Oh boy. I’ve had this one coming for a while. Jupiter Ascending is the latest full length film from the Wachowskis, the dynamic duo of writer/ directors who are known for occasionally popping into the Hollywood scene and flipping the sci-fi genre on it’s head. They dropped The Matrix in 1999, and… umm… I guess they fumbled around with it’s sequels, then there was Speed Racer in 2008 which only made back 75% of its 120 million dollar budget. There was also Cloud Atlas in 2012, which had pretty mixed reviews, and, well, I guess they knocked it out of the park with The Matrix and just kind of floundered for almost two decades since then.
So, that brings us to Jupiter Ascending. This movie is about Jupiter (Mila Kunis), a daughter of a Russian immigrant who’s family flirts with the poverty line running a house cleaning business for the rich and the upper class. Her life sucks, having to wake up before 5am every morning and scrubbing toilets all day, every day, but her life gets flipped, turned upside down when she meets Caine (Channing Tatum) a half-man-half-dog (he’s his own best friend!) hybrid from space who brings her to space so she can find out she’s Queen of Earth because her DNA is exactly the same as the actual Queen of Earth whose dead now and the Princes and Princesses of this intergalactic royal family are fighting over who gets to own Earth so they can farm the humans to make big glo-sticks that keep you young forever. This is all the first 15 minutes of the movie. Confused? Me too.
Jupiter Ascending is very clearly a passion project for the Wachowskis, so I feel kind of bad when I have to say that it’s dreadful. This movie has so much stuff crammed into it that it completely loses focus less than half an hour into its over two hour run time, and only spirals further out of control from there. I can totally see what the Wachowskis were going for with Jupiter Ascending, creating an expansive Jodorowsky-esque space opera similar to The Incal (which I’d argue is one of the greatest comics ever made), but the fundamental core issue with the film is that the golden rule of “show, don’t tell” is completely lost here. Lots of high level things are brought up and shown to the audience without explanation, which would be cool if we had some sort of context for them, but when the movie zooms into the nitty-gritty of it’s story and characters, we get paragraphs after paragraphs of expository dialogue. The parts that needed explaining didn’t have it, and the parts that could have flown by on audience suspension of disbelief were over-explained.
I do have to credit the Wachowskis for their crazy imaginations. Jupiter Ascending is a pretty creative movie with ideas in it that are original and don’t seem like rip-offs of other sci-fi stories, but they string together so many half-baked ideas that they’re more preoccupied with whether or not they could, that they didn’t stop to think if they should. everything thrown in to this movie whether it should have been or not looks great though. The Wachowskis definitely have an eye for almost surreal designs of vehicles, costumes and buildings. When I was looking at stills to find one to throw into this write-up, I was reminded how beautiful a lot of the shots are. If I have anything good to say about Jupiter Ascending, it’s that it looks dope.
However, for the amount of crazy creative concepts thrown into Jupiter Ascending, they really skimped out on character names. Sean Bean’s character, who is apparently a half-bee-half-man (Sean BEEn, amirite?), is named Stinger Apini. Stinger. Apini. You might as well name him Bumble B. Bumblebee. Caine Wise? Why not Dogman Maxpower, or Goodguy McGruff?
Stripping away the confusing and poorly explained characters, locations, and factions, Jupiter Ascending doesn’t really hold up. At its heart it’s a space opera where a young, adventurous woman and a weird dog-man travel through space and fight bad guys. The action is directed so poorly that most of the time you have no idea what is going on, and it gets even worse once the CGI heavy scenes start cropping up. When Jupiter and Caine have to escape the grey aliens in a high speed aircraft chase through the city, I couldn’t tell you who was piloting which vehicle, which direction they were flying, or who was shooting at who. It doesn’t help that the vehicles are designed to be multiple hovering pieces that stick close together but still move around when flying. This is a dogfight (ha!) that the film could do without.
There’s a lot that could be chopped out of this movie. After watching it, my friend made a pretty expansive list of scenes and characters that could be cut with no impact to the overall story or plot. Eddie Redmayne’s character’s siblings could have been cut entirely, and many of the action scenes seemed forced in just to jolt the audience awake. Even Mr. Bumblebee could be cut with minimal changes to the events of the film. The wedding between Jupiter and Eddie Redmayne’s brother (I’m so done with this movie that I’m too lazy to even look up character names or even the actors who played them) served no purpose, and the bureaucratic non-sense Jupiter has to go through to get her rightful title is boring, uninspired, and in the end, irrelevant. Even seemingly important plot points like Caine or Bumble’s capture and imprisonment or when Caine gets launched out an airlock are dealt with pretty much immediately, and don’t redirect the story or change the characters at all.
I really didn’t like Jupiter Ascending, if you couldn’t tell. I won’t even give this movie the credit of being a Good Bad movie, there isn’t enough enjoyment to be had compared to all the boring, baffling drama and action. The film is top loaded with moments that make you slam your palm into your forehead, but the second hour is an uphill battle to get through. None of the lead actors are particularly good, and even acting powerhouses like Sean Bean and Eddie Redmayne phone it in for a paycheque and chew scenery for a paycheque respectively. Unless you’re dying to see what a mess this movie is, pass on it.