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Three Views: Jupiter Ascending

February 6, 2015

Jupiter Ascending Poster

Jupiter Ascending – A Warner Bros. Release

Release Date: February 6th, 2015
Rated PG for violence and some scary scenes
Running Time: 127 minutes

Andy Wachowski (director)
Lana Wachowski (director)

Andy Wachowski (writer)
Lana Wachowski (writer)

Michael Giacchino (music)

Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones
Channing Tatum as Caine Wise
Sean Bean as Stinger Apini
Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax
Douglas Booth as Titus Abrasax
Tuppence Middleton as Kalique Abrasax

Jupiter Ascending

Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) and Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) in Jupiter Ascending.

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Jupiter Ascending Review By John Corrado

★ (out of 4)

“Your Majesty, I have more in common with a dog than I have with you,” part-wolf bounty hunter Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) tells newly crowned space princess Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) partway through Jupiter Ascending, when she starts to fall in love with him for no apparent reason.  “I love dogs, I’ve always loved dogs,” she innocently answers, an equally ludicrous response that provides yet another unintentional laugh in a film chock full of such moments.

Those who find this sort of dialogue inspired or in any way appealing are in for a real treat with this delirious piece of science fiction filmmaking from siblings Andy and Lana Wachowski.  But everyone else will be left scratching their heads and snickering at the proceedings of Jupiter Ascending.  This is a film so ridiculous in tone and sloppily put together, that it begs the question of how it even got made and released by a major studio, when so many other artists are struggling to find a market.

Don’t get me wrong.  This isn’t the sort of bad film that I feel angry about having seen, just the sort that leaves you questioning what every single person involved was even thinking in the first place.  This is the sort of bad film that already feels iconic, sure to attract a dedicated cult following of viewers curious to see it for themselves.  Yes, Jupiter Ascending is that rare kind of bad film that is often entertaining for all the wrong reasons, and almost has to be seen for its shocking ineptitude to be believed.

As it turns out, the planets are actually governed by the Abrasax family, traditional royalty who harvest humans for their own resources, once the population gets too high.  After their matriarch dies, siblings Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Titus (Douglas Booth) and Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) are left fighting over which one of them will profit from harvesting the earth.  Enter Jupiter, a humble Russian immigrant who still lives with her family and makes a living cleaning toilets, but is actually the rightful heir to our planet, and therefore the only one who can save it.  And Caine is the only one who can protect her.

The problems with the film begin with this polished turd of a script.  I was already stranded right from the opening scenes, and by the time the caricatured aliens probing butts and the flying lizard people show up, Jupiter Ascending completely lost me.  This is the sort of film that starts descending early on, and just keeps sinking below that level.  The characters are thinly written and underdeveloped, and the plot still manages to be confusing and not make much sense, despite offering long stretches of poorly worded expository dialogue.

The film isn’t even particularly well put together, with the big action set pieces all blending into one another, filled with the sort of generic, computer generated destruction that has become commonplace in the majority of mindless blockbusters.  The visuals and set designs range from kind of cool, to ridiculous and garish, sometimes all in the same scene.  There are some majestic images of space, but these are almost accidental, because images of the stars and planets in the night sky can’t help but feel majestic.

The experience of watching Jupiter Ascending is like seeing a 175 million dollar budget be flushed down the toilet right before our eyes, a waste of time and resources that is better left untouched.  This is a film that feels like a parody of better science fiction, yet often seems to take itself seriously.  Even the music by usually brilliant composer Michael Giacchino sounds like a parody of his better works.  Lana Wachowski recently stated that her audience “hungers for originality.”  So is this what passes for originality nowadays?  A mashup of elements and themes from superior sources?

Having never totally warmed up to The Matrix, despite admiring the style and originality behind their 1999 breakout hit, the Wachowski siblings continue to have a mixed track record for me.  Speed Racer was all over the place in terms of tone and style, but in an intriguing and even fun way, with some visually dazzling sequences.  I genuinely liked their last film Cloud Atlas, a piece of epic storytelling that was so big, it was admirable in its reach and ambition.  Now comes Jupiter Ascending, a film so misguided, that I wouldn’t be shocked if they cease to get funding from Warner Bros. for other projects.

And then there’s Eddie Redmayne, who could easily win an Oscar for his mesmerizing work in The Theory of Everything, but delivers some of the worst acting in recent memory in Jupiter Ascending.  This is the sort of “what the hell was he thinking?” performance that is so campy and over the top, it’s impossible to look away from.  He whispers most of his dialogue, while periodically shouting the more ridiculous lines, and I don’t know if I should be admiring the almost gleeful abandon that he brings to the film, or embarrassed at the depths to which he would fall to collect a pay check.

Talented actors like Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis are equally wasted here.  Hardcore fans of the Wachowskis will no doubt try to convince themselves of finding some merit or even brilliance in this film, although I can’t imagine what they may discover.  For everyone else, Jupiter Ascending is an absolute mess.  A ridiculous, often incoherent and utterly laughable mess.  And I still have no idea what the hell Eddie Redmayne was doing.

