Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum Jupiter Ascending
Cast: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Douglas Booth
Directors: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Running Time: 125 minutes
Synopsis: Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) was born under a night sky, with signs predicting that she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning other people's houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along"her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.
Release Date: February 19th, 2015
About the Production
Beyond Earth, beyond our Sun, one of the most powerful dynasties in the universe has ruled for millennia. Now, following the death of its matriarch, her three primary heirs – Balem, Kalique and Titus – are at war, vying for control of the House of Abrasax.
But another heir has emerged whose claim may be even greater than theirs. A young woman, born on Earth, unknowingly carries a genetic legacy that entitles her to a future beyond her imagining and with it the power to alter the fate of her planet.
Pursued and surrounded by enemies, Jupiter Jones is forced to leave her ordinary existence behind and, with the help of an ex-military bounty hunter who becomes her only ally, she confronts her true destiny.
Filmmakers Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski once again invite audiences into uncharted territory and fantastic new worlds with 'Jupiter Ascending." Their first original science fiction action adventure since 'The Matrix" Trilogy, 'Jupiter Ascending" reveals a universe in which the Earth is just one small piece of the vast machinery of galactic commerce"a prize, about to be seized and stripped of its most precious resource: humanity.
'I can't even remember a time when alien intelligence or the potential inherent in the vastness of space didn't fascinate us," says Lana Wachowski. 'Who didn't love Carl Sagan's -Cosmos'? And the movie -2001: A Space Odyssey' had such a profound impact on us. But as storytellers, what got us excited about that potential was answering the question, -If someone else is out there, and they know about us, why don't they want us to know about them?'"
Written, directed and produced by the Wachowskis, 'Jupiter Ascending" is conceptually sci-fi but encompasses elements of their other favorite genres. A thriller and an action epic, it is also, at its core, a love story between two people who would never have met if not for one extraordinary event that might only happen once in centuries, if it happens at all: a Recurrence, a human born with a gene pattern that's an exact duplicate of one that has already existed.
Jupiter Jones is a Recurrence. Her genetic profile has been identified as a match for a woman who, before her mysterious death, controlled one of the most dominant ruling families in the universe. This makes Jupiter, despite her humble upbringing, the beneficiary of unfathomable wealth and the pivotal figure in a monumental power struggle, with the Earth set in its crosshairs.
To the family's existing heirs, it just makes her a target.
Beginning in present-day Chicago and traversing the cosmos, 'Jupiter Ascending" offers a breathtaking panorama, at turns majestic and menacing, as one young woman, plucked from the most ordinary life, comes to terms with a regal identity she never knew, and the risks and responsibilities that come with it"not just for herself but for everyone she loves and every human being on her planet. In the process, she may find not only her true strength and purpose but, possibly, the love of her life.
'It's so smart and amazing and so much fun," says Mila Kunis, who stars as the title character, Jupiter Jones, the unwitting genetic heir to a family that, quite literally, rules the world. 'There's a lot of action, and a beautiful love story, and even though it takes places in the most fantastical settings, everything feels so tangible and real. Also, there's a fair amount of sharp humor, which I love."
'Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski create from a molecular level to the expanse of the universe," says Channing Tatum, starring opposite Kunis as Caine Wise, a professional tracker sent to Earth by one of the three Abrasax siblings to capture Jupiter Jones once her gene print and heritage are verified. Caine doesn't know the reason for his mission, which is immediately complicated by a gang of bounty hunters determined to capture Jupiter themselves, at any cost. 'He is trying to figure out why all of this is happening, and has to make a decision whether to protect her or give her up," Channing Tatum says.
Almost fully human but for a splice of wolf DNA that both enhances his skills and limits his prospects for a normal life, Caine becomes Jupiter's protector as he comes to understand who she really is and what's at stake if the people who want her neutralized are successful.
Whether drawing audiences into an aerial firefight between rival alien bounty hunters across Chicago's night sky, or launching them into the far reaches of space, these are filmmakers who do not hold back. Producer Grant Hill, their producing partner since 'The Matrix Reloaded," knows well, 'What excites them is the challenge of it and the immense scale of a film like this, its look and design. The spectacle of it is just magnificent and that was very much the intent: a big, broad spectrum sci-fi movie.
'The Wachowskis are known for their innovation and imagination," Grant Hill further notes, 'but it's not spectacle for its own sake. It always serves the story, and in this case that means traveling through several wholly individual realms, each of which had to be created with its own life forms and technologies, and each with its own ways to transport people through space and wage these momentous battles."
The filmmakers' purpose in setting so vast a stage is to frame the revelation to a shaken and incredulous Jupiter that humanity did not originate on Earth, and that her planet is part of a much larger enterprise and social order that dates back more than a billion years. It's an asset among many, currently owned by the formidable Balem Abrasax, as played by Eddie Redmayne. Though they sprang from the same DNA eons ago, the Abrasax family represents a culture so evolutionarily advanced that they now view the human population on Earth as no more than livestock, a cash crop they can cultivate for their own purposes. And harvest.
As shocking as this is to Jupiter, so is the knowledge that she somehow holds the key to controlling all of it. But in order to accomplish all that lies ahead, Jupiter must sweep aside the doubts and the limitations she has always accepted. She needs to find the courage and the focus to stride forward and claim her birthright despite all the odds against her, and be the person she was clearly meant to be.
