The Wachowski siblings are known for their visually breathtaking and ambitious films. From the genre defining Matrix trilogy to the three hour epic Cloud Atlas, they have shown an ability to take stories thought un-filmable, and make them, if not good films, at least interesting. With Jupiter Ascending, the directing duo attempt to make their own science-fiction franchise, but fall slightly off the mark with their execution.
The film tells the story of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) a Russian born immigrant who cleans toilets for a living to support her extended family. Jupiter is suddenly swept off her feet (both literally and figuratively) by Wolf/Human hybrid Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), sent to protect her from alien assassins. Jupiter learns that she is the reincarnation of the royal intergalactic matriarch of the Abrasax family, whose three children are fighting over their deceased mother’s legal claim to Earth. The eldest of the three, Balem (Eddie Redmayne) wants Jupiter dead in order to prevent her from claiming her past self’s property, while the other two seek to manipulate her into helping them accomplish their own goals.
Let me start with the positive before going into detail on the film’s many problems. This is a visually breathtaking film on every level. As with all of the Wachowski’s efforts, Jupiter Ascending is colorful, vibrant and filled with great production design. The various aliens presented in the world are all magnificently designed and the different planets are both interesting and distinctive. The movie also incorporates some pretty cool futuristic technology such as the hover-shoes Tatum’s character uses as a means to fly around New York and space. All the action scenes are incredibly well shot and move at a swift pace, though lack the consequence and collateral damage that such mayhem would normally cause. The score is also great, with Michael Giachinno once again proving that he is one of the greatest score composers of our time.
Now on to the negative, of which there is a lot of. The major problems arise from the poor script, which is filled with clichés and straight up steals plot elements from far better films like Star Wars, Brazil and even The Matrix. But hey, I guess if you’re going to steal, steal from the best. Though the world that the Wachowskis have created is interesting, the only way we are told of its history is through long segments of expositional dialogue during which names of places, people and things are thrown at us so haphazardly, that we can’t even properly process the information we are given before we’re thrown into yet another well made action set piece. It’s as if the Wachowskis are intentionally trying to distract the audience from their poorly written script. There are some interesting ideas hidden beneath the plot’s surface such as the com-modification of earth as well as a briefly mentioned hint at Caine’s violent past, but they occupy an insignificant space in the film’s wider narrative. There is a lot of plot here, so much so that it feels as though the movie was intended to be much longer and was forced to be compressed into two hours. I would love to see a Television show set in this world, where the character and history of the universe can be explored in detail.
The acting is also mediocre, with Mila Kunis looking as though she would rather be anywhere else but there. Tatum does the best he can with what he is given, but the script rarely asks anything more from him then to look either tough or brooding. After his amazing performance in Foxcatcher, this is a significant step backwards for him. But the biggest fall from grace comes from Eddie Redmayne, whose performance consist of either whispering his dialogue so softly you can barely understand him, or yelling so loud you’re left stunned by the sudden shift in volume. After watching Redmayne here, you will question how an actor capable of such a terrible performance was also able to deliver an Oscar nominated portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything.
At its core, Jupiter Ascending is a space romance with a thinly conceived plot complete with action packed window dressing. Jupiter feels like any given Disney princess from the 90s, falling in love with her would-be hero within minutes of their first encounter and in need of said hero to save her every time she is in peril. The character feels like a relic from a bygone era, we live in a time where characters such as Katniss Everdeen and Black Widow have proven that women can be just as badass, if not more so, than their male counterparts, rendering the Jupiter’s of the world obsolete.
After Guardians of The Galaxy raised the bar on quality science fiction last year, all upcoming genre contenders will have to up their game if they want to capture audience attention. Unfortunately, Jupiter Ascending is a mediocre effort, filled with an over abundance of exposition, bland acting and familiar plot. That being said, you can still have a lot of fun watching it if you are willing to accept it for what it is: pop corn entertainment that can easily be enjoyed if you can overlook its flaws and enjoy the ride. I would recommend seeing this in theaters for the visuals and 3D alone.
Final Grade 5/10
Jupiter Ascending is Now Playing In Theaters
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