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Jupiter Ascending Review by Erin Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

When Jupiter Ascending opens, we get a brief flashback to when Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) was born – destined for greatness, as we are told.  Flash-forward to present day and Jupiter is in her late-20’s, cleaning other people’s houses with her mother and aunt for a living, hating her life.  When she decides to sell her eggs for cash, she gets probed by alien ‘keepers’ who verify her as the heir to the Earth and try to kidnap her for Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne), who currently owns the title for Earth.

Instead, Jupiter’s kidnap is thwarted by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a part-wolf, part-human, (and questionably bird too), splice, who essentially looks like Channing Tatum with pointy-ears.  Caine is working for Belem’s brother Titus (Douglas Booth), who also wants Jupiter.

The following could count as SPOILERS.  Essentially, the whole plot revolves around this one premise; the Earth is just one small planet owned by Abrasax Industries, and they are all fighting over who gets to claim it, since they just seeded it with people that they want to harvest to make an anti-aging serum.  So essentially, it is a political film about fighting over nations (planets) for natural resources, like people (oil).  And Jupiter matters because she is a reincarnation of the previous heir before it was passed down to Balem, who now wants her dead.  END SPOILERS

Jupiter Ascending is a film that tries to be greater than it is.  Any attempt at political messaging is utterly lost in the laughable mess of whatever this film is.  The dialogue is laughable, as is the delivery.  Take Eddie Redmayne’s performance – he was outstanding in The Theory of Everything, and then we see him in this.  His character does this thing where he shouts a line of dialogue, followed by a whispered one.  Each time this shouting thing would happen, for some reason it made me laugh.  He’s a good actor, and generally I like him, but I couldn’t take any of this seriously.

We get a slow-motion fight between half-dog Channing Tatum and a giant lizard man.  We get ‘martian’ looking men probing half-dressed women.  And it’s not that I don’t get or enjoy sci-fi.  When it’s done well, I can and fully do accept odd things like this – but not here.  We get copies of scenes from other films done better.  There are several scenes that feel like they are heavily borrowing from The Avengers, Thor, and the J.J. Abrams Star Trek/Star Trek: Into Darkness.  (e.g., In Star Trek: Into Darkness there is a space dive by two characters into a cargo bay in a spaceport off Jupiter – compare that to the dive by two characters into Jupiter’s Great Red Spot here.)  The score by Michael Giacchino feels heavily overscored (perhaps trying to help a bad film), but also feels like a parody of his work for Star Trek and other works.

Jupiter Ascending is a useless mess of a film – a sci-fi escapade that runs very close to unintentional parody.  Perhaps the only reason you would check this out is because visually it is a spectacle.  But even so, for all the ‘pretty colours’ it’s also not very visually original.  I didn’t hate the film – but could I call it good?  No – it just didn’t factor in enough for me to elicit such a strong emotion as hate.  I will admit I found some parts (perhaps unintentionally) funny or entertaining, often with the interactions between Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum’s character.  For a bad film, it’s kind of entertaining, but in the ‘sit mindlessly in front of a screen’ variety.  Check it out on DVD for a bit of amusement, but in the age of blockbusters, we know we can be given better fare than this.

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Jupiter Ascending Review By Tony Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

Jupiter Ascending is the latest film from the Wachowski siblings. Jupiter (Mila Kinis) is a Russian immigrant house cleaner who happens to be the reincarnation of the matriarch of the galactic Abraxas dynasty which has “seeded” countless planets with humans. The three heirs, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) and Titus (Douglas Booth) will stop at nothing to prevent Jupiter from claiming her right to rule the Earth now that it is ripe for “harvesting.” Those familiar with the dystopic Neo Seoul from the much better Wachowski film Cloud Atlas can appreciate that harvesting would ruin our day.

Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) is a rogue ex galactic super soldier whose human genome was enhanced with wolf traits and wings, but was later court martialed along with his superior Stinger (Sean Bean), during which the wings were torn off their backs, like rank bars and medals stripped from a uniform. Wise (with Stinger’s help) will do everything he can to protect Jupiter and get his wings back.

Jupiter Ascending has to be seen to be (or not be) believed. Admittedly an ambitious project with its own mythology based on themes developed in previous Wachowski films like Cloud Atlas and The Matrix, the attempts to depict alien worlds fall far short of Star Wars or Star Trek, being down around the level of Green Lantern or John Carter (without the henna).

However, it is never dull, especially if its mediocrity is taken as a spoof of the space genre, with a booming Michael Giacchino score that seems to be a parody of his work. Even among the dross there are some nice bits, such as an early scene on another planet with a cityscape ripped off from Frank Gehry and the steampunk Abraxas bureaucracy.

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Consensus: The latest from filmmakers Andy and Lana Wachoswki, Jupiter Ascending is generally a mess that squanders the massive budget and talents of the cast, with a mashup of science fiction elements that often feels like unintentional parody. ★½ (out of 4)

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