'Stories are only as good as their villains," says Lana Wachowski. 'In this case, we hit upon the idea of a family of villains that were a distorted reflection of Jupiter's own family. We are all guilty, like the Abrasax and Bolotnikov families, of using or extorting each other. We all have put ourselves before others and have valued status and wealth more than we should. Despite the scale of outer space, it was important that the characters remain human, reflecting the best and worst of us." 'Jupiter doesn't have super powers," says Mila Kunis. 'She doesn't know how to shoot a gun. She's just an average girl who's thrown into this environment and has to figure it out."
'Like a lot of us," Mila Kunis adds, 'Jupiter is one of those people who doesn't know if she's worth more or can achieve more, or if there's even any more to life than what she's been dealt. She's been kind of sleepwalking her way through it until someone or something comes along to shake her up. I think many people can relate to that moment in their lives. I certainly can. Sometimes you don't know which path to take or even what road you're on until something happens to make you realise there's more to life than this."
Says Lana Wachowski, 'We wanted to tell a story of a mad, impossible journey that leads her as far away as anyone could ever go, only to return to her own sense of -home,' and the realisation of what is important to her.
'After our decade-long sojourn through -The Matrix' Trilogy," she continues, 'I read The Odyssey over Thanksgiving at my parents' house. Then we watched -The Wizard of Oz,' and I was struck by the similarities of these two stories, especially in their concept of -home.' Home is a center of gravity and one of the ways we understand ourselves. Coming home makes us think about the ways we've changed and the ways we've stayed the same. That was the light-bulb moment when Andy Wachowski and I first started thinking about Jupiter Jones as a woman who is unhappy, who feels trapped by the drudgery of her life, and who goes off into space and learns things about herself"like so many people who are unhappy with their lives and who go on journeys in search of what they want or need, only to return with a new perspective and appreciation for where they come from."
But Jupiter doesn't make this journey alone. She has Caine. It doesn't take them long to realise that however strong they are as individuals they are even better working together, and it's not a small task they are facing. Once they understand the full extent of the Abrasax agenda, it's not only the fate of the Earth but of countless other planets and lives at stake.
The more Jupiter and Caine are drawn into the circles of power, and the more they learn about the true nature of their existence and the horror of the coming harvest, 'Jupiter Ascending" raises some of the questions that have captivated us forever. As Andy Wachowski suggests: 'It touches on the idea of who we are and where we fit in the universe; whether we are alone or whether there is life on other planets."
What if everything you believed about life on Earth was wrong? What if someone else is out there and what part do we truly play in the greater machinery of the cosmos? Says Channing Tatum, 'Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski created a world that will open your mind to the possibility that we are just a very small grain of sand on an enormous beach." Jupiter, Caine And Stinger: New Bonds And Old Alliances Jupiter: 'I've made enough mistakes to know this doesn't feel like another one."
Caine: 'How can Your Majesty be sure if, as you said, your compass is broken?"
Recounting the moment when Caine and Jupiter meet, Mila Kunis says, 'Jupiter is in a very precarious situation and when Caine drops out of the sky and takes her up in his arms it's very much a chemical attraction between the two of them, regardless of everything else that's going on. It's natural and instantaneous."
'We were very lucky in our casting," states Grant Hill. 'Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum were our first choices for the roles of Jupiter and Caine and when they fell into place so quickly our momentum lifted and we were off. They're both very strong characters and their on-screen chemistry is remarkably compelling."
The trust and connection that develops between Caine and Jupiter and deepens throughout the ensuing action could be described as a simple love story on a large scale. These are two individuals who never expected to find love at all, and certainly not under these extreme circumstances. Says Channing Tatum, 'Caine probably just wrote himself off long ago as never being able to find love or even being deserving of it, even though it's all he's ever wanted. And Jupiter feels that she's made every possible bad decision in the book when it comes to men so maybe it's not worth trying again."
Like many true heroines, Jupiter's courage is forged from harsh and humble beginnings. Her father, an astrophysicist, was killed in Saint Petersburg in a senseless crime before her birth, and Jupiter entered the world at sea, between nations, as her mother and sister fled to America for a better life. But that life was far from fairytale. Cleaning houses by day and sharing cramped quarters with her extended family at night, Jupiter's reality is back-breaking and numbingly monotonous.
'Jupiter works with her mom and aunt and she really has no life," says Mila Kunis. 'There's no joy or fun; it's just a struggle. She's all but given up on her dreams and she thinks, -Well, this is it, this is my life and it's never going to get any better.'"
But beneath her casual cynicism Jupiter has a tender heart and, like her father, a genuine curiosity about the universe and her place in it. She secretly wishes"though never really expects"that she could see the world as he did, as a place of beauty, wonder and possibility.
Unlucky, too, in love, Jupiter's romantic history is marred by heartbreak and disappointment. So much so that she believes she has a broken compass, causing her to make one bad choice after another. But is her compass broken or it just leading her to Caine? In Caine, she finds someone she is forced to trust and, in return, he is forced to trust her, a situation that does not come easily to either of them, and when she falls in love with him it's the biggest leap of faith she has ever made.
The experience is similar for him. In Caine's society, human genes are routinely engineered and often combined with genes from the animal kingdom for their advantageous traits and abilities: heightened senses such as sight, scent or hearing, and agility or strength. Caine, with his infusion of wolf DNA, was bred to be a Legionnaire or 'skyjacker," a fearless soldier with incomparable hunting, tracking and fighting skills. Unfortunately, the person who designed Caine miscalculated, adding to these attributes a streak of rebellion and unpredictability. This eventually manifested into such an intense hatred and distrust toward anyone of royal blood that it takes every ounce of control for Caine not to immediately go for their throats. Consequently, he has learned to keep to himself.
