Andy and Lana Wachowski return to the big screen with Jupiter Ascending; their latest slice of original sci-fi since Cloud Atlas awed us just a couple of years ago. The Wachowskis have always been known for pushing the genre and sometimes even defining it with their movies, which also include the entire Matrix trilogy, but with Jupiter Ascending the filmmakers have hit a storytelling rut, comprising something that could have been truly unique and special for something that looks unique, but rarely feels special or far from your typical damsel in distress film. Jupiter Ascending is a misfire, but one that was taken with a great leap of faith by the studio backing it and the directors that more-than-likely had a strong vision and idea of what they wanted to tell, but ended up coming up a bit too short.
Jupiter (Mila Kunis) isn’t exactly the most out-of-this-universe type of gal. She’s far from royal blood or special privilege, working as a full-time janitor to get by and bunking with her entire extensive family whenever she’s not flushing toilets after applying some suds. Her life hasn’t exactly panned out or gave birth to that childhood dream of becoming a princess or falling for your true love, but she makes it work because that’s all she knows, until one day her eyes are opened and she’s exposed to the “real” world.
This real world coming with the acceptance that Earth isn’t the only planet housing intelligent species and that the universe is actually full of human life. Some life so powerful that they’ve taken it upon themselves to lay claim to actual planets. Yep, a man by the name of Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne) “owns” Earth and wants very badly to destroy it.
But Jupiter finds out that she might be able to stop his reign of terror. She finds this out from a genetically engineered soldier named Caine (Channing Tatum) and from there The Wachowskis’ mind-boggling sci-fi epic takes its shape.
It’s not like Jupiter Ascending is a horrible movie. It’s not. In fact, it’s actually quite good in some respects. The visuals are grand and The Wachowskis have definitely created an entire new universe with their film that spans beyond the stars and reaches far past the edge of our galaxy. Jupiter Ascending is so uniquely weird and creative that it almost appears as too much once the film starts.
It wastes not a single minute easing you into the world that The Wachowskis have constructed and the rules that they have created and mostly play by, which makes the first fifteen to twenty minutes feel fresh and exciting and like the siblings have yet again created another masterpiece.
But then things slow down and settle in and Mila Kunis is given a little more room to stretch and expand her character, which hurts the film in a very bad way. Jupiter is LITERALLY a damsel in distress, often-times falling from large buildings, only to get swooped up with style by Channing Tatum‘s albino-looking warrior character. This happens not once, not twice, but multiple times, despite Jupiter learning a thing or two about these futuristic devices being used in the film and despite Jupiter’s brain capacity to know what a little common sense is.
From there, things get rushed and start to smear together in an offsetting way that can only add up to failure on a fundamental storytelling level. The film just crumbles to pieces whenever the special effects are given the back seat and the actual story comes to play. Tatum has no problem playing the part of the big and tough bad ass warrior, but Kunis fails miserably at not only playing a “soon-to-be” princess, but also as a leading lady meant to give you someone to really root for.
She was horribly miscast and that only makes the fact that the film feels like it has been slightly butchered only worse. As is, Jupiter Ascending feels a bit sluggish for a two hour film, yet I have no doubts that a four hour cut would absolutely rock. The Wachowskis clearly spent a lot of time developing and bringing this film to life, yet it feels oddly cut and mostly uneven in terms of character progression and general plot direction.
Perhaps there’s a better cut of this film sitting on a lot back at Warner Bros. studios or perhaps The Wachowskis shot a little too far for the stars and ended up empty-handed. Jupiter Ascending isn’t the next best thing and it’s not even half as good as Cloud Atlas, but it’s visually stimulating in ways that most filmmakers don’t comprehend and in IMAX 3D it’ll definitely give you plenty to look at. Just don’t be alarmed if the actual story doesn’t sit well for long, because Jupiter Ascending is thematically hollow and more popcorn-friendly than thought-provoking.
Jupiter Ascending – 7/10