- "Expand Your Universe."
- ―Official Tagline.
Jupiter Ascending is a 2015 space opera film written, produced, and directed by The Wachowskis (Lana and Lilly). The film is centered on Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a down-on-her-luck janitor, and Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), an interplanetary warrior who informs Jupiter that her destiny extends beyond Earth. Supporting cast member Douglas Booth has described the film's universe as a cross between The Matrix and Star Wars while Mila named its underlying themes as indulgence and consumption.
The film is co-produced by Grant Hill, who acted as executive producer on The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions and as producer on V for Vendetta, Speed Racer, Ninja Assassin and Cloud Atlas, making Jupiter Ascending his seventh collaboration with the Wachowskis. Several more longstanding Wachowski collaborators since the creation of The Matrix films have contributed to the picture, including production designer Hugh Bateup, visual effects supervisor Dan Glass, visual effects designer John Gaeta, supervising sound editor Dane Davis and costume designer Kym Barrett. Other notable past collaborators include Speed Racer's composer Michael Giacchino, Cloud Atlas' director of photography John Toll along with its editor Alexander Berner and hair and make-up designer Jeremy Woodhead, who worked on both.
Unknown to Earth's residents, life on Earth and countless other planets has been seeded by families of alien royalty for the purpose of harvesting the evolved living creatures once they reach a "Darwinian state of perfection" to produce a type of youth serum that allows them to live forever. When the matriarch of the House of Abrasax, the most powerful of the alien dynasties, dies her children Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), and Titus (Douglas Booth) are at war over the inheritance. Eventually a new heir comes to their attention: Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), an unsuspecting, Earth-living, unlucky caretaker of other people's homes. Jupiter encounters Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered interplanetary warrior, who came to Earth to reveal that her genetic signature makes Jupiter royalty and heir to Earth. Meanwhile, he has to protect her from Balem, who put a bounty on her head and would rather harvest Earth than lose it to Jupiter.
- Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones, an unsuspecting, unlucky, Earth-born janitor whose genetic structure marks her as royalty and the heir to Earth. Mila describes her character as unhappy with her job and life, but also lazy and with no aspirations to do anything about it, until Caine finds her.
- Channing Tatum as Caine Wise, a genetically engineered ex-military hunter. Caine is a defective genetic splice, half-albino and with both wolf and human DNA. He has a tremendously powerful sense of smell that allows him to track a gene through the universe. Channing had to wear a mouthpiece to change the shape of his lower jaw, which prevented him from closing his mouth and gave him trouble when he had to talk. Before casting Channing, the directors queried him not only about whether he was up to the challenge physically but also about his personal belief and life experience with what love is.
- Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax, alien royalty whose family engages in the planetary business, trading in youth serum. He is the oldest of the three Abrasax siblings and serves as the main antagonist of the film because he wants Earth for himself.
- Tuppence Middleton as Kalique Abrasax, Balem's younger sister. She approaches Jupiter and befriends her, but like her brothers she has ulterior motives.
- Douglas Booth as Titus Abrasax, Balem's younger brother. Douglas describes his character as "a bit of a playboy" mentioning his spaceship, as described in the script, is a cross between a Gothic cathedral and the Playboy Mansion.
- Sean Bean as Stinger Apini, a "Han Solo-type character". Stinger is spliced with bee DNA, which gives him some of their characteristics: wings, speed, special vision and a sense of loyalty. Stinger was in the military with Caine but when Caine got into trouble and Stinger stood up for him, his wings were removed and he was exiled to Earth. He lives a normal life on Earth along with his daughter, who he describes as the only good thing he's done in life, until she falls ill and in need of a special nectar.
- David Ajala as Ibis, the leader of the cyber hunters pursuing Jupiter and Caine.
- Charlotte Beaumont in a small part as Stinger's daughter.
- Terry Gilliam in "a small but vital part" in a scene that is an homage to Gilliam's Brazil.
- Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Famulus, a half-human, half-deer genetic splice.
- Oleg Nasobin as Zeno.
- Vanessa Kirby as Katharine.
- Edward Hogg as Chicanery Night.
