And that’s not a bad thing. This viewer genuinely admired Cloud Atlas — every messy, odd, weirdo detour and inexplicable decision of it, and the glimpses we’ve seen of Jupiter thus far indicate more of the same. The Matrix was a giant, game-changing mega-hit, but it was also the duo’s last crowd-pleaser; the Matrix sequels attempted to meld blockbuster concerns with greater philosophical ambition (and ended up doing neither adequately), while the disappointing box office of Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas indicated that the Wachowskis may have been whittling down their audience to a base of core fans.
Maybe that’s for the best. I, for one, would rather have them creating oddball hybrids of art films and action epics than churning out an eternity of Matrix sequels and rip-offs; when you see a Wachowski movie now, you can’t say you don’t know what you’re in for. The people who like what they’re doing are going to see their films whenever they’re released — the comparison may seem peculiar, but in the same way that Wes Anderson’s loyal legions have made his spring releases into sleeper hits, so might the Wachowskis’. Summer is a good time to release an action movie for maximum attention; it’s also a good time to find your action film in heavy competition, throwing elbows for a limited number of box office dollars, with every week promising a new, elaborately promoted tentpole film that is forgotten by the following Monday. (Remember when that new Spider-Man movie came out, a month ago?)
Good, bad, or indifferent, Jupiter Ascending promises to be unique, and it’s hard to push a unique movie when it’s wedged in between the new Planet of the Apes and the new Hercules. The move to February may be a vote of no confidence, but it may also give the film a chance to shine. And sometimes an unconventional release date is the best thing that can happen to a movie. Ask the Wachowskis; back in 1999, Warner Brothers chose a March slot for a little movie called The Matrix.