Says Lana Wachowski, 'When we first started talking about Jupiter, we thought a lot about Dorothy from Oz. I love that she had Toto as her protector. Jupiter needs a protector. Also, I was reading a book about wolves and it explains that wolves hunt in packs, and that the wolves that get exiled from that pack almost always die. To survive, they must become these super hunters.
'For Caine," she adds, 'he's hunting for that thing he never had, a pack of his own, that sense of belonging you feel when you love and are loved back. For Jupiter, Caine's love is the key to her overcoming her distrust of the world and herself, which gives her courage to stand and fight for what's important."
Ultimately, she says, 'They fulfill something in each other."
When Caine is dispatched by Titus Abrasax to find and deliver Jupiter before she is swept up by one of his scheming siblings, the former Legionnaire doesn't know who she is or why she merits such attention. Later, when he learns the truth, he is perplexed. Jupiter is a royal, yet she doesn't arouse in him the aversion he harbors toward her class; instead, she brings out the protective side of his lupine nature, the instinct toward loyalty and connection.
'Caine has an issue with royals, and he's been told all his life that it's his genetic disposition," Channing Tatum acknowledges. 'But then Jupiter is an anomaly. He's simultaneously drawn to her and thrown by her because he can't understand why he feels this way. I think Caine senses an innate goodness in her, and it's a quality he hasn't had much experience with so Jupiter is a bit of an interesting enigma."
Previously, the only person with whom Caine ever built such a bond was his friend and fellow splice, Legion commander Stinger Apini. And that didn't turn out well.
Sean Bean, who stars as the former officer, says, 'Stinger and Caine have a rich, long history. Both brave, strong guys, they fought together and developed a mutual respect. Stinger was a mentor and father figure to Caine, and saw him as something of a son, a younger man who reminded him of what he once was"not only in his strength but in his headstrong nature"and the best soldier he ever went into battle with. They had a good relationship."
That relationship was tested when Caine attacked a royal and Stinger stood up for him. Consequently, the two elite skyjackers were court-martialed. Caine was locked up, while Stinger's allegiance earned him a prison of another kind. Demoted to Marshal for the Aegis, an intergalactic police force, he lives in exile on Earth, manning a remote outpost on a Midwestern farm surrounded by corn fields and colonies of bees.
Cerebral and methodical, Stinger's human genes are crossed with that of a highly evolved bee species, affording Stinger, among other things, the insects' finely tuned awareness of atmospheric change.
'This is the life he's been forced into but he seems to be making the best of it," says Sean Bean. 'He doesn't expect things to change until Caine turns up and creates all sorts of problems and interesting possibilities again."
Any reunion between these two would have to be volatile, as bad memories will inevitably be raked up, but even more so now that Caine must come to Stinger for help. He can't predict how his old comrade will feel about seeing him again, or where his loyalties may lie, but it's a chance he has to take because he and Jupiter have nowhere else to turn. The Aegis, finally aware of Jupiter's existence, have sent a cruiser and official envoy for her, but Balem Abrasax has already ordered a transportation blockade and, simultaneously, launched a squadron of assassins who will surely reach her first.
As Stinger predicts, they're not going to get off this planet without a fight. Balem, Kalique And Titus: Heirs To The House Of Abrasax Titus: 'Lies are a necessity. They are the source of meaning. Of belief and hope. Honestly, lies are sometimes the only reason I get out of bed."
Though human, the Abrasax have a culture far more ancient than mankind's brief tenure on Earth and consider themselves so evolutionarily superior that they retain only the merest echo of their common ancestry.
Lana Wachowski introduces the ruling dynasty by explaining, 'Every single person in the world experiences and wrestles with the idea of status. It's a very human concept to see society as a pyramid, where some lives matter more than others. A lot of terrible things in the real world have been justified by that kind of thinking."
When Seraphi Abrasax died, following a nearly 100,000-year reign as the family's ageless sovereign, her vast planetary holdings and industrial concerns, including the Earth, passed to her estranged and competitive progeny: Balem, the eldest; Kalique, his sister; and Titus, their younger brother. But whatever previously fueled the siblings' rivalry is nothing compared to the discovery of Jupiter Jones"a woman whose genome makes her essentially the legal proxy of Seraphi herself, superseding all other claims.
They know what Jupiter's very existence means to them and their future, and each has his or her own strategy for dealing with her.
Eddie Redmayne stars as the ruthless Balem, current head of Abrasax Industries, who has only just begun to savor the expansion of wealth and power that his mother's passing provided when he gets the bitter news. Having the most to lose, his response is swift and absolute. He wants Jupiter dead.
'He's a damaged, really evil person who seems completely unstable at the beginning of the film and only gets worse," says Eddie Redmayne, whose characterization of Balem reveals a personality so tightly wound that he speaks in a controlled, ominous whisper…until those moments when he bursts into a rage.
Citing the way 'Jupiter Ascending" weaves so many storytelling elements together, he says, 'It's such an extraordinary combination of something completely contemporary and modern, science-fiction and original, but with echoes of almost Shakespearean and Greek drama in the relationships between the siblings and their mother and the complexity of family. You don't hear much of Balem's back-story but clearly a lot of things have happened to bring him to the extremity and isolation that is his life and that's what makes him so compelling."
