Jupiter Ascending, 2015.
Written and Directed by The Wachowskis.
Starring Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth and Tuppence Middleton.
In a bright and colorful future, a young destitute caretaker gets targeted by a ruthless son of a powerful family that live on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign.
If I subscribed to the adage of ‘so bad it’s good’ then Jupiter Ascending might have been one heck of a fun time at the cinema; however, I do not and will never succumb to that way of thinking; so this latest film from the Wachowskis was an unmitigated disaster of galactic proportions. A film so bad and in which every aspect is so poorly handled, no one walks away unscathed – the most afflicted being the paying audience.
The film had a troubled production with Warner Bros. pulling it from its original summer 2014 release schedule and dumping it in February, claiming post production was not yet finished yet I suspect the powers that be knew this was a $150 million bomb as soon as the dailies were in. The faults are fully at the hands of Andy and Lana Wachowski who wrote and directed the film (as per usual), with all the hallmarks of a team totally void of any creativity yet given carte blanche because the memories of The Matrix are still engrained on everyone’s minds – or at least the cumulative $1.5 billion that series made worldwide still keeps the naysayers at arm’s length at Warner. But after this failure I wonder how much faith that Matrix success can still hold.
The plot is hopelessly confusing for two reasons; firstly, everything is either explained with mass exposition or not explained at all, and secondly, you soon realise the film is ludicrously inept and stop paying attention because the nonsense unfolding on screen never earns the modicum of respect it needs to keep us invested. In my movie reviews I rarely discuss the plot because (amongst other reasons) I never want to be accused of spoiling a first watch for anyone who may read my words; I couldn’t have told you what was happening or why during Jupiter Ascending even if you were sat next to me, let alone if I wanted to convey the story in this review 24 hours later. I know that planet Earth is the inherited property of someone in another galaxy and that Jupiter Jones (seriously, that’s her name) is a queen in this galaxy but cleans toilets for a living back home in Chicago… and that’s about it.
I’m all for nonsense stories if the tone of the film is served up to match it but this one just hurtles along at 100 miles an hour without ever stopping to wink at the audience. It’s like an exceptionally awful version of The Fifth Element minus the much needed self-awareness of Luc Besson’s movie.
Just thinking about two Wachowski movies in comparison to Jupiter Ascending makes you appreciate just how engaging and thoughtful a complex, unconventional story can be. Both The Matrix and Cloud Atlas are mind-bending on a first (and subsequent) viewing but no one can deny the film makers’ intentions to show you an experience like you’ve never seen before in both content and visuals. They changed the landscape of action cinema in 1999 and to their credit their post-Matrix work has been anything but ‘safe’ up until now, but there is nothing to suggest this latest film is from the same creative minds. Regardless of what you like about their previous four movies (yes, those sequels to The Matrix were a huge disappointment) but no one can say each of those movies failed to serve up several stand-out sequences for which the term ‘eye popping’ could have been coined. Too often directors labelled ‘visionary’ because they get to spend huge sums of money on their movies (Zack Snyder, Peter Jackson, Alex Proyas) without producing the goods at the other end, but the Wachowskis truly deserve to be called as such, but their work here certainly damages that reputation.
Unintentionally hilarious dialogue and a nonsensical plot aside, the biggest disappointment here is that the film is bereft of any visual originality. The intergalactic world is far too reliant on CGI to hold any weight or make us believe that it exists even in the context of this story, looking like a Star Wars prequel idea that even George Lucas would have discarded. The action sequences fail because there is nothing at stake and there are no consequences to any actions; half of Chicago is destroyed in one scene which begins to rival the Transformers series for stupidity, only for us to be told that humans will have their minds wiped and it’ll all be forgotten about. How convenient for the film makers to add this minor detail, and how sad for the viewer that we’re being asked to accept it. Furthermore, if you could choose any film maker to shoot in 3D for the first time, chances are the Wachowskis would be one of the first names on that list, but their use of the technology is squandered save for a few objects being thrown at the screen.
The performances do not help either. Mila Kunis might be a pretty face and look great in various costumes but she hasn’t anything near the screen presence to take a lead role in a film of this size and scope, whereas Channing Tatum is visibly bored in every scene and could’ve been replaced by Vin Diesel for the lack of range he shows. The star prize, however, must go to Eddie Redmayne for his turn in the villain role; his acting choices are so unfathomable I cannot do it justice here but I will say it’s getting on for Sharlto Copley-level of bad. Let that sink in.
It’s quite rare for a major release to be quite the proverbial ‘train wreck’ as Jupiter Ascending ended up being. With awesome original sci-fi blockbusters like Edge Of Tomorrow struggling to find the audience they deserve, the future for such releases is dealt another blow by this latest complete waste of money, time, and effort.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Rohan Morbey – follow me on Twitter.
Listen to the Flickering Myth Podcast review of Jupiter Ascending using the player below: