CINEMA RELEASE: JUPITER ASCENDING
Release date: 19th February 2015
Director: The Wachowski’s
Cast: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne
Classification: M (Violence and Science Fiction Themes)
Review by Peter Gray
Where does one begin with ‘Jupiter Ascending’? Originally set for a July release last year, the space-set soap opera was intended to be The Wachowski siblings’ big blockbuster return to glory following a series of misfires in their attempt to ride the wave of success they managed 16 years ago (!) with ‘The Matrix’. Only weeks out from its release, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ had its plug pulled and was shifted to the far-less glamorous month of February, where it has proven naysayers correct by failing to capitalise on a release date traditionally earmarked for features that don’t entirely have monetary guarantee. When the right amount of talent works with the correct material it is possible for seemingly outlandish premises to birth coherent products – see last year’s ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ for proof – and though it’s difficult to deny the talent The Wachowski’s possess, ‘Jupiter Ascending’, whilst visually pleasing, is a mess of a feature that has reaches beyond the stars but ultimately only barely scratches the surface.
Admittedly the siblings have created a fascinating universe in ‘Jupiter Ascending’, toying with the notion that Earth, and thousands of other similar worlds are corporations to a few wealthy families who seed these planets and essentially harvest the population to maintain a youth serum, which in turn keeps these planetary owners youthful for millennia’s to come. One such family in a distinct position of power is the Abraxis clan, the trio of heirs all at war with one another over who can claim Earth as their own. Unbeknownst to them though Earth already has a rightful proprietor, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a lowly house cleaner, she just doesn’t know it yet. If that sounds like a lot to take in, it is, and unfortunately it isn’t laid out as straightforward as it reads. Ambitious would be a word best used to describe both The Wachowski’s and this feature, and given all the ingredients here it’s a shame this ambition was wasted on something that lacks anything of real interest.
After the commercial failures that were ‘Speed Racer’ and ‘Cloud Atlas’, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ was no doubt intended as a flashy comeback of sorts, but without any of the exciting visuals of the former or the eccentricity of the latter, it comes across looking like every other space-set production (not that its visuals should be seen as a negative) without any heart or soul confined within. One of the big factors could be the casting of Kunis and Channing Tatum, here playing a half-man/half-wolf hybrid, who are both usually reliable when given the right material (Tatum only proving with the recent ‘Foxcatcher’ his abilities as a performer) but feel far too contemporary to be involved here. Both saddled with some unfortunate dialogue, Kunis seems to be struggling to make Jupiter a fully realised character, but when so much of her time is spent either running, falling from significant heights, or swanning about in various intergalactic gowns, there’s only so much she can do. Tatum doesn’t fare as badly, he seems quite capable in his various (and seemingly endless) action sequences, even going so far as to run around shirtless in one (though his ‘Magic Mike’ physique is nowhere to be seen) but the charisma we know he possesses is nowhere to be seen, the film unable to give him the opportunity to go beyond his character description.
And then there’s Eddie Redmayne. Likely to be crowned Best Actor at this year’s Academy Awards for his brilliant work in ‘The Theory of Everything’, one can’t help but wonder will this do him damage as he delivers the film’s worst performance. As he gently, almost inaudibly, sprouts his lines through a permanent pout as the most dominant of heirs seeking Earth for his own gain, it’s quite an embarrassment to watch the capable actor be reduced to a flamboyant, volatile caricature; though one could argue he’s the only player aware of the type of film he’s in and is playing up accordingly. However you look at it ‘Jupiter Ascending’ is a hot mess of a movie, entertaining for all the wrong reasons yet not enough to warrant a viewing on the “so bad it’s good” grounds. Sadly another step backwards for the promising Wachowski’s, there’s still at least some merit in the film given that it’s an original piece, and in a time of sequels and remakes originality is a welcome commodity.
My rating: 2/5