Jupiter Ascending is the latest sci-fi feature offering from the Wachowski siblings (creators of The Matrix). A self-indulgent mess, this $176M disaster (yep, you read that amont right) tanked badly and for good reasons…
Let’s start with the film’s high points first, visually it’s beautiful. The production design is truly impressive in scope and vision and explains largely why the project’s budget was so outrageously high. The space environments they’ve created along with the ships, costumes and sets have a beautiful, modern extravagance that underpins the problems with this movie. It feels self indulgent, which is part of the point I’m sure given the nature of some of the characters but it also permeates throughout the storyline and some of the performances as well as the direction.
The story is about the 20-30-something-ish Jupiter, who finds herself working with her family as they struggle to make ends meet by cleaning people’s houses and living a very hum-drum life. In the meantime, there are humans living out in the vastness of space that are secretly controlling our fates through their “ownership” of our planets. These humans look down on us regular humans as a sort of livestock to fulfill their desire for immortality. Through the course of the story, it’s discovered that Jupiter is the reincarnation of one these elite humans and that she’s a threat to those in power. Because of who she is, the elites target her for assassination and the plot unfolds.
The story seems to play a secondary priority to the effects. The main plot is very hacky and formulaic, nothing innovative with the main character having things mostly happen to her without much motivated action on her part. She just sort of wanders from one incident to the other controlled by outside forces kind of pushing her along, it makes it hard to sympathize or identify with her. The dialog is by the numbers and feels phoned in most of the time by the talent with a few exceptions here and there. Even Sean Bean seemed like he was just going along for the ride.
And that’s another problem, the performances of the actors seem forced across the board. Channing Tatum plays the part of Caine Wise who is Jupiter’s protector. One of my issues with him was the design of his character. I’m not sure what race he’s supposed to be but he looks like the result of a mating between an elf and a wolf so it’s hard to take him seriously. His performance seemed a bit strained too as did Mila Kunis’ portrayal of the main character. I wonder if they could tell the project was doomed from the start. The only actor really pouring it on was Eddie Redmayne as the main baddie Balem Abrasax. He comes off obnoxiously pretentious, to the point of barely being able to watch him on screen which effected the realism of his portrayal for me. His cartoony overacting turned out to be a distraction.
The Wachowskis wrote and directed and maybe need to go back to the basics of putting a good story first along with strong performances and worry about the effects after that.
reviewed by Sean McKnight