Additionally, the actor observes, 'Balem's obsession is profit, and the idea that profiting financially is the only way to move forward in life. It's interesting to see that cold and mercenary point of view juxtaposed against Jupiter's, which is of love and learning to love."
Contrary to Balem's blatant display, Kalique prefers advising and befriending this newfound member of the family. Or maybe she's just reluctant to reveal her hand so soon. Tuppence Middleton, who stars as the middle Abrasax heir, believes 'Kalique is very much intrigued by Jupiter, who bears such a resemblance to her mother. I think she wants to find out as much as she can about her and how much of a threat she might be to their power, so that she'll know how to play her game right."
Diverting Balem's bounty hunters with the offer of a better deal, Kalique warmly welcomes Jupiter to the tranquil, water-themed surroundings of her home planet. There, the eternally youthful Kalique"who is, in fact, 14,000 years old"provides more of the missing pieces of the puzzle for Jupiter, who is still struggling to comprehend the enormity of her circumstances. 'It's important that they're from different worlds," says Tuppence Middleton. 'There's a great contrast between them, Kalique being wise, older, and a bit world-weary, and having a very calm pace, compared to Jupiter's energy, strength, and spunk. There's almost a sisterly feeling to their encounter."
However it's Titus, played by Douglas Booth, who takes the most inventive approach. While giving the impression of a charming and spoiled playboy with an admittedly cavalier relationship to the truth, Titus' devotion to his own comfort and hedonistic pursuits belie a fierce ambition and a mind every bit as calculating as Balem's.
'It's interesting to see or guess at everyone's motives," says Douglas Booth. 'My character doesn't want his brother or sister to have the Earth, which, among their other planetary holdings, is kind of the jewel in the crown and has a big market value. Balem currently holds the title, but, if Jupiter is who they think she is, it would be rightfully hers. That would impact Balem's position in the market and reduce his yield, and that's good for Titus."
Neither as direct as Balem, nor as subtle as Kalique, Titus plots his own coup to eliminate this new challenge to his inheritance while simultaneously outmaneuvering his siblings for a bigger stake of the family fortune. The key for him is to keep Jupiter alive, at least for the moment. Among the actors in key supporting roles, James D'Arcy strikes a poignant but inspirational figure as Jupiter's doomed father, Maximillian Jones. An idealistic astrophysicist who died before her birth, he bestowed upon his child a distinctive name and the potential for seeing the beauty of the cosmos.
'Cloud Atlas" alumna Doona Bae tears into her first action role as Razo, a fierce off-world hybrid and bounty hunter. Razo pilots an anti-gravity sled called The Bullet"which the Wachowskis describe as a cross between a motorcycle and a torpedo"in a fight where she and her crew attempt to hijack Jupiter from Caine's protection.
Actor, writer and director Terry Gilliam meanwhile takes a wickedly humorous turn as the Seal and Signet Minsiter, a malcontented civil servant in a labyrinth of bureaus comprising the Commonwealth Ministry, where Jupiter must secure her royal credentials. Film fans will recognise the homage to Gilliam's masterwork, 'Brazil." 'Playing a cranky old fart is quite easy," says Terry Gilliam. 'Just bend over, hunch up and start talking in weird voices and off you go. It's the first time in a very long time that I've done anything in front of the camera, but the Wachowskis asked if I could be this ancient clerk in this Brazil-like world, and how could I say no to them? I've always been a fan. They're smart and they do great work."
Jupiter's terrestrial family includes Maria Doyle Kennedy as her mother, Aleksa; Frog Stone as Aunt Nino; Jeremy Swift as overbearing uncle Vassily; and Kick Gurry as her cousin Vladie, a guy with more big ideas than the sense to see them through.
Among those portraying the alien, hybrid and robotic entities that Jupiter and Caine encounter on their trek through the galaxy are Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Titus' advisor, Famulus; Tim Pigott-Smith as Kalique's owl-eyed vizier, Malidictes; and Edward Hogg as Balem's aptly named legal counsel, Chicanery Night. David Ajala is Ibis, Razo's bounty hunter partner; Nikki Amuka-Bird is Diomika Tsing, the captain of an Aegis escort ship who puts herself and her crew in jeopardy to help Caine; and Ariyon Bakare delivers a motion-capture performance as the fearsome Saurisapian Greeghan, a winged goliath in Balem's royal guard who is eager"and able"to take Caine apart.
'The entire cast we assembled is fantastic," says Grant Hill. 'The film is populated by so many wonderfully talented actors who inhabit a range of really fascinating and complex characters." Designing Worlds Stinger: 'You've been taught that the birthplace of the human race is Earth. But it's not."
'Design and aesthetics have always been the essential elements that lead to our decision to undertake any project, and this was especially true for -Jupiter,'" says Lana Wachowski. 'We wanted to capture all the incredible beauty and detail that is in our world and reflect it back onto the screen," she emphasises. 'We were also determined to do what a lot of science fiction shies away from, which is juxtapose different kinds of aesthetics, like the clean futuristic gleam of the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain against the Gothic baroque of the British Museum. Also, in pursuit of the grit and grime of the real world, which is quite hard to achieve in a set or through CGI, we actually shot much more on location than anyone would guess for a movie that is set mostly in outer space."
