One-third love story, one-third hierarchical space war and one-third not knowing what the hell is going on ever. That is Jupiter Ascending in a nutshell. I’ve learned to manage my expectations when it comes to Sci-Fi movies because rarely are they done well. And considering the Wachowski’s string of flops (coughcoughCloudAtlascoughcough), I was walking in with pretty low standards. So I went to see the movie about a nobody janitor that finds out she’s a space princess.
I’ll start with the good. This movie is a beautiful piece of art visually speaking. The graphics definitely hold up to the Wachowski name. Filled to the brim with their signature slow-motion action scenes and cup runneth over with stunning effects that could convince you their manufactured universe is real, the twins did a fantastic job of taking this completely original concept and bringing it to life on the big screen. And thus concludes the pros list of why should you see this movie.
The story itself leaves much to be desired. The concept of the exceedingly boring female with no personality getting sucked into a mystical story where she’s revealed to be a super being with zero character development is getting really old. It’s becoming a common theme in movies and regardless of it’s affect on the forward momentum of feminism, it weakens the movie’s integrity. V for Vendetta was an amazing example of when the Wachowskis did it right. But they seemed to have forgotten that your story is only as strong as your characters. You cannot make up for shit characters with big boom pow.
As a concept, this movie is interesting but the story doesn’t dig deep enough into the ideas to give them the attention they deserve. In a world where characters are born of gene splicing and repetitive genetic sequence replicates enough to result in reincarnation, recognizing the existence of these ideas is as far as the story goes. It focuses more on the budding romance between the two main characters than what actually makes this movie interesting.
Channing Tatum plays an emotionally unavailable ex-military human-wolf hybrid as the result of gene splicing named Caine. Forgiving the catastrophe that is his facial hair, his acting is sub-par at best. Having zero tone inflection and minimal body language (except rollerblading through the sky on his magic rollerblades I KID YOU NOT THAT HAPPENED), Tatum could be replaced with cardboard and I doubt anyone would notice. As long as you Sharpie on some abs.
Mila Kunis’ character of title, toilet cleaning reincarnated Space Queen, Jupiter, has dead eyes and a complete lack of emotional depth. Her existence in the movie is comprised of doing what everyone tells her to, being saved a ridiculous amount of times by Caine and trusting literally everyone she meets without question. AKA your typical 2000s faux female heroine. Thanks for setting us back 15 years, Wachowskis.
While Kunis and Tatum deliver a less than stellar performance, the real MVP goes to Eddie Redmayne who plays Balem, the oldest of a trio of space royalty trying to murder Jupiter and claim her rights to Earth. Balem, who never moves his mouth, only speaks in creepy, hushed tones and obviously suffers from an Oedipus complex. Having days to reflect, I still can’t decide if his acting was so bad because he was over selling it or if everyone else gave such a dead delivery it made his performance that much more exaggerated. Either way, it might just cost Redmayne his Oscar for The Theory of Everything.
Shoddy dialogue, monumental plot holes and an abundance of useless characters (Love you Sean Bean, but GTFO) give this movie a general sense of confusion. Watching this movie feels similar to being spun around in circles blindfolded and pushed down a rocky path to the end credits. The story is never consistent, hopping around without much explanation. There’s an abundance of story arcs that are never resolved and characters introduced but then forgotten. There was a great story base here that the Wachowskis never truly capitalized off of. Having seen them get it right in the past, I know they’re capable of greatness. So this movie makes me wonder, were they trying to fit too much into two hours or did they just not care?
The movie was pushed back from it’s original release date of July 18th, 2014. The official reason given was they needed time to work on the CGI. It’s clear that the $150 million budget went to digital effects and not to the story. It’s disappointing to see this is the result of having an extra seven months to improve. I commend the Wachowski twins for their completely original story. That is such a rare find in Hollywood these days. But the plot doesn’t get any deeper than the superficial level of the 2 minute movie trailer. Essentially this movie is a plethora of half realized ideas and untapped potential. I’m looking forward to someone else getting their hands on it in 10 years and remaking it.