‘Jupiter Ascending’ visual effects wizard talks film’s aesthetic

Jan. 09, 2015 | 6:30 a.m.
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A show-stopping wedding ceremony set aboard the spaceship of Titus Abrasax (Douglas Booth), the youngest son of intergalactic royals, was shot partially on location in England’s Ely Cathedral, but technicians digitally added ornate vaulting and views of star fields glimpsed through the windows. “Real places bring a tremendous amount of textural authenticity,” Glass said. “In every case we’d just do some treatment that gave it a little bit of a twist or edge, so that it felt familiar but there was something different about it.” (Warner Bros.)

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Jupiter learns of her extraordinary lineage while on Earth; in one scene shot in Chicago’s Willis Tower, she extends her arm through a high-rise window; Hall points out that the glass and the reflections were created in post-production. (Warner Bros.)

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As Jupiter and Caine flee the treacherous Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne), they head to the pastoral home of an ally, and Kunis’ heroine discovers another power — the ability to control the movement of bees. None of the insects were on set, however. “All the bees that were in motion were done digitally,” Glass said. “We looked at a lot of footage of how bees fly and move but ultimately it needed to have its own magical quality. It required some artistry to communicate that. We did have some little plastic flies that were painted [to look like bees].... We tried to make sure that none of them ended up standing out in the final movie.” (Warner Bros.)

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The design for Titus’ spaceship was chiefly conceptualized by artist George Hull, Glass said. “The ship itself was designed to have these beautiful sails, somewhere between an insect and some sort of beautiful bird — the solar panel look to the wings. The Art Deco-inspired lattice overlay to the ship was a beautiful addition and part of juxtaposing different aesthetic styles in a way that felt harmonic but gave the impression of a vast complexity.” (Warner Bros.)

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“Jupiter Ascending” includes a menagerie of non-human creatures such as the keepers, the small gray aliens seen above in the bottom right corner. “The thought was that our mythology, ghosts or aliens, are based on a reality that we become aware of in this film,” Glass said. (Warner Bros.)

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Throughout the film, Caine wears gravity boots that enable him to race and glide through the air. “We started with extreme sports, things like snowboarding, which was a fairly close comparison we felt, surfing, and tried to devise ways to photograph stunts that were using something like that,” said Glass, who worked closely with the filmmakers on set during the nearly six-month shoot. (Warner Bros.)

In “Jupiter Ascending,” Andy and Lana Wachowski (“The Matrix” trilogy, “Cloud Atlas”) present another wildly original sci-fi tale, this time about Chicago house cleaner Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), who learns from an alien protector, Caine (Channing Tatum in guyliner), that she’s actually the queen of the universe with the rights to rule over Earth.

Dan Glass, the movie’s visual effects supervisor who oversaw some 2,050 shots, recently described the aesthetic approach to the outre adventure, which arrives in theaters Feb. 6.

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Click through the gallery above for an up-close look at “Jupiter Ascending.”

— Gina McIntyre | @LATHeroComplex

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