The story begins in a recognisable, contemporary Chicago, but soon leaves that familiar grounding for parts unknown. 'Jupiter Ascending" takes audiences to an Abrasax refinery that serves as Balem's austere home base on the planet Jupiter; and to Kalique's Alcazar, a serene palace on the fictional ruby planet Cerise, outside our solar system. It touches down on Titus's luxury compound aboard a massive cruise ship in the Cleopeides Nebulae; and the congested planet Orous, where humanity is said to have been born millennia ago, and now functions as a records bureau.
Each of these environments, entirely conceived by the Wachowskis, had to be brought to life on screen with its own unique elements of structure and style, yet share enough characteristics to suggest a interconnected history.
Seemingly futuristic, they all exist in the present but are just calibrated to the comforts and technology of a society at a far advanced stage of development.
'The design of the film was an enormous undertaking, starting from the sketches and myriad reference materials lining the walls of the Wachowskis' office," recounts Grant Hill. 'One of the first things we did was to assemble a large design team. It was essential that the technology was right. If you're going to create whole worlds and invent everything, it has to have its own logic. You have to think about how such people would build, how they live, how they move around, what they wear. Each world has its own history and mythology and its own inhabitants, developed separately from its neighbors and from the human population on Earth, and its look has to reflect that."
'Jupiter Ascending" called in many artisans from past projects, including production designer Hugh Bateup, cinematographer John Toll, editor Alexander Berner, costume designer Kym Barrett, makeup and hair designer Jeremy Woodhead and visual effects supervisor Dan Glass, as well as renowned FX designer John Gaeta, whose work on 'The Matrix" earned an Oscar and who served as a consultant on 'Jupiter Ascending." Additionally, says Grant, 'We brought together conceptual artists, matte painters, prosthetics designers, engineers, storyboard artists and wardrobe sketch artists from all over the world."
The Wachowskis took the uncommon approach of working with composer Michael Giacchino prior to production, allowing the film's score"at times pulsing and frenetic, soaring and majestic, then delicate as a whisper"to serve as additional inspiration for the cast and crew. Acknowledging the advantages of regrouping with creative colleagues, Dan Glass says, 'There's not that initial phase of trying to learn how people think about things. That being said, in some ways every movie the Wachowskis do is radically different and that's one of the things I like about working with them. They're still full of surprises, even for the people who know them well, so there's plenty of room for excitement and new ideas with every project."
'Science fiction is a particular challenge," says Hugh Bateup. 'There's a wealth of design potential in this genre, especially with the Wachowskis involved. As fans, themselves, they have an awareness and respect for the work that precedes them, and they want something people have not seen before."
With so much to accomplish on such a colossal scale, collaboration started early, with Hugh Bateup and Dan Glass engaged in tandem from the film's conception. 'Figuring out the best split to achieve the end result took time," says Dan Glass, whose team finalised approximately 2,500 visual effects shots. 'There were obvious situations where a vast environment was required that couldn't be built, but the directors tried to ground parts of each world in physical reality." Many scenes were captured in and around Chicago"most notably Jupiter's family life, her thrilling escape from assassins high above the business district, and Stinger's remote farmhouse in nearby Minooka. The directors then used the extensive stage and green-screen facilities of Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden in the UK.
Mindful of how things might have credibly evolved, given the parameters of the story and a human civilisation eons old, they took a multi-faceted approach with a confluence of eras and styles. Says Dan Glass, 'Lana Wachowski and Andy Wachowski liked the suggestion that these off-planet worlds contain architectural elements familiar to audiences, the implication being that they may have inspired our own art and architecture on Earth at various points in our history."
'We kept returning to this idea throughout the design process," Hugh Bateup adds, offering as one example the chapel set on Titus' clipper. For this, he combined the existing sandstone gothic features of Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire, England, where the production shot its grand interiors, with more modern steel-framed window structures and light fixtures which set decorator Peter Walpole and the prop department then tooled to perfection.
Religious imagery from different faiths informed the overall aesthetic of Titus' home. 'Most of the huge pillars throughout the docking bay are based on the ceiling structures of old English churches," says Hugh Bateup. 'We set out to make the living quarters look and feel very much like a luxury yacht from the mid 19th century, with wood finishes and brass or gold trim to emphasize his sense of style. We highlighted the science fiction theme with large panoramic windows looking out into space and carved golden dogs adorning the entrance, which was a mixture of Egyptian and state-of-the-art technology."
'Borrowing from Gothic architecture and Art Deco, the ship resembles a giant fish with large fin-like sails as it cruises across the depths of space," adds Dan Glass. 'Familiar details like fan vaulting are used in unusual orientations to deliberately mix up the visual impact."
Jupiter's first stop in space is Kalique's home, a place of diffused light, high ceilings and an abiding sense of tranquility. 'The magnificent waterfalls and scale of the interiors were intended to imbue this character with a certain majesty," says Hugh Bateup, who adapted the hallways and display areas of London's Natural History Museum for the palace set, to which gilded domes and spires were digitally grafted.
One of the more elaborate sets was Balem's world"a cavernous space encompassing his lab and refinery, and reminiscent of both a steel mill and a supercollider. 'The most difficult aspect to these sets was determining how much could be built within a stage's space limitations versus what had to be digitally drawn by visual effects to achieve the sense of grandeur the directors wanted," says Hugh Bateup, who constructed outsized sets at Leavesden, which the visual effects team then surrounded with floor-to-ceiling green screens. 'We put our own twist on gothic and industrial styles, and added sumptuousness and elegant machinery."
