The Wachowski Siblings (The Matrix) have made a new movie opening this Friday, an epic space opera called Jupiter Ascending. It has a major cast (Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, and current best bet for an Oscar, Eddie Redmayne). The movie cost a whopping $170 million to make. The trailer makes it look visually stunning. And as Vulture‘s Abraham Riesman points out, in an age of sequels and comic-book dross, the Wachowskis’ sci-fi epic is “the rare big-budget movie that’s wholly original and not just an adaptation or a sequel.” Riesman also makes the point that the film seems to hearken back to a more old-fashioned type of space adventure like Flash Gordon (read: it’s not somber or pretentious). So why is everyone expecting it to be a disaster?
The movie was supposed to be one of last summer’s tentpoles at the box office, but Warner Bros. delayed its release an unprecedented seven months, choosing to dump it in the cinematic wasteland of February. The delay was supposedly to allow for visual effects to be completed, but there were rumors of a serious amount of editing and reshaping of the film. There was a surprise premiere of it last week at the Sundance Film Festival, a screening which was closed to critics (bad sign; there’s also a press embargo on reviews for the few who have seen it). The screening didn’t go well. As Variety reports, “the Wachowskis’ flair was fully on display, with sequences reminiscent of The Matrix or Star Wars. But when the film ended, the usually gracious Sundance audience didn’t clap at the closing credits. ‘I hated it,’ said one of the festival’s volunteers, who asked not to be identified for fear of irking Sundance. ‘It’s just ridiculous.'” Will it be a flop with audiences when it opens? The Wachowskis have not had a certified hit in many years. The only thing that we can predict is that Sean Bean will probably die in it.