Film Review | Jupiter Ascending
“From the creators of The Matrix” is a quote that has accompanied the Wachowskis in each of the trailers and posters for their subsequent films, and with good reason. The 1999 sci-fi is still one of the best of the genre, and having struggled since then a case could be made that the sibling directors peaked too soon. Indeed, Jupiter Ascending does little to change that notion, as it can best be described as a beautiful failure.
Mila Kunis plays the titular Jupiter, a lowly cleaner who lives with her Russian family and dreams of escaping her mundane life. Unbeknownst to Jupiter, her genetic code means she’s next in line for ownership of a number of planets, including Earth. Naturally there are other interested parties who want Jupiter out of the way, and when an attempt on her life is thwarted by half-man half-wolf warrior Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), she’s introduced to a new world.
If nothing else, Jupiter Ascending proves that the Wachowskis can still be counted on to deliver a stunning visual experience. From extravagant spaceships to many gravity boot powered space chases, there is much beauty to behold here. There are plenty of interesting ideas inherent in the narrative too, with the Wachowskis finding time to include subtext on reincarnation among other subplots. It all gets pushed to one side though in favour of a series of sequences whereby Jupiter finds herself in trouble and Caine has to save her. In the midst of all this, there is meant to be a romantic element to proceedings too as Jupiter begins to fall for Caine, but the dialogue between the unlikely pair is risible.
While certainly not as strong as some of his recent fare, Tatum delivers a solid performance as our pointy-eared hero Caine. Though he isn’t given much to work with in the dramatics department, but he remains a watchable and likable action star even as the world he’s surrounded by gets ever more ridiculous. Conversely, the other leads come off far worse; Kunis’s performance simply isn’t well enough modulated to sell Jupiter’s introduction into this massive world, and Redmayne – who has been deservedly scooping up awards for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything – is laughably weird as the film’s villain.
Though it can’t be faulted for its ambition, there is a great disparity between the visuals and the storytelling in Jupiter Ascending. If, as one character notes, “time is the single most precious commodity in the universe”, then it’s better spent elsewhere.