Her name is Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis). That's a perfect name, you have to admit, and perfectly suited to her occupation: Queen of The Earth. As in, she owns everything. She doesn't know this fact about herself quite yet, though. She's stuck in the dead-end career of cleaning toilets with her extended family of Russian immigrants. Then one day she witnesses aliens, an ability not shared by her fellow humans, which precipitates more aliens trying to kill her. From this lose-lose scenario, she's rescued by a spacewolf (Channing Tatum, wearing shoes that allow him to surf any invisible cosmic terrain), who informs her that she's part of a galactic real estate battle for ownership of the planet. See, humans are really very valuable pieces of capital, thanks to their secret genetic splice with... well, you'll see.

It's a deep dive into the latest installment of groovy sci-fi from siblings Andy and Lana Wachowski, whose fantastical approach to the genre has evolved from the sleek, hard-edged, philosophical darkness of The Matrix, to the generous, life-affirming, irony-free universe of Cloud Atlas. Jupiter's dense, interlocking plot details -- clearly designed to be enjoyed and discovered via repeat viewings -- involve reincarnation; thick swarms of bees; Eddie Redmayne as a hissing, cape-wearing villain; interspecies romance; ornate headdresses; environmental messages; soaring 3D action sequences; a critque of global capitalism; and a nod to Brazil's incomprehensible future bureaucracy,complete with a Terry Gilliam cameo. There's a lot going on.

It's disappointing, then that the screen is also filled with characters who sometimes feel like dolls propped up inside an extravagant playset. The only actor on screen who seems to be feeling the vibe is Redmayne, and his screaming evil diva captures just the right mood. Kunis, though, appealing as she can be, seems adrift, often literally. As her queen struggles to understand and use her power she often finds herself kidnapped and bound, in need of rescue a few too many times, nowhere to go but safely into the arms of Tatum.

The Wachowskis like to bake up their obsessions in a giant, ornately detailed, fantasy cake and then hurl it at the audience. They're at their best when running free. But when allowed that indulgence with the maligned Speed Racer and almost-as-disliked Cloud Atlas, they found themselves slapped by critics, audiences and the box office. Here, then, the presentation is neater and safer, more bound to the structural rules of the superhero origin story, as if they've suddenly gone a bit gun shy.

I'd hate for for them to be bound by this conventional approach for too long. Because we don't need any more origin stories. None. Not even if they're tackled by cool filmmakers. If the rules always stay the same, regardless of how they're decorated, and if those rules are fully absorbed and digested by bored moviegoers who've seen this story played out again and again, then we all lose. The Wachowskis don't deserve this sort of restriction placed on their art, and audiences don't deserve Hollywood's pandering. So the template has to change, and audiences have to allow it to be changed. The next step, then, is for somebody with a green light and creative control (and ideally it'll just be this team with a smaller budget, ready to get scrappy again and rethink the process) to come along and burn it all down so that it can live again. I'm ready.


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