'Hugh Balem's operation is set within the gasses of Jupiter in a hugely intricate structure," Dan Glass adds. 'The complexity of this set made it the most data-heavy asset ever handled by one of our key visual effects vendors, Double Negative."
The actors were continually amazed by each new environment. Says Mila Kunis, 'Some of it was done in post, but the tangible sets we did have were stunning and beautiful and very much tailored to the personal qualities of each character. Balem's world looked like a dungeon, which suited him perfectly, and Kalique's had candles everywhere with a kind of Moroccan feel, whereas Titus' sets were very grand and sensual, with lots of mahogany."
Meanwhile, the fictional planet Orous, purported to be in the Cunabulum System, took shape as the birthplace of the human race. Long overpopulated and now supporting cities that rise high above its surface, it serves as the Commonwealth Ministry and home to the universe's Aegis police force. To compensate for its lack of terrestrial real estate, Bateup says, 'They have relocated their agricultural production to huge orbiting installations. Within these orbiting masses there are also many other cities with their own independent ecosystems. Very wealthy families like the Abrasax would live in these outer rings." Flights, Fights, and Anti-Gravity Boots
One of the film's most spectacular sequences occurs as the story opens, just after Jupiter is confirmed as a royal heir and the target of the warring Abrasax. She must rely on Caine, whom she has just met, to elude death or capture in a breathless pursuit and battle called the Shadow Chase. A flawless fusion of physical stunts and FX, practical location shots and green-screen stage work, it propels them through narrow passes between skyscrapers and under bridges, then high above the Chicago skyline in a mid-air rush of sharp turns, plunging drops and Caine's second-by-second combat strategy.
Says Grant Hill, 'The Wachowskis have long wanted to film in their home town and, in many ways, -Jupiter Ascending' is a tribute to the city."
'Chicago is, in our admittedly biased opinion, one of the most beautiful cities in the world," says Lana Wachowski. 'In the summer, there's a moment before the sun breaks, just as the lights bounce off the lake while the sky and city lights are still glittering, and it creates a glow that is very rare. It gives the sky a look of purple, indigo and gold. We think it's one of the most beautiful and romantic images of the city. We took John Toll, our cinematographer, to the top of the Willis Tower to watch how long the magic lasted. About five minutes. He asked what scene we hoped to shoot, maybe an establishing shot or a romantic moment, and when we said The Chase, he laughed. -No, really.'"
Lana Wachowski further explains, 'Chase scenes are usually shot in bright day or night because they're complicated and you need all that time to get the pieces you need; whereas a romantic scene, which is simpler, will often be shot at sunset. We wanted to combine the two by shooting the most beautiful chase we could, because we felt this is where Jupiter and Caine begin to feel connected. She is literally -falling' in love with him. More importantly, we didn't want too much CG or green screen because we wanted it to feel real."
'There's a physics to the human body we don't feel you can achieve quite as well through CG," adds Andy Wachowski. 'This chase is made by the fact that we have two people hanging from a helicopter. You can feel their weight and the way their bodies react and break apart and catch, and little bits of physical detail where Caine's boot shifts a certain way. CG is amazing, and there are guys who can do that, but it might take a very special artist a year to render the whole thing."
The logistics of the Shadow Chase began on a Leavesden soundstage, where complex rigs were constructed and stunt choreography perfected in a safe environment before taking the action to the street"and the sky. Then test runs in Long Beach, California, verified that performers could be suspended from helicopters through a series of flying postures while being filmed by cameras on other copters. Following this success, the directors applied for clearance to shoot in and above downtown Chicago.
Executing the aerial work on site took eight months of planning, involving assistance from numerous regulatory agencies. 'It was a multi-faceted effort," the producer continues.
'We had to close portions of downtown in the early morning and at nightfall for two weeks, which required complete evacuation of the area so low-level helicopters suspending Channing Tatum's and Mila Kunis's stunt doubles at 1,500 feet above street level could move around buildings, while a second helicopter maneuvered around them to film the action. A third helicopter was concurrently filming background plates for the hundreds of visual effects shots that would depict the destruction of much of downtown Chicago."
'Four ground-based camera crews stationed on rooftops along the route augmented the footage from the camera mounted on the helicopter," offers John Toll.
Timing was tight. Underscoring the Wachowskis' observation about the atmosphere, John Toll says, 'A year prior to shooting this scene we shot tests of various parts of the city at different times of day and decided that the unique look of early morning light just prior to sunrise would create the ideal mood: beautiful, mysterious and threatening all at the same time. At that time of year, it meant shooting between 5:15 and 5:45 AM.
'The finished sequence is a fairly complex mix of visual effects and live-action photography, including stunts with both the actors and stunt doubles on location in Chicago, and against green screens on stage," John Toll concludes. 'The VFX elements of the aliens and spacecraft were computer generated and composited into the live-action plates."
Toward this end, Dan Glass and his team worked closely with John Toll to create a new camera rig for the location shots, to secure the 180-degree aerial plates, or 'blank shots" on which to paint their CG images. 'We helped design and build the Panocam, which consisted of 6 RED cameras mounted within a stabilized gyroscope aerial mount," says Glass. 'This captured an extremely wide angle view at very high resolution for a large number of shots. Without this, the number of our flying runs would have been completely impractical. It also gave us more flexibility with foreground action stunts. We additionally used the NCam system on set, which provided real-time feedback of our virtual environments as well as near-instant camera data information for preparing post-visualisations on set and subsequently for editorial."
