which was Russian property for the better part of the past century, only gaining independence when the Soviet Union fell in 1991.

While the trailer is certainly visually striking, the narrative seems like a sci-fi version of Snow White & The Hunstman, with Tatum playing Huntsman to Kunis’ Snow White and whoever they have as the Queen of the Universe standing in for Charlize Theron’s Queen.  That its’ story seems familiar is certainly not cause for dismissal outright but it is at least worth mentioning.  It is nice, however, to see a hero’s journey story about a lowly person who thinks they are normal discovering they are anything but focusing on a female character (Jupiter) for a change as opposed to the endless versions centered around males (Star Wars, Harry Potter, even TV’s recent Tomorrow People).  Plus, the Wachowskis have promised that there is going to be way more to this movie than this first trailer communicates.  

Over at CinemaBlend, in their write-up about the trailer they offered a poll asking if their readers were now excited for Jupiter Ascending, with 63% of current respondents indicating an emphatic “Absolutely!”  I fall into the “I’m not sold quite yet” category.  It looks gorgeous, but I don’t completely trust the Wachowskis anymore.  Plus, I massively enjoy Mila Kunis in most things, but I found her performance in her big budget CGI movie debut (Oz: The Great and Powerful) to be a mixed bag, bordering on embarrassing once her character undergoes her transformation in the second half.  She seems almost a non-entity in the Jupiter Ascending trailer, dwarfed by Channing Tatum, the CGI and gorgeous dresses she’s poured into, and standard odd sci-fi people who speak with British accents.  We can all agree that Sean Bean’s character will surely die a noble death, though, right?  That’s just what he does.

More than anything else, I can’t get one word out of my mind, “Prometheus, Prometheus, Prometheus.”  That was a better trailer than it was a movie, and to some extent the early trailer for Man of Steel was a better encapsulation of the Superman mythos than the actual movie.   Let’s not fall for this again.  You have our attention, Jupiter Ascending, just not our unquestioned enthusiasm.

Jupiter Ascending is due to come out July 25, 2014.

Did you love the trailer?  Hate it?  Think I’m clearly over-thinking it?  Let us know in the comments section.

Second Opinions:

7 comments

  1. Seriously, I just want to know what’s going with Channing Tatum’s hair!? He looks ridiculous. Distractingly ridiculous, to me.

    I will say I was more ‘intrigued’ than ‘excited’ by this trailer. I knew nothing of the plot prior to, and certainly the visuals look worh a shot. But I still don’t quite get it enough to be ‘excited’ by it.

    1. I’m with you on all points. From what I read at CinemaBlend, there is a whole other level of this movie not touched on in the trailer. It has something to do with aliens who splice DNA to make themselves superior to humans. Tatum’s character is apparently supposed to have had his DNA spliced with that of a wolf. Honestly, I barely recognize him in the trailer.

      1. I have some young female friends who are totally in love with all things Channing Tatum, and I can’t wait to show them this look and see what their thoughts are! I suspect they will hate it, which won’t bode well for getting female butts in seats. Artistic license doesn’t necessarily translate well in mainstream marketing.

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