It’s difficult to believe that The Matrix was once considered a risky bet at the box office. The Wachowski’s only had one movie under their belt at the time. Also, Keanu Reeves seemed destined to fail in this type of futuristic role after Jonny Mnemonic. Yet at the end of March 1999, The Matrix changed the landscape of action movies and added a new realm of originality to big budget movies. The Wachowski’s tried to recapture that with the Matrix sequels, the underrated Speed Racer, V for Vendetta and the ambitious Cloud Atlas.
It’s safe to say that they never found that spark of originality again. Their latest project, Jupiter Ascending, was funded in hopes that they’d create a new universe of characters whose story could stretch over several sequels. The outlook for this project was clouded when the movie was delayed from July of 2014 to now.
So now that Jupiter Ascending is out, the question is “how does it fare?”
Have you seen A Winter’s Tale? Jupiter Ascending is essentially A Winter’s Tale in Space!
Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a character that was born under bizarre circumstances. (The movie never really gets into this.) Her DNA is apparently considered royal in the far-reaching galaxies, yet she spends her days cleaning toilets for her family’s maid service. While in the process of selling her eggs to a clinic, she is attacked by the aliens from Signs, but thankfully saved by Caine (Tanning Chatum) a half man, half dog hybrid soldier, who is never without his trusty rocket boots. He was sent to retrieve her, but isn’t sure why. He takes her to his mentor’s (Sean Bean) house and thousands of bees swarm her and seem to be under her control. That is the moment when they realize that she is the reincarnated space queen who recently died. Sean Bean’s character actually says, “Bees are genetically designed to recognize royalty.”
Following me so far? I could stop, but this is too much fun.
Jupiter is then captured and taken into space, where she finds herself in the middle of an intergalactic inheritance crisis. Three siblings (played by Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton and Eddie Redmayne) are the three descendants of the deceased space queen and they all want to lay claim to Earth. Yet, with the arrival of the reincarnated mother, they all play political games to win her favor. One of these sons actually tries to marry his mother/Jupiter. The second half of the flick shows Jupiter traveling to the estate of each sibling. She always finds herself in distress, but thankfully, Caine shows up in his rocket boots and saves the day…every single time.
Believe it or not, I actually made some sense of the plot with the description above and left out some of the weird stuff.
Jupiter Ascending is as bad as the delay suggests, possibly worse. The dialogue and acting matches The Boy Next Door (not a good thing). Just in case the audience wasn’t smart enough to remember that Jupiter’s family is Russian, the script reminds us with two references to Stalin in the first five minutes, one of these quotes is literally “Stalins balls!”
You almost can’t blame Chatum Tanning for his preposterous role. His performances (in every movie) are basically bullet-proof because little is asked of him. After a disappointing turn in Oz: The Great and Powerful, Mila Kunis once again shows that she may not be ready for the big screen. Jupiter never once shows any true emotion. She is on a whirlwind that upends her entire life, yet the only thing she is capable of doing is unconvincingly falling for the half-dog man. She is only reactive and never once makes a decision for herself.
I’m sure Eddie Redmayne wishes this movie was released well ahead of his fantastic portrayal of Stephen Hawking. His over the top performance as the villain is embarrassing and poorly timed, especially with the Oscars coming up. He may have been trying to channel Gary Oldman from The Fifth Element, but its mostly done with awkward delivery.
Jupiter Ascending is billed as a space opera. That claim is not far off. The visuals are outstanding. They match the ambitious scope that the story attempts. However, because it’s all glitz and no quality, the experience comes off as hollow as a Transformers flick.
I wish that someone had rocket boots to save me from this enjoyable (for all the wrong reasons) trainwreck. The story might be original, but original does not equal quality. Skip it. D+