Movie Review: Jupiter Ascending
Imagine this: girl works as a cleaner and suddenly finds her life in danger. Boy comes out of nowhere to save her. Then, girl discovers she’s heir to the throne. Boy saves her from trouble and girl falls in love with boy.
Rings a bell? No, we aren’t dissecting Cinderella, Twilight or your mom’s favourite Korean drama here. This is the latest sci-fi eye candy vehicle cooked up by the Wachowskis (Andy and Lana Wachowski) of The Matrix fame.
Mega budget fantasy film Jupiter Ascending follows earthling Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) who’s sick of her mundane life of scrubbing toilet bowls and suddenly finds herself the subject of various alien-engineered murder attempts.
Enter alien ex-military operative Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), who’s been hired to kidnap Jones to outer space. There, she finds out she’s in fact heir to a massive intergalactic cooperation built on, quite literally, a human capital harvested for youth elixir.
As luck would have it, Jones is also the reincarnation of the mother of millennium-old royal aliens, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Titus (Douglas Booth) and Kalique Abrasax (Tuppence Middleton). It’s hard to decide which is creepier.
Beneath this veneer of out-of-this-world ridiculousness, Jupiter Ascending is built on the same uninspired narrative spine that’s been plaguing young-adult films recently. Swap the evolved immortal human-aliens for mystical creatures and voila, it’s practically The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
That’s not where the similarities end. Jupiter Ascending’s extensive and star-studded cast is disappointingly swamped with cut-out characters. Redmayne, who was brilliant in The Theory of Everything, is largely relegated to dishing menacing threats in ridiculously hoarse robotic whispers.
But of course, who actually goes to a Wachowskis’ film for the plot or even character development? Understandably so, given the siblings’ track record (see Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas) of breathing life into the prettiest, shiniest worlds you’ll ever see.
In a post-Star Wars era, you’d be hard-pressed to find a space opera with a palette more lush or vibrant than this one. It’s steeped in an architectural amalgamation of ancient grandiose and modern minimalism, from sexy vampire-esque Kalique’s gorgeous Renaissance-inspired planet to chief villain Balem’s neo-modern evil lair.
And who could forget the Wachowski’s flair for visual effects and action sequences? Their astounding aerial chase scene makes us desperately yearn for a pair of seriously snazzy gravity boots of our own.
However, visual excellence alone is far from enough to rake in the moolah at the box office – something the Wachowskis badly need, particularly after this production’s beleaguered journey to the silver screen, starting from its 7-month-long delay to the disappointing screening at Sundance.
But what they, and so many Hollywood young-adult filmmakers these days, don’t understand is that playing every card in the deck isn’t going to win over this fickle audience. Neither is brazenly slopping out heavy-handed morality lessons of cherishing your life and cautioning against greed.
To its credit, Jupiter Ascending does include poignant and timeless themes, like elitism and discrimination, evident in the brothers’ earlier works (think Matrix’s “have-have nots” debate). “Every human society is made up of a pyramid, but some lives will always matter more than others,” Balem intones ominously.
We’re also looking at a script riddled with cliché plot devices and predictably cheesy humor. When Caine comments that he “has more in common with a dog than (he) has with (her)”, Jones actually replies, “I love dogs, I’ve always loved dogs.”
Ultimately, Jupiter Ascending is the embodiment of a current Hollywood downward spiral, where expensive effects, fancy gimmicks and humor are too often used as substitutes, or worse to mask coherent storytelling and character development.
Release Date: February 5
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-fi
Main Cast: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton, Sean Bean
Director: Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Producer: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski, Roberto Malerba, Grant Hill, Bruce Berman
Runtime: 127 min