The world of “Jupiter Ascending” is bursting with vivid details: wolf-man hybrids and flying lizard warriors, invisible spaceships and volcanic kingdoms. The Wachowski siblings, the writing-and-directing team behind the “Matrix” movies, have conjured another universe from scratch.
For most of us, colorful flights of fancy have gone the way of imaginary friends — the older we get, the more our creative impulses get drowned out by the cacophony of adult responsibilities. It seems that Andy and Lana Wachowski have never lost that childlike ability to dream. But they also haven’t mastered the grown-up power to rein it in. The story they tell in “Jupiter Ascending” could probably occupy an entire television season. There’s way too much here for one movie to hold.
Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, the daughter of immigrants, working as a maid in Chicago and sharing a bedroom with her mother and aunt. It’s a humble existence, especially considering she’s a queen, at least to the people who live on far-off planets that we Earthlings have never heard of. There are pros and cons to having royal genes. Jupiter is heir to a huge fortune, but some people want her dead. Luckily, Caine (Channing Tatum) appears and ends up rescuing her from evildoers and explaining the cosmos. He’s a “splice” — part-wolf, part-man — and 100 percent melancholy dreamboat. Caine is a former intergalactic crime fighter, and he skates around town on gravity-defying shoes. GMOs never looked so good.
It turns out that Earth is Jupiter’s birthright. But she’s going to have a hard time claiming it, because a trio of siblings are determined to snatch it from her. They’re part of the ruling Abrasax family — the Habsburgs of the sky — and they’re all a little off. Titus (Douglas Booth) is an orgiastic ladies’ man; Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) is a quietly unhinged fount of dubious wisdom.
Then there’s Balem, played by Eddie Redmayne. He may be up for a best actor Oscar for “The Theory of Everything,” but here he’s hilariously over-the-top. He speaks in barely audible whispers, attempting to drop his voice by an octave, and skulks around with an emotionless far-off gaze that’s supposed to read as psychotic. In truth, he’s about as intimidating as a toddler. His tantrums manifest themselves in sudden outbursts that have Redmayne screeching his lines. Unfortunately, you’ll never be able to unhear the way he shrieks “Gooooo!” to his hideous minions.
The Abrasax siblings don’t get along, so they aren’t teaming up against Jupiter so much as individually going after her, which turns into three separate narrative threads that take our hero to three planets. There’s simply not enough time to give any of these stories their due, so instead, each one feels abbreviated. Sometimes, during conspicuous editing, you can almost see where more movie was supposed to exist, like a narrative with phantom limbs. When Jupiter meets Titus, for example, she falls under his spell in a matter of moments even though she has been warned about the crazed fanatics in his family.
If there were more time, her gullibility might be comprehensible. Instead, we shake our heads at this woman who has gotten herself into yet another sticky situation from which only a wolfman with magic shoes can extricate her.
There’s still time for some fun detours that further illuminate the Wachowskis’ spectacular visions. One wry diversion involves a robotic “intergalactic advocate” named Bob, who ushers Jupiter through an endless bureaucracy to claim her inheritance. It makes the DMV look like Maui. And although they don’t get a lot of screen time, Caine’s legionnaire comrades are an entertaining crew.
Even with all the action and adventure, “Jupiter Ascending” often feels primarily like a love story. A relationship between Caine and Jupiter is inevitable, thanks in part to her near-constant damsel-in-distress routine. But the pairing never feels entirely earned. Like everything else in the movie, it’s too much too soon.
PG-13. At area theaters. Contains violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity. 127 minutes.