This film was produced, directed and written by the Wachowskis, best known for the Matrix trilogy – which suggests that, while probably flawed, it should offer something different from the usual space opera. The basic plot of an ordinary girl who is elevated from poverty to nobility is hardly original, being just a variation on the traditional Cinderella fairy story, but as always it is how the plot is handled that really matters. There are spoilers in the following review so if you don't want to read them, just note that the flaws are indeed there – and considerable – but the film does have a few mitigating aspects which prevent it from being a complete disaster.
The story begins with Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a member of an immigrant family from Russia, working unhappily as a domestic cleaner in present-day Chicago. She is completely unaware that she has come to the attention of the House of Abrasax, the ruling aristocracy of a galactic empire which regards the Earth as their possession, because she is genetically identical to the late matriarch of the House and is by their rules entitled to inherit her position. This does not please the heir of the House, Balem (Eddie Redmayne) who orders her death, but his brother Titus (Douglas Booth) has other plans and sends in Caine (Channing Tatum), a former soldier and a human/wolf hybrid or "splice", to rescue her. Cue a running battle that goes on and on and on interminably, with lots and lots of explosions (I read afterwards that the producers are proud that this scene lasted eight minutes – which is six or seven minutes too long for my taste).
This sets the pattern for much of the rest of the film: the occasional quiet interlude to provide brief periods of recovery between the overlong chase n' fight scenes, of which there are too many to remember. Worse, I found these action scenes mostly uninvolving and was distracted by the obtrusive background music sawing frantically away the whole time. Fortunately the climactic action scene, in a vast, collapsing refinery in Jupiter's Red Spot, was the best, and the only one to get me anywhere near the edge of my seat.
Any redeeming features of this film must therefore lie in the quieter interludes, and these are a mixed bag. Undoubtedly the outstanding one is a bizarre comedy sequence in which the heroine has to work her way through layer after layer of bureaucracy in order to claim her position in the House of Abrasax. That seemed to belong to an entirely different film, something like Alice in Wonderland perhaps. There are other rather surreal moments, such as the performance by Tuppence Middleton as Kalique, the third member of the dynastic rulers, chatting brightly to the heroine rather than making the usual potenteous speeches about destiny.
The plot holes are many and varied, and the not insignificant acting talent deployed in this film is largely wasted, with most of the characters struggling to develop more than one dimension and Eddie Redmayne's curious portrayal of Balem, while admittedly different from the usual super-villain, failing to convince me. At least the ending is a bit unconventional and rounds off the film reasonably well. While the drama is complete there is clearly room for sequels, although given that the film took something of a critical pasting and only just managed to cover its costs it is questionable whether these will ever appear.
Is it worth watching? Probably not; I frequently wondered why I was bothering. I would have liked to see those action scenes chopped drastically and replaced by opportunities to give the characters at least two dimensions and, especially, more of that quirky humour.