Jupiter Ascending

Posted: February 12, 2015 in Film reviews

Directed by The Wachowskis. Starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum.

Kunis is the titular Jupiter (Jones to give you her full name) a down at heel Russian immigrant working in Chicago cleaning toilets and sharing a house with her large extended family. Her life is dull and her only ambition is to buy a telescope in remembrance of her murdered father who loved the stars and the planets (hence the name). What Jupiter doesn’t realise is that the Earth is one tiny part of a universe wide commercial enterprise, with human beings as the ultimate resource when they’re “harvested” by the more advanced humans who’ve seeded life on myriad planets throughout the galaxy.

Jupiter is also unaware that she’s a ‘resurgence’, the genetic reincarnation of the matriarch of one of the universe’s biggest corporations, the House of Abrasax, as such she is classed as royalty, which is potentially bad news for the three squabbling heirs of Abrasax, one of whom may have murdered their mother.

One of the three, Balem (Eddie Redmayne) has sent alien killers to take care of Jupiter, but she’s saved by Caine (Tatum) a half man/half wolf mercenary hired by another of the siblings, Titus (Douglass Booth) to find Jupiter. Rather than turn her over to Titus, Caine takes Jupiter to see his former mentor Stinger (Sean Bean) who’s half bee………anyway, Stinger realises that Jupiter is royalty and the three try to escape Earth to ensure that Jupiter can ascend to her rightful throne.

Can Jupiter claim her crown? Can she save the earth from a fatal harvest, and will Sean Bean survive to the end of a film for once?

If you see one film about an antihero in jet boots, watch Guardians of the Galaxy. If you see two films about an antihero in jet boots, watch Guardians of the Galaxy again. If you see three…ok, at that point you can watch this.

And so The Wachowskis who, for better or worse, gave us the Matrix trilogy, turn their attentions towards space opera, and what a confused mess it is. They’re clearly very imaginative people (or at least think they are, I’m not sure how creative you have to be to call a wolf man Caine, a bee man Stinger, and an elephant alien Nesh) but the true test of any creative person is the ability to hone your vision. Having a thousand cool ideas and throwing them all at the screen is a recipe for disaster, and make no mistake this film is a disaster, which isn’t to say it isn’t enjoyable on a purely laughable level, but it’s still a fail.

Much like the second Riddick opus, this is a film that tries to show you the breadth and depth of a universe teeming with life in just a couple of hours, trotting out crazy sounding names, describing huge empires and hokey religions to the point where you get sensory overload. George Lucas gets lambasted a lot, and frankly I’ve lambasted him myself plenty of times, but the beauty of Star Wars is in its simplicity, you start small and then build. Jupiter Ascending is so grand in scale from the off that it has nowhere else to go so just coasts along on a plateau of banal opulence.

The script is bad, and not just because of all the “Krinkwim of thawlass will see you now” malarkey. Maybe it’s Kunis’ delivery but her “I love dogs” line when Caine tells her he’s more dog than man, is cringe worthy, as is Sean Bean advising that the reason all his pet bees are flying around Jupiter is because “Bees recognise royalty”. In fact most of the dialogue is similarly clunky, and all the spectacle in the universe can’t cover that up.

Similarly the visuals don’t conceal plotting that is as linear as they come, not to mention repetitive. Jupiter is captured/meets with one of the siblings who, with varying degrees of subtlety, tries to manipulate/kill her before she’s rescued in the nick of time by Caine. It’s basically the same film three times over (actually probably nearer 4 or 5 times over), although there is a surreal interlude when it turns into a Terry Gilliam film (complete with Terry Gilliam). And then there are the contrivances. Balem having his secret base inside Jupiter (as in the planet, the film doesn’t turn into The Fantastic Voyage or anything) is painful. “Do you see what we’ve done!” shout The Wachowskis. “Aren’t we clever!”

No, you really aren’t….

Cast wise it would be difficult to suggest anyone stands out. Kunis has her strengths, but playing downtrodden cleaning women who become intergalactic queens is not amongst them, though she isn’t helped by a script which requires her to do little beyond wear a succession of glamorous outwits whilst asking a succession of questions. Tatum tries his best, and has a few amusing moments, but on the whole he’s there to take his shirt off and swoop in to rescue Jupiter every 23 ½ minutes. As for Eddie Redmayne…I’m not quite sure what he was going for, but his hushed delivery broken up by occasional screams of petulance is so ludicrous it has to be seen/heard to be believed, and one hopes he was just the only one who realised how ridiculous and camp the film was.

Of course ridiculous and camp are fine if you handle it in a knowing way, take Flash Gordon for example, the prevailing feeling of Jupiter Rising, however, suggests that the Wachowskis thought they were making a startlingly original, epic and utterly straight faced missive about corporate greed and consumption.

On the plus side, visually it looks great, and whilst it’s not always exciting it’s rarely dull because The Wachowskis were clearly working to come kind of mathematical formula that ensures the film never goes more than five minutes without an explosion, or a change of planet, or a change of Kunis’ outfit, or Balem whispering…

Jupiter Ascending; You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll wonder why an elephant is flying the ship, but mainly you’ll probably wish you were watching Guardians of the Galaxy…

  1. Neil says:

    I have a few points to make, you are wrong if you see 3 films about an anti hero with jet boots, it really should be guardians of the galaxy x3 ! The action I’m this film is rarely thrilling as it’s clear after the first big action sequence that the characters are never in any real danger despite, falling out the sky at every opportunity. Also if you are blasted into space wouldn’t your bowels evacuate themselves? Must be bad in the tight suit of wolfies.

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