By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)
Though this movie has some cool conceptual ideas for a universe, the plot and its characters feel all too familiar and embrace the typical tropes of swashbuckling space operas. Jupiter Ascending has the damsel in distress, the roguish warrior protecting her, and the greedy and power hungry villains seeking to exploit and destroy her. The Wachowskis seem intent on delivering a fun and entertaining popcorn cinema experience, but their story and characters just don’t have enough depth and dimension to actually pull it off. To make matters worse, the action sequences play out rather messily and cluttered with cheap looking CGI and unimpressive effects. So not only do the Wachowskis struggle in delivering well-written, character-driven material, they also struggle to make the whole disappointing affair fun and thrilling.
Mila Kunis stars as Jupiter Jones, a humble janitor who unknowingly has a genetic connection with royalty from outer space. As the inherited owner of the planet Earth, Jupiter becomes the target of her royal “family”. As the attacks on Jupiter’s life begin, Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) arrives to rescue and protect her from danger. A genetically engineered warrior, Caine may have been hired to guard Jupiter, but his employer may have some ulterior motives for her rescue. Jupiter’s once humble and uneventful life on Earth will never be the same.
The Wachowskis, who are famous for The Matrix Trilogy and Cloud Atlas, surprisingly disappoint with a sometimes fun, but overall frustrating movie. The plot and characters feel all too familiar, despite the fresh concepts and ideas they have created for this new world of theirs. To be fair, the have the potential of expanding on this universe and doing something remarkable with it, but their first entry gets things off to a shaky and unoriginal start. The characters fit the usual archetypes found in similar stories. The plot and scenarios offer very few surprises. The influences are too obvious and come across as copied and pasted from their sources. At least with the Matrix movies, the Wachowkis put some fresh and inventive spins on the derived material.
As for the acting, Channing Tatum delivers a solid performance despite the limitations of his character’s development. He is perfectly cast as strong, quiet, but moderately charming alien warrior. Mila Kunis natural charisma makes her Jupiter likable, but the writing of her character feels completely wrong for her. The damsel-in-distress card has been way overplayed and has become anachronistic in modern cinema. I would have had more respect for her character had she been developed with a stronger personality and not a screaming, completely out-of-her-element lady who constantly needs saving by a strong male. Considering that her character comes from a poor, but seemingly street-wise background, I expected more attitude and a tough and adaptable personality.
Another unfortunate surprise comes from Eddie Redmayne’s acting in this movie. Hot of the acclaim he has received for his turn as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, Redmayne does a complete 180 and offers a bizarre and over-the-top performance as the main villain of the story. For his performance as Balem Abrasax, Redmayne adopts a bizarre and affected manner of speaking that quickly grows tiresome and irritating. His character and performance is the most caricaturesque of the movie and it had me groaning and cringing in my seat.
Going into Jupiter Ascending, I was somewhat wary, as I had heard of the negative reaction that come from its screening at the Sundance Film Festival. Still, I was somewhat hopeful that the poor reception resulted simply because it had been played for the wrong type of audience. As a fan of science fiction movies and the previous work of the Wachowskis, I believe that I qualify as a target audience member. This target was not too impressed with the finished product.