A major part of what makes this, and all the 'Jupiter Ascending" action so compelling is the way in which the hero, Caine, moves. Not flying in the traditional sense and not jet-packing or riding any kind of vehicle, Caine is able to speed, swoop and dart like a raptor, changing direction and velocity on a dime.
The secret is in his boots. 'They're not rocket boots, they're not flying boots," Channing Tatum states. 'They redirect the force of gravity so he can literally surf the air." In reality, they were skates"the wheels of which were erased in post"that the actor used on a system of ramps, platforms and cables to simulate the sensation of airborne navigation.
With the assistance of six men pulling wires behind a green screen, led by stunt coordinator R.A. Rondell of 'Matrix" fame, Channing Tatum rollerbladed on a giant three-sided treadmill four meters long and two meters wide, moving at 4.5 mph, mostly while carrying Mila Kunis and 'surfing" above Chicago and through alien worlds.
To help train Channing Tatum and the stunt team, the filmmakers reached out to some of the best in the field, including pro inline skater Cory Miller, from California, and vert skater Taïg Khris, from France. Taig Khris, best known for dropping from the Eiffel Tower onto a vert ramp in 2010 to break the world record for the highest inline skate jump, also executed Caine's leap from the 2nd floor balcony of the Natural History Museum's Great Hall that doubled for Kalique's palace, and 'flew" through Ely Cathedral, which appears as the chapel aboard Titus' ship.
Channing Tatum, who had no prior experience with the sport, says, 'You have to skate at a pretty good clip and be able to stop in time to throw a punch or block a punch as you're turning to face the next person, and sometimes the skates aren't moving in the right direction, or you go too far. I can recover if I go too far on foot, but it's harder to do that on skates. In the beginning it was slow, but then one day I just didn't take them off for the duration and that was the turning point. If I wasn't on wires, I put on the skates and just lived in them. It's like learning a language.
'One of the reasons I signed on is because I wanted to be able to do some of the physical things I've always loved seeing in movies, and this offered me that chance," Channing Tatum adds. 'I like to learn new things and push myself, and I knew that working with some of the industry's best stunt performers would raise my game."
As Caine is carrying and defending Jupiter through much of the action, Channing Tatum performed the majority of these stunts with Mila Kunis essentially strapped to his back.
The pair also spent a fair amount of time suspended from wires, prompting Mila Kunis to recall, 'I don't know if you're ever ready to be hanging on a wire but I definitely worked out for it and it was interesting. At one point we were on seven independent wires apiece and if he veered too far in one direction it would swing me in the opposite direction and then we'd collide, so it took some coordination." In some ways, it was also surreal. 'After a few hours, you do end up just shooting the breeze with each other, like -What did you have for dinner last night,' and normal conversation, then you look down and remind yourself that you're 40 feet off the ground." Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum both trained with UK stunt and fight coordinator Ben Cooke for a number of confrontations, chiefly Jupiter's heated showdown with Balem at his refinery, and Caine's climactic life-or-death contest with Balem's deadly enforcer, Greeghan. 'Obviously, Caine is a highly trained military fighter, so he has a certain style, which we developed with Channing. It has fluency and a kind of elegance," says Ben Cooke. 'On the other hand, Jupiter is a regular girl. She has no ninja moves. Her fighting style is character-driven and makes use of her environment, so it's more reality-based."
Greeghan is one of several CG creatures in the film, a veritable monster, seven feet tall with a 20-foot wingspan and a serpentine tail he wields like a whip. Dan Glass's description of 'a winged lizard, almost a dragon" is appropriate because the actor who portrays him, Ariyon Bakare, studied the movements of lizards like the Komodo dragon to prepare for his motion-capture performance, aiming to combine a human intelligence with the agility and unpredictability of a reptile.
'We really haven't done creatures, per se, with the Wachowskis up till now so this is another area for them," says Dan Glass. 'There's a big fight sequence between Greeghan and Caine that should be awesome to watch. There are also a number of other creatures, from the Keepers, which resemble classic grey ETs, to a myriad of hybrids and non-human characters who populate these worlds." Traveling in Style
'Why are spaceships so ugly?," Lana jokingly asks. 'They look like container ships from an oil refinery. Yet, if you examine the history of transportation, from carriages to cars, and boats to planes, human beings"particularly rich human beings"have always traveled in exquisite style. This was part of our first design conversation with Hugh, Dan and John Gaeta."
This sense of opulence set the protocol for the film's remarkable vehicles. Apart from Titus' ship, which serves more as a floating palace, the Wachowskis envisioned a fleet of sleek and agile new spacecraft for the film, both functional and elegantly rendered. Each has its own beauty, rooted in organic designs inspired by natural sources"some resembling insects or birds of prey"with appendages that could be manipulated like sails, wings, or blades.
The filmmakers not only brainstormed with John Gaeta, Hugh Bateup, Dan Glass, and their respective teams over how these vehicles would look and operate, but turned to artists around the world, at one stage mining the imaginations of 20 conceptual artists in seven different countries. 'This was a fantastic way to see ideas from people with very different backgrounds," says Hugh Bateup. 'We refined those early ideas and ended up with the ships seen in the film, which use a propulsion system allowing for their various parts to be quickly detached and re-attached through a machine-induced gravity force."
