Review: Jupiter Ascending
PLOT: Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) a lowly janitor discovers she's actually the reincarnation of the Queen of the Universe when killers sent by the evil Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne) try to assassinate her. Now, her only hope of survival lies with a genetically engineered soldier-of-fortune (Channing Tatum).
REVIEW: JUPITER ASCENDING is one of those movies that are just astoundingly bad. While space operas are a notoriously tricky thing to pull-off if you're not STAR WARS (heck, even then it's iffy as shown by the prequels), GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY proved that it can be done with the right combination of talent and material. As bad as this is (and it's terrible) The Wachowskis certainly have talent, but something somewhere has gone horribly awry as not only does this space adventure lack intrigue and excitement, but it's a crushing bore, something The Wachowskis, even at their worst (THE MATRIX sequels) have never been before.
JUPITER ASCENDING, which they also co-wrote, plays like The Wachowskis took DUNE, threw it in a blender with STAR WARS, mixed in some TWILIGHT and called it a movie. After a brief introduction to Kunis' character and plight (she slaves away at her family's house-cleaning company while dreaming of being whisked away to the stars which, natch is exactly what happens) we're thrust into a boring intergalactic plot where Redmayne's evil royal wants to harvest Earth, which is little more than the galaxy's livestock, to get a hold of an elixir that grants eternal life. It seems he and his scheming siblings (Douglas Booth & Tuppence Middleton) are part of the galaxy's 1% and don't have to age. Luckily, the earth is owned by Kunis, even though she doesn't know it yet.
It all winds up being a fairly dull story of the haves and have-nots, certainly no STAR WARS (or even BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS), but all of this wouldn't matter if at least The Wachowskis had brought their typical visual ingenuity to the table. Despite cinematography by John Toll (BRAVEHEART & The Wachowskis' own CLOUD ATLAS) the movie has a drab look, with none of the edge of THE MATRIX or the gonzo visuals of SPEED RACER. The movie is packed to the gills with action but it's all indecipherable. This is a real shock considering how much The Wachowskis broke the action movie mold on THE MATRIX. Now they've essentially turned into their imitators. It doesn't even have their trademark eccentricity, which made CLOUD ATLAS such a fascinating watch and even redeemed some of their lackluster producing vehicles like NINJA ASSASIN. It feels like this was their attempt to make a big, splashy commercial comeback, but it has no heart and no soul.
Part of the problem may also be the leads. Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum can be excellent if given the right material, but both feel way too contemporary to be doing fantasy. Kunis' seems to be struggling trying to make Jupiter at least somewhat three-dimensional, but when she spends most of her running time falling-off things there's only so much she can do. She's also saddled with some incredibly corny dialogue, such as the already infamous I love dogs line and a bit where she cheerfully tells someone, call me Jup!
For his part, Channing Tatum looks like he's in agony, floundering badly as a half-man/half-wolf hybrid (he even growls at someone). He's really not called-upon to do much besides take his shirt off and take part in the endless action scenes. He's not able to display any whatsoever . Movies like 22 JUMP STREET, FOXCATCHER and MAGIC MIKE show that he's got crazy charisma in the right part. Big-budget fantasy just does not seem like his thing at all. Sean Bean manages to salvage a few bits as Tatum's Lando Calrissian-style pal, but he's sidelined too often. Of the principals, Eddie Redmayne fares the absolute worst, with this performance being bad enough that had this come out last year if might have really torpedoed his Oscar campaign. One can't help but feel for him here, but it's a performance completely without restraint and one that I'm sure will embarrass him for years to come (not that he won't bounce back quickly).
Maybe the only nice thing that can be said about JUPITER ASCENDING is that the score by Michael Giacchino is pretty good and that Terry Gilliam has a nifty cameo where he gets to channel some of the bits of acting he used to do back in his MONTY PYTHON days. Still, as far as big-budget blockbusters go they don't get much worse than this. This is maybe the most embarrassing misfire to hit theaters since WINTER'S TALE.
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