JUPITER ASCENDING
Author: J.A. Hyde
February 5, 2015

SYNOPSIS:

Before I write anything about Jupiter Ascending, the Wachowski siblings’ new offering, let me say that I’m a fan of their work. I still think Cloud Atlas is the best film that nobody saw. But they have stumbled on this project. It’s a confusing mess.

Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a maid living with her unappealing family of Russian immigrants. She works in their house-cleaning service and longs for a better life. The film begins with Jupiter, in voice-over, providing background on her father, Maximillian (James D’Arcy), who dies before her birth. He was apparently a dreamer and stargazer who spent most of his time gazing at Jupiter, the greatest planet in his opinion, and the source of his daughter’s name. She’s born at sea, on the way to the U.S., with her remaining extended family.

Unknown to Jupiter, her genetic structure makes her royalty in the corrupt Abraxas intergalactic dynasty. How this came to be is not exactly clear, but basically, she learns of her stature after being rescued by Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered warrior. She learns that a member of the royal family, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), wants her dead because she “owns” Earth, a legacy he considers to be his. His two siblings, Titus (Douglas Booth) and Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), have their own agendas. So, basically, the plot involves Jupiter learning about her royal status and Caine trying to keep her alive. He’s aided by Stinger (Sean Bean), his former commanding officer who’s been exiled to Earth. He lives in a remote area where he keeps bees. Sean Bean is a fine actor, but his character doesn’t get to do much except shadow Caine and utter trite lines.

Special effects provide the film’s only appeal. There are many chase and battle scenes from Chicago (Jupiter’s home) through the atmosphere, space, and the planet Jupiter where Balem inexplicably lives in the interior of the planet. Jupiter is a gaseous giant, right? It’s a bit of a stretch to imagine Balem’s luxurious domain there.

I won’t reveal any more plot details in case you want to see Jupiter Ascending. All of the positive comments I heard from the preview audience concerned the special effects. As far as the rest of the aspects of the film go, the weaknesses are in the casting and the script itself. The Wachowskis have no one to blame but themselves since they produced, directed, and wrote the film.

Mila Kunis doesn’t have the acting chops to carry a film. She’s fine in a supporting role, as she was in Black Swan, but she’s unable to make Jupiter a sympathetic character. She just comes off as annoying. Ditto for Channing Tatum. He’s nice to look at, and he spends enough time shirtless to please his fans, but the lack of chemistry between him and Kunis makes the love story part of the film unbelievable. In fact, at one point during what was supposed to be a tender scene between the two of them, one audience member groaned loudly making others laugh and a few even applaud him!

Eddie Redmayne, usually reliable for acting excellence, has his character speak in a breathy monotone. I don’t know if he was going for menace or apathy, but it comes off as neither. I’m not going to blame him, however, because none of the characters have any depth. And somewhere in the script, I think there’s a message about greed and disregard for the less fortunate, but it gets lost in the story’s lack of focus and dizzying flight/fight scenes. What can I say? There’s a lot of falling with arms and legs flailing.

Jupiter Ascending should have been a better film, and with a little depth and better casting, it could have been. A better title would be Jupiter Descending into the netherworld of nonsense. - JoAnne Hyde

GRADE: D


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