Those poor Wachowski’s – they are copping it for the last couple of weeks since this movie started screening – it is getting torn apart by critics and the Wachowski siblings must be feeling like M. Knight Shyamalan post every movie release – this is my favourite review quote so far in the destruction “Like a gonzo, gazillion-dollar mash-up of ‘Plan Nine From Outer Space’ and ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ steered by a committee of 13-year-old boys hyped on an all-weekend ‘Star Wars’/’Star Trek’ marathon and fueled by Mountain Dew and Pixy Sticks” – Neil Pond Parade Magazine. I need to see the movie for that quote alone. It is science fiction and it can’t be as bad as BATTLEFIELD EARTH so I will see it. Besides it is sexy boy trifecta with Chanchan, Redmayne and Douglas Booth, I am there!! Kernel John reviews this one and you can make up your own mind now, JUPITER ASCENDING released yesterday in most commercial cinemas from Village Roadshow Films in Australia, it is rated M and runs for 125mins. All the best………JK.
JUPITER ASCENDING is a cross between THE PRINCESS DIARIES (not a compliment) and everything that was wrong with the STAR WARS prequels (also, obviously, not a compliment). No hoper and illegal immigrant Jupiter Jones, played by Mila Kunis (TED), cleans toilets for a living with her equally disappointing and pitiful family, until she discovers that she is actually the reincarnated queen bitch of the Universe. This joyous news is revealed to her in much the same way that all good tidings are delivered: by means of a bullet to the head fired by the hired goons of her previous physical body’s offspring. Apparently, mama dearest should have been nicer to her children the first time around, or at the very least have taught them some familial respect during the ninety thousand years that she was alive.
Children Balem (Eddie Redmayne – THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING), Titus (Douglas Booth – NOAH), and Kilique (Tuppence Middleton) are the surviving Abrasax heirs and recipients of their late mother’s considerable planetary real estate portfolio. Upon the reinstatement of her Entitled status, Jupiter would regain control of the multitude of planets she once owned, including Earth. The Earth it seems is quite the valuable bauble in the current galactic market and so, understandably for those of you with the psychopath gene, all three children try mightily to off their new old-lady before the former matriarch can receive her windfall.
Enter Caine Wise, played by Channing Tatum (22 JUMP STREET), a half human half wolf ex Galactic Legionnaire originally hired by Titus to capture Jupiter, he instead defies his employer’s wishes and becomes Jupiter’s staunchest protector, saving her from bullets and goons aplenty. Along the way we meet many other useless side characters who do little but clutter an already convoluted storyline, including Sean Bean constantly looking the way he did while being led to the executioner’s block in GAME OF THRONES.
The special effects visuals are the only redeeming quality of this film. I isolate visuals specifically as the special effects as a whole continue to heap on the disorder and confusion that define this movie. Stunning spectacles of spaceships, otherworldly cities, technology and even an entire manufacturing centre in the heart of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot are wondrous to witness and beautifully portrayed, but fail to enhance the film in any meaningful way. On the contrary, the movie seems to drown under the weight of its own imagery. Further, battle scenes were incredibly chaotic to the point of overwhelming, especially in 3D. There was so much shrapnel flying every which way that I continuously found myself trying to squint through the three dimensional cloud of debris being flung at my face, which very quickly become frustrating. That said, be sure to keep an eye out for some very cool scenes involving Wise’s gravity defying boots.
The plot itself is the main flaw in this movie, though the acting takes a close second. If JUPITER ASCENDING were based on a long running comic book series, or collection of novels, then it would have made the film much easier to watch. As it stands, writers and directors The Wachowskis try to cram so much backstory and history into this, their original creation, that it rapidly becomes overwhelming. This information overload had me glazing over a number of times during the movie, as yet another named character, species, starship, item, or piece of equipment was revealed and expanded on, only to be cast aside and quickly forgotten about in the very next scene. It was frustrating to realise that I would never know any more about anything mentioned in the film, as there is no rich back catalogue of data from which to draw more details. The movie exists in isolation, which is always sad for something as grand as a galaxy spanning storyline, and while initially impressed with the effort The Wachowskis went to populate their narrative, in the end it all became so much like “techno babble” that I just tuned out. It also did not help that simple things such as the name of the original Abrasax mother, Jupiter’s former self, is never revealed. Everyone just walks around calling her Lady Abrasax, or mother, or some such, which considering the detail that went into so many other aspects of the film, was a glaring oddity for me.
The premise was likewise poorly executed. The age-old tale of a nobody becoming a somebody through luck, chance, or hidden history, is a popular plot device. It is not a difficult concept to pull off, yet so many films always seem to screw it up. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE did it powerfully, The Wachowskis’ own THE MATRIX did it groundbreakingly, hell, even SLEEPING BEAUTY did it in true Disney style back in the 50’s. Sadly, JUPITER ASCENDING does it woefully. You are never really made to care enough about any of the characters, Jupiter in particular, to have any real interest in their success or failure.
The acting overall was average. Kunis and Tatum are generally pretty good in their films, while Booth was wonderful in NOAH, and Redmayne was absolutely astounding as Stephen Hawking in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING. That said, everyone seemed to be phoning it in as far as their performances were concerned. Also, for a lowly, uneducated cleaner who suddenly finds she owns multiple planets, Kunis takes everything remarkably in her stride, seemingly unfazed or concerned about her literal galactic shift in status. With so much talent performing so poorly, I can only surmise that The Wachowskis’ direction and script were just not up to par with this project.
Overall, JUPITER ASCENDING tries very hard to be a greater movie than it is. The Universe may indeed be infinite, but a film is only two hours long, and by trying to force such a grand conflict into such a tiny timeframe, this movie just comes across as hectic and jumbled. Finally, and for the sake of your poor eyes, do not see this movie in 3D.