by: S. Scott Stanikmas
The sibling duo of the Wachowskis (Lana and Andy) are known for their original and imaginative projects. They gave us the Matrix trilogy which, while declining in story quality with each subsequent installment, was one of the most groundbreaking cinematic efforts in terms of visuals and special effects. Even when they work on already established material, like the anime-inspired Speed Racer or the across-the-ages novel Cloud Atlas, they still manage to put their own mark on the film so that you know it was the siblings that had a hand in creating what you’re watching. Their new film Jupiter Ascending, while visually stunning, tends to fall flat for this reviewer.
We follow the tale of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a young woman who cleans houses for a living all while yearning for something more than what her life has to offer. She is soon confronted with the fact that human beings are not the only intelligent beings in the universe and learns that she herself may have a larger part to play in the grand scheme of things.
Aided by a pair of genetically modified ex-military fighters (Channing Tatum and Sean Bean), Jupiter is whisked away to the far reaches of the galaxy, where she meets the three living members of the universe’s most powerful ruling family: Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) and Titus Abrasax (Douglas Booth).
Jupiter is soon drawn into the various ploys and machinations of the warring siblings, as each one tries to sway Jupiter to their side in their own way, whether it be through sweet words and whispered promises or threats of violence and cruelty.
From a purely visual standpoint, Jupiter Ascending is outstanding. The various worlds and alien races we see are stunning. The space ships had a great design to them, unlike anything you’d see on Earth or in most other sci-fi movies. JA was delayed from a summer 2014 release to a winter 2015 one so that the effects could be perfected and the level of detail seen in this movie shows this was the right way to go.
Story wise the movie falters. There are only so many times I can believe that Mila Kunis’ Jupiter can be duped (only to be saved at the last minute) in a two hour time frame. I understand that she’s new to what she’s being thrown into, but if she can begin to recite bylaws and codes of conduct that she only had a short time to learn, she should be smart enough to not get on an enemy ship without proper guards or protection.
It’s nice to see that Earth isn’t the only planet (or inhabited world) that has to deal with the inane bureaucracy. To see Mila Kunis have to go through a dog-and-pony show to be made an official citizen of her own star system was ludicrous. It’s more than ridiculous that the crux of the film relies on Jupiter making her mark instead of the main villain just killing her and taking what he wants.
While it is refreshing to see some original material out in the market these days, Jupiter Ascending is a film that epitomizes the phrase “style over substance.” In a time of year known for throwaway films that studios just don’t know what to do with, it’s disappointing to see the Wachowskis fall into that category this time around.