Genre: Science Fiction
Director: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Cast: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth
Release Date: February 6th, 2015
Jupiter (Mila Kunis), healing the main character in the new sci-fi drama Jupiter Ascending is special. We know this because every few seconds we are reminded of her special she really is. In the film’s first few minutes, stuff we see her scrubbing down a toilet which, medicine in a movie, means that someone is just about to discover how special and extraordinary they really are. We also know that the character is special because when she arrives on a distant planet, strangers begin referring to her as a Queen and bowing down to pay homage to her.
Yes, Jupiter ascends to great heights in this film but viewers will likely be slouching down in their seats when they realize that this big budget extravaganza offers little in the way of a good story, solid acting or strong dialogue.
It’s been sixteen years since the Wachowski siblings introduced us to The Matrix, one of the most extravagant and thoughtful sci-fi films of 90s. Since then though, none of their follow-up films have come close to replicating that success. After two Matrix sequels, the siblings brought Speed Racer to the big screen in 2008 and Cloud Atlas to theaters in 2012. Both were commercial disappointments.
Now in 2015, the siblings have written and directed Jupiter Ascending, a visually exciting wannabe epic that strives to be great. Sadly, though, the visuals are all there is to look at here. Kunis stars as Jupiter, an illegal alien (get it? she’s an “alien” too) who hates her lackluster life. When she goes to a the doctor for a standard medical procedure though, she’s thrust into a new world when she’s rescued from monstrous aliens by the charming half-wolf half-human Caine Wise (Channing Tatum).
Wise has been sent from another galaxy to rescue Jupiter.
In a few barely-tolerable scenes, the two mysteriously fall in love as they arrive in a distant galaxy only to discover that three siblings (Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth and Tuppence Middleton) want Jupiter dead. The trio take turns getting close to her– manipulating and fooling the naïve girl every step of the way. One would think that Jupiter, who supposedly lives a rough life, would begin to suspect that something is awry (even when she starts talking to Caine, she’s only slightly surprised that she’s in the midst of an alien takeover of the planet).
There are plenty of neat things to look at here but the colorful superficiality of the film only hides how intellectually bankrupt it is. The actors, especially Redmayne, are forced to read bizarre and endlessly forced lines and try to make them seem realistic. It’s not their fault that the material is so lackluster but when they were all forced to don an endless supply of makeup and talk as if they were reciting lines in a high school production of a soap opera, they should’ve known better.
The dialogue is packed with so many cringe-worthy lines that it’s hard to decipher which ones were meant to be funny and which ones are serious. When bees follow Jupiter around like a Queen, one of the characters notes “Bees are genetically designed to recognize royalty.” If that’s not bad enough, there’s a later scene where Caine gives Jupiter medication noting that travel “can be rough on the royal bowels.”
In one of his greatest acting achievements, Channing Tatum says that line without laughing.
Jupiter Ascending is one of the most misguided cinematic misfires I’ve ever seen. It tries to be a serious sci-fi movie but it’s handicapped by its bowel-friendly dialogue and actors who seem all too willing to over-exaggerate all of their emotions.
The truest moment of the film is when one of the characters notes “Time is the single most precious commodity in the universe.” If that is true, then viewers should stay as far away from Jupiter Ascending as they possibly can.
Review by: John Hanlon