Jupiter Ascending trailer: move over Matrix?

Can the Wachowskis take the space opera format to the next level? Watch the trailer here and tell us what you think

If the Wachowski siblings' latest sci-fi fantasy extravaganza, Jupiter Ascending, had arrived soon after their Matrix trilogy, one imagines it might have got pretty short shrift from the critics. The debut trailer, which hit the web today, has borrowed so many tropes and archetypes from their earlier saga that few would be surprised if stars Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum were to begin fighting in bullet time or spouting sub-Lewis Carroll homilies.

There's the downtrodden ingenue – Kunis's Russian cleaner stepping in for Keanu Reeves's bored computer programmer – who suddenly finds the layers of reality peeled back to reveal a whole new world at which he or she inexplicably sits at the apex. There's the charismatic, cyberpunky warrior type (Tatum's feisty Caine subbing for Carrie-Anne Moss's slinky black-garbed Trinity) who arrives on the scene to rescue our hero from drudgery and enlighten them as to their exciting true nature. There even seems to be some sort of vast undiscovered conspiracy in place to mirror the Matrix's battery human schtick.

And yet the Wachowskis have recently shown themselves to be slipping into the sort of ambitious arthouse fantasy territory usually inhabited by Terry Gilliam (it is no surprise that the former Python is reputed to have a cameo in Jupiter Ascending). Last year's sprawling, refracted and hypnagogic Cloud Atlas was a daring, confident and unapologetically leftfield affair: the kind of movie that would never have survived intact as a major Hollywood studio production. A cult classic in the making that will surely come to stand alongside Brazil and Twelve Monkeys as elliptical wonders destined only to garner increased critical traction over time, it also maintained the distinct advantage of not being Darren Aronofsky's similarly pitched The Fountain.

And even if Jupiter Ascending is the Wachowskis' bid to return to more commercial territory, it's a pleasingly far-out formula for selling out. Caine, we're told, is the result of scientists splicing wolf DNA into a semi-albino (whatever that means?) human embryo. The movie also features "cyber hunters" who are out to track down Jupiter, and our heroine herself is only being chased because she's the exact genetic match to become the universe's new great leader. Jupiter's DNA "marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos", according to the official synopis. The Dalai Lama, it seems, has fallen down the proverbial rabbit hole.

Tatum told Collider earlier this year:

We are breaking ground on – I mean it's a tough shoot. We're doing stuff that's never been done, inside the camera, in the CG world, and the physical stuff. There's very little, if not no, digital stuntmen in the movie. All the stuff is really real and it's been hard figuring it out because they don't like doing anything that's been done before. So we're definitely doing some new stuff, so hopefully everybody likes it. And it's fun, it's got some cheek to it. It's a cheeky movie a little bit.

The film-making duo's first original piece since 2003's The Matrix Revolutions, Jupiter Ascending also features Britain's Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne and Tuppence Middleton. It remains to be seen if the Wachowskis can defy the gravitational pull of so many influences – the trailer also has a certain Fifth Element veneer to it – and take the space opera format to the next level. The title hints at the possibility of future instalments, and I can't help thinking the siblings' oddball geek take on the genre might just provide a fun alternative to the more studio-honed version of Star Wars that we're likely to see in the Disney era. How about you?


Ben Child

The GuardianTramp

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