After being pushed back nearly a year, the space opera ‘Jupiter Ascending’ has finally been released in theaters. Directed, produced and written by sci-fi royalty, The Wachowskis, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ would be more appropriately titled ‘Jupiter Descending’ due to its cheap gimmicks, mediocre acting and a redundancy that is painful to sit through.
With all its flaws, this film showcases visual effects as large as its scope and the creation of a world that is a wonder to behold. The film boasts a cast of ascending stars such as Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis and current Oscar nominee, Eddie Redmayne.
For such an expensive movie ($175 million to be exact), ‘Jupiter Ascending’ plays more like a Sci-Fi channel original movie, than a Hollywood blockbuster; starting with a fizzle and ending with a big fizzle.
‘Jupiter Ascending’ tells the story of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a down-on-her-luck cleaner with dreams of something more, who is being hunted by a powerful dynasty. This dynasty, the House of Abrasax, is in the business of growing humans, harvesting them and creating a youth serum that allows them to live forever. The matriarch of this family has recently died, leaving the three heirs, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), and Titus (Douglas Booth) all fighting over the inheritance. Jupiter poses a threat to this family when it is discovered that she is the reincarnated matriarch and is the rightful owner of the harvest colony, Earth.
Jupiter is being pursued by those who want to find her, and kill her. Most notably, Titus sends Caine, a genetically defective splice comprised of human and wolf DNA, to capture Jupiter and deliver her to him. Once Caine finds Jupiter, the story takes the same turn over and over again.
One of the big problems I had with this film is how predictable and redundant the story was. With more just in the nick of time rescues than any movie should be allowed to have, the film lathers, rinses and repeats and repeats and repeats. The film follows this formula:
- An Abrasax has Jupiter in their clutches.
- Caine swoops in.
- Jupiter is doing something really stupid while Caine is swooping in.
- Caine saves Jupiter just as she is about to complete said stupid task/die.
This scenario happens at least 5 times, all with varying degree of success. The first time is a fight sequence above Chicago that lasts 8 minutes (I looked it up). Caine is flinging Jupiter around the Chicago skyline on these gravity boots while being pursued by ships sent by Balem. This is the kind of fight scene that you almost hope that the protagonists get killed off just so that it will stop. Also, the gravity boots that Caine rides around on, look completely ridiculous.
The best scene that follows this formula is the last one. The explosions in this sequence are enough to make even Michael Bay say “whoa, maybe you should tone it down a bit.” This isn’t a knock on the scene because it is really epic! These huge refineries are exploding, Caine is battling a giant lizard and Jupiter makes it quite clear that she is not your mama. The fight between Caine and this giant lizard is really amazing, showcasing the first time that I actually felt like someone was in some sort of peril.
The film really relies on special effects to give it a pass. The effects really are amazing and kind of makes up for the mediocrity of the rest of the film. The images of elaborate ships emerging out of stardust, a gothic refinery shrouded in toxic gas, and a sprawling city fit for a galactic civilization are just a few of the visually stunning moments. Through visual effects, The Wachowskis are able to create a complex society who’s hottest commodity is time. The duo also created a film that is original; taking human harvesting and giving it a galactic spin.
Another aspect that is hard to overcome is how bad the acting starts out. In the actor’s defense, the dialogue written by The Wachowskis is really bad and almost mimics that of George Lucas’ wooden dialogue in the ‘Star Wars’ prequels. Mila Kunis plays an extremely unoriginal character and does a poor job doing it. I’m not really surprised though because besides ‘Black Swan’ and ‘That 70’s Show’, Kunis lacks the acting chops to make this character likable and fitting of her elite title.
Eddie Redmayne’s performance is iffy; ridding the line between being wonderfully evil and ridiculous. Douglas Booth plays a playboy very well and Sean Bean manages not to die for once. The best performance comes from Channing Tatum who really surprised me with his performance. It isn’t anything Oscar worthy but for a sci-fi movie, it is really good.
‘Jupiter Ascending’ is best described as messy, blending amazing elements with those that are dreadful. Don’t rush out to see this one.
I give ‘Jupiter Ascending’ 3 out of 5 film reels.
‘Jupiter Ascending’ was released on February 6, 2015 and stars Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Sean Bean, Tuppence Middleton, and Nikki Amuka-Bird. The film is directed by The Wachowskis.