Dir: Andy and Lana Wachowski
Starring: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean, Douglas Booth, and Tuppence Middleton
The best way to describe the Wachowski’s newest science fiction film is to relate to it to a buffet. And just like a buffet, filled with good-looking fare, you’ll get a little of this and little of that. Put it all on the plate and some of the entrée will be exceptional while other selections will be terrible and others will be spoiled simply because of the mixture of everything on the plate. “Jupiter Ascending” looks great from the outside, with some incredibly accomplished special effects making for adrenaline pumping moments, however with so many ideas floating aimlessly in and out of scenes and a narrative that operates without much cause for coherency, the result is a film of squandered potential.
A young caretaker named Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) dreams of a life with more than just her unruly family and dirty toilet bowls. She wakes up each morning, coaxed repeatedly out of bed into the same routine day after day. However, Jupiter’s life is far from normal. Her place in the universe is one of royalty, an heir from a family that controls with the power of planets. The ruthless son (Eddie Redmayne) of this powerful family targets Jupiter for his own domineering plans. However, Jupiter is saved from assassins by a hunter named Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered warrior who takes Jupiter to a far away planet and protects her from the numerous forces looking to take advantage.
The filmmaking flair that the Wachowski’s are known for is in full display here. The special effects are impressive, from the painstakingly complex chase at the beginning of the film that weaves and dodges through the skyline of Chicago, to the dazzlingly choreographed fight scene between a gravity defying, speed skating-like Channing Tatum and a giant reptile with wings. The cities are exquisitely rendered, one in the midst of an enormous hurricane of fire and chaos while another is within the overpopulated confinements of a bureaucratic big city. It’s all very interesting to look at. Unfortunately all these great sights exist within a narrative that is confusingly overblown with seemingly every idea the Wachowski’s have ever wanted to incorporate within a film. The worst part is that there are actually some very interesting thoughts proposed. Some that if is expanded on more thoroughly could offer an exceptional film. The film moves quickly from one thought to the next, never giving appropriate time or proper explanation to the proposed concepts. Instead, this swift moving surface examination makes the film feel detached from scene to scene. There is also an obvious predictability, one that the Wachowski’s fall victim to often, seen throughout the film. The viewer can telegraph when the romantic connection will happen, when the hero will swoop in to save the day, and when the villain will gain the first upper hand of the film, it becomes exceedingly formulaic as the film proceeds.
It’s easy to get swept up into the visual enjoyment of “Jupiter Ascending”, though it’s unfortunate that the narrative doesn’t match the beauty of the design. Even with the help of some accomplished actors the script is lacking material for them to build upon, Channing Tatum is left to float around being chased by spaceships and bounty hunters while Eddie Redmayne is relinquished to whispering threateningly. While “Jupiter Ascending” struggles from the very beginning, there are enough thought-provoking concepts proposed here to indicate that these filmmakers still have places to explore.
2.25 out of 5.00