The idea, inspired by the multi-directional behavior of fermionic superfluids in the physics laboratory, 'allowed a way for some of the smaller craft to switch directions rapidly in an interesting way," Dan Glass elaborates. 'This -floating tech' was later adopted for the larger ships as well, based on the movie's idea of fermionic energy, which is a way of controlling local gravity."
The ships include Titus' Planet Jumper, a mid-sized commuter craft, and Balem's Abrasax Cruiser, a more brutish-looking and aggressive model. Additionally, Balem controls the Abrasax Warship, in the same family of ships as the cruiser but made for battle, and another Planet Jumper, which is a faster version of Titus' model and more like a speed boat.
The police force stationed on Orous relies upon the Aegis Cruiser warship and an individual fighting machine called The Zero. The conveyance of choice for bounty hunters and independent contractors, like Razo, would be either a Planet Jumper or the aptly named Bullet, a nimble, single-rider flying cycle designed for personal transportation but just as handy in a firefight or a high-speed pursuit. Costumes, Makeup and a Shower of Crystals
Costume designer Kym Barrett, whose history with the Wachowskis began with her trendsetting wardrobe on 'The Matrix," began conceptualizing costumes 18 months prior to principal photography. In collaboration with lead makeup and hair designer Jeremy Woodhead, she styled the look of hundreds of beings in the 'Jupiter Ascending" worlds. 'When you have characters ranging from robots to royalty, soldiers to hybrids, your imagination expands. You come up with things you've never thought of before," she says.
Barrett and Woodhead were at their most inventive when designing the hybrids. 'The full humans in the film are Jupiter and the others on Earth, and the Abrasax heirs; most of the others are humans spliced with another species, or a synthetic human or robot," says Woodhead. 'We didn't want our hybrids to be over the top, so we opted for a range of genetic combinations that were more subtle"a scale, a feather, the suggestion of an altered skin texture." Stinger's identification with bees, for example, is only physically apparent in the hexagonal shape of his gold-hued pupils and stripes in his hair, while Malidictes' owl genes take the form of a slightly feathered quality and a beak-shaped nose.
The story's primary splice is Caine, whose wolf characteristics appear only in the slight reshaping of his ears and a coarser texture to his hair. His costume, notes Barrett, 'had to meet many stunt-related requirements as well as showing off his physique without revealing too much flesh, because there needs to be a mystery about Caine."
It's Jupiter's appearance that makes the most stunning transformation, from her earthbound, casual clothing to a series of exquisite garments befitting her royal station. 'Jupiter comes from a working-class Chicago family, so her style is accessible and similar to what most young woman are wearing now," Barrett says. 'The fun part for the audience, and for me as a designer, is to follow her Cinderella-like journey from scrubbing the floor to becoming a princess, and never losing herself in the transition."
The pinnacle of that transition is the magnificent white and ruby gown Jupiter wears aboard Titus' ship. 'It had to be a royal statement, an event more than a dress," she says, 'involving hundreds of handmade flowers embellished with Swarovski dew-drop crystals sewn onto the fabric, with a dramatic headdress of ruby flowers and more sparkling crystals. We used a very lightweight but strong 3D-printed base and fine wire to attach the fabric and silver foil flowers." Barrett and her team also used a 3D printer for some of the jewelry, expediting their creations from conception to lightweight nylon composites that could then be gold-plated.
The designer liberally incorporated Swarovski crystals in various shapes and colors into the Abrasax wardrobe as well. A water-themed dress for Kalique featured another shower of light-reflecting points resembling twinkling raindrops, 'as if they were not attached but rather something that grew organically from the fabric," she says. 'A few hundred tiny Swarovski stars were sprinkled in an avatar field across the bodice and also strung as a necklace and used as earrings." Rich decoration is also evident in Titus' attire, while Balem's minimalist look was more what Barrett describes as 'molten and metallic."
'We were creating a fusion of cultures and styles from human history that are heightened and made more effervescent on their planets, and their clothing had to reflect this, as well as their extreme wealth. We were looking for an almost Gustav-Klimt decorative sense," Barrett explains. 'Our biggest challenge was to create an otherworldly look while maintaining something people could relate to."
That thought reflects not only the film's overall visual design but echoes one of its main themes. As Grant Hill says, 'These worlds seem futuristic to Jupiter, and to audiences, but the most startling thing about them may be that they exist in our own time, and that the people who inhabit them share our DNA."
Perhaps it all comes down to perspective, as Jupiter tries to maintain her equilibrium amidst swiftly shifting fortunes and identities: a housecleaner harboring a regal heritage, a cynical heart who suddenly finds the love of her life… a woman with a tiny window on the world who inherits a universe.
Lana Wachowski notes that the story begins and ends with a telescope, which serves as 'a metaphor for one's perspective on life. Jupiter is born into darkness; helpless, homeless and fatherless. Knowing only hard times, she hates her life. Still, she wants to be able to see through her father's eyes and understand what he thought was so special in the stars. She wants to look through the telescope and see the bigger picture, because, when you can see the whole picture you see things more clearly and there is a whole universe of opportunities that your future can hold.
'There's something beautiful in the idea of the Wizard's gift to Dorothy and the three companions; they are symbols of something they already had inside of them," she concludes. 'The gift of the telescope at the end is the same; her father's capacity to see the wonder beyond our own perspective, beyond our own lives, was something Jupiter always had inside her."
Release Date: February 19th, 2015