In 2009 Warner Bros' president Jeff Robinov approached The Wachowskis about creating an original intellectual property and franchise. Development began two years later, with the production and visual effects teams doing pre-production work based on a first draft of the script, while The Wachowskis were shooting the future segments of Cloud Atlas. The story was partly inspired by Lana's favorite book, the Oddysey. "It was making me super-emotional." says Lana. "The whole concept of these almost spiritual journeys and you're changed." Another inspiration was The Wizard of Oz which Lana contrasts to the Odyssey. "Dorothy is pretty much the same at the end as she is at the beginning. Whereas Odysseus goes through such an epic shift in his identity."
Producer Grant Hill and visual effects supervisor Dan Glass note The Wachowskis never repeat themselves. Grant describes the design as an original take on the look of space environments while Dan mentions it was influenced by cities around Europe rather than science fiction touchstones. Examples include Renaissance architecture, modern glass and Gothic art.
The film is a co-production between the United States' Warner Bros. Pictures and Australia's Village Roadshow Pictures. Roberto Malerba and Bruce Berman serve as executive producers. Principal photography commenced at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden on April 2, 2013. Filming also took place at Ely Cathedral in England. The production remained in the London studio through June, then moved to various locations in Chicago, Illinois throughout late July and August. Minor reshoots to clarify plot points took place in January and early May of the next year, the latter of which took place in Bilbao, Spain. This is cinematographer John Toll's second feature film he is shooting digitally, using Arri Alexas and Codex Recorders, after Iron Man 3, in part due to the visual effects element. Legend3D is handling the stereoscopic conversion of the film, having recently integrated the Mistika post-production software into their pipeline. Vision3's Chris Parks is the stereoscopic supervisor of the film.
An eight-minute long chase sequence, code named "Fifty-Two Part" by the film's crew, depicts Jupiter and Caine fleeing from aliens and spaceships in downtown Chicago shortly after they first meet. It was the longest sequence in the script, involving some of the film's most difficult stunts. To complete it, Mila and Channing had to film every day for six months.
Several of the film's effects rely heavily on practical stunts instead of CGI. Channing has noted there was minimal use of digital doubles and instead most stunts were done by the principal actors or stuntmen attempting to match the pre-vis sequences. For the scenes of Channing's character flying using antigravity boots, Dan reveals his team invented a way to use stuntmen instead of doing them digitally, despite the limited available time to shoot them. They created a rig of six cameras, called the Panocam, which was mounted on a helicopter and covered nearly 180 degrees of the action. During post-production, the directors could combine the overlapped filmed footage, essentially creating a camera that could swing around the action independently of the helicopter's actual flying path. The invention piqued the interest of other directors who have subsequently used it in their own movies.
Visual effects vendor Framestore used Vicon T40 cameras for pre-vis and motion capture purposes, the same camera system they used in the visually acclaimed Gravity.
The film's music was composed by Michael Giacchino, who also scored the Wachowskis' 2008 film Speed Racer. On June 10, 2013, Giacchino tweeted that Ludwig Wicki was conducting the film's score at Abbey Road Studios in London. In August, Giacchino stated: "We're actually recording all the music first, before they're even done shooting. It's been done sort of backwards, and it's much more freeing doing it that way. I'm not locked down to any specific timings and what the film is doing. I can do whatever I want. It opens up a lot more possibilities." The Wachowskis first used this approach during production of Cloud Atlas at the recommendation of co-director Tom Tykwer who has made all his movies this way, and have since commented they will never make a movie without recording the music first.
The movie received a "secret screening" at the Sundance film festival which was by invitation only and didn't include members of the press. Variety's Ramin Setoodeh reported that the theater was half empty, a handful of patrons walked out during the movie and once it finished reactions were mixed. An attendee is quoted as having hated it for being "just ridiculous" while screenwriter Neville Kiser liked it and commented that the PG-13 movie would fare better with the intended audience of teenagers. Setoodeh reported many people were in agreement that the choice of Sundance was odd.
The film was initially to be released on July 25, 2014, but it was later shifted to July 18, 2014. On June 3, 2014, the film's release was delayed to February 6, 2015 due to additional time needed to complete over 2,000 special effects shots of the film and prepare an effective marketing campaign. The film is scheduled to also be released in IMAX 3D along with its competitor Seventh Son from Universal Pictures.
Jupiter Ascending had a surprise premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 27, 2015 at the Mary G. Steiner Egyptian Theatre in Park City.