Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Photo by Murray Close

“Jupiter Ascending”

February 6, 2015

Valli Herman

Ever since Dick Tracy used his two-way wrist radio to help capture bad guys, wearable technology has been an alluring part of pop culture. Now creative movie makers are expanding sci-fi fashion to the outer edges of the universe.

The Wachowskis teamed again with Kym Barrett, the Costume Designer for their successful “Matrix” films, for their $175 million “Jupiter Ascending.” Barrett created high-tech costumes that could blend with visual effects, but also feel real. Barrett called the movie a space opera, and its other-worldly plot takes place in a future world where a young, destitute housekeeper travels with a genetically engineered warrior to his planet in order to stop a tyrant reign. The film stars Mila Kunis as housekeeper-turned-queen Jupiter Jones, Eddie Redmayne as the evil royal Balem and Channing Tatum as Caine Wise, a Lycantant, a mix of human and wolf.

“The planet is peopled by robots or a mix of half-human, half-animal characters,” Barrett said. “The whole idea is that society is basically clone spliced; all the DNA is clone spliced, so you might be part plant, part human. The DNA in this world is kind of plucked from the whole DNA structure of the universe.”

Though a spectacular, red and white wedding dress for Kunis steals the spotlight, the real costume magic is behind the scenes, where Barrett worked with an international set of artisans to blend old-world handicrafts with cutting-edge visual effects.

To build some of the movie’s many robot costumes, Barrett worked with the London-based fetish wear company House of Harlot. “They built rubber latex bodysuits and we left sections of the bodysuits in green-screen color so that visual effects could put in robotic bits in post,” she said. Special effects for helmet visors, shoes and other costume elements also were added in post-production.

She had to get extra creative for spacesuits for Tatum and Kunis. “The spacesuit comes from a little pod and opens up and sucks back on and adheres to the body. That part is visual effects, but the other part they’re wearing is not,” Barrett said.

“They usually do spacesuits with visual effects because the fibers and helmets are so complex,” she said. But budget constraints required adding another technique. Barrett called upon a trusted group of leather-makers who worked with her on “Cloud Atlas” and “Speed Racer.” They used materials foreign to them to apply their traditional skills to the costume pieces.

Of course, the self-adhering spacesuit will be recognizable as a digital effect, but the line between real and computerized isn’t always so clear.

“A lot of the designer’s job is going on unseen,” Barrett said. “That’s how it’s supposed to be. The magic should be on the screen and the effect should be, ‘I believe this universe. I believe this world.”’

“Jupiter Ascending” is now in theaters.

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