Main cast: Mila Kunis (Jupiter Jones), Channing Tatum (Caine Wise), Eddie Redmayne (Balem Abrasax), Douglas Booth (Titus Abrasax), Tuppence Middleton (Kalique Abrasax), Nikki Amuka-Bird (Captain Diomika Tsing), and Sean Bean (Stinger Apini)
Director: Lana and Andy Wachowski
The troubled Jupiter Ascending finally is released, and I’m afraid it won’t be a crowning glory to the Wachowskis’s collective careers. The premise is actually interesting – it would have made a great young adult urban fantasy story – but the execution is muddled to the point of near-incoherence and the script is threadbare.
Imagine, if you will, that humans on Earth aren’t the only humans in this world. In fact, humans elsewhere have become more evolved in terms of technology, to the point that we have a bunch of truly long-lived humans (we are talking about lifespans over dozens of millennia here) using some kind of chemical harvested from other humans. To obtain this chemical, those people “seed” planets with human cattle, letting them reproduce and live until a point where they are at the peak of their civilization. Then, these farmers “harvest” the humans, leaving behind an empty planet, for new supplies of that youth serum thing to be sold for profit. Earth is one such farm, although the folks living there don’t know this, of course, and the Abrasax family is one of the richest and more ruthless families that run and control such a business.
Then there’s Jupiter, our heroine. She lives with her widowed mother and the entire family clean homes for a living. The thing is, Jupiter is the chosen one – her genes are aligned in such a way that the genetic blueprint is the exact replica of the now long-dead matriarch of the Abrasax family. The matriarch, knowing that one day her replica would come to be, has willed Earth to this replica. In the meantime, Earth is under the management of Balem Abrasax, the eldest son, and he is not pleased to learn of Jupiter’s existence. Balem’s siblings, Kalique and Titus, both see Jupiter as a pawn that they can use to further their own ambitions. Titus hires the renegade bounty hunter Caine Wise – don’t laugh – to track Jupiter down, while Kalique hires her own team of bounty hunters. Meanwhile, Balem sends his own people to kill Jupiter before she discovers who she is and stakes her claim on Earth.
Naturally, when Jupiter meets Caine, it’s love, et cetera, but love has to wait as there are many things to break and kill first.
It’s a pretty good premise, the whole thing, but alas, the movie quickly degenerates into repetitive episodes of Jupiter willingly walking into trouble only to require dramatic rescue by Caine. Titus calls Jupiter one of the most gullible creatures he’s encountered, and unfortunately, he’s right. While she gets to beat the crap out of the only character more pathetic than she is in the entire movie, Jupiter spends way too much of this movie playing the damsel in distress. Needing rescue often isn’t such a bad thing – she is, after all, an ordinary girl out of depths here – the problem here is that she allows herself to be constantly and easily manipulated by the Abrasax siblings. Poor Caine literally has to smash his head against a wall many, many times to rescue her.
Characterization is flat here. Jupiter is another angst-ridden creature riddled with surly first world problems. Oh, she needs $4,000 to buy a telescope that she doesn’t really need because it reminds her of Daddy (a photo of him by her bedside is clearly not enough), but she has no money, and she also has to scrub toilet bowls for a living – clearly, her life is a living hell! Caine is said to be genetically engineered with some wolf-like DNA somewhere in him, but this only means that he has CGI pointy ears and a dye-job on his hair and goatee to make him look like Adam Lambert. I’m almost tempted to say that this movie may be more enjoyable if Channing Tatum spends more time shirtless, but no, not when he looks like Adam Lambert’s older brother who has just been through a dye job accident.
Meanwhile, Douglas Booth is pretty charming as Titus, Tupple Middleton seems to be hired in this movie only to show some skin, and Eddie Redmayne hilariously overacts to the point of embarrassment. Sean Bean is Sean Bean. I think the best character in the movie is actually Captain Tsing, as she has a few great lines and seems to be the only level-headed fellow in the entire movie.
This movie is very beautiful to look at, and it’s clear that no expenses were spared in creating some breathtakingly lovely backdrops and visual effects. Unfortunately, this movie fumbles when it comes to the action scenes. Chases and fights are quick, swift, brutal… but they are also edited to a point where half the time it’s hard to figure out what is happening on screen. The editing also causes scenes to jump from one to another in an abrupt manner, and the story often comes off as jumbled and muddled as a result. I get this impression that the people behind this movie spent more time on the CGI and action moments, and expect these to be the main draw of the movie even as they put elements like story and characterization to the backburner. Seriously, Jupiter Ascending is basically one long never-ending chase scene where half the time I’d need to pause and examine the scene closely to figure out what is happening in that scene.
All things considered, this is a pretty movie. Pretty… and pretty non-entertaining.