When you hear that Channing Tatum will be playing an alien who comes to Earth to rescue the next heir to the interplanetary throne who happens to be an earthly janitor played by Mila Kunis, you may scoff. When you see the production stills of these characters, specifically Tatum with his pointy ears and goatee, you will laugh. But only upon watching the film itself will the silliness of it all have its true, undesired effect. Either you’ll laugh really, really hard or you will turn your head away in embarrassment. Either way, Jupiter Ascending is nothing more than a long snooze of a sci-fi adventure romance that has barely any thrills and a severely misconstrued sense of romanticism.
In this new sci-fi installment, the Wachowskis (The Matrix, Speed Racer, Cloud Atlas) weave a story that goes beyond the boundaries of the world we know. In it, Earth is ruled by a species of extraterrestrial royalties that are waiting for humans to evolve to their perfect state, only so they can use them to create a serum that gives them everlasting life. As I’m sure you could already guess from a synopsis that deals with royalty, there is jealousy for the throne involved. Who is the heir? Who rightly deserves it?
That’s where we find Jupiter Jones, a tragically laughable name that sounds so corny in a movie with a title such as this. Jupiter is down-on-her-luck, scrubbing toilets for money and the movie never lets us forget that she earns her living that way. It also never lets us forget that she hates her life, as she says it a handful of times in a number of close-up shots in the first half hour of the movie. It takes a long time to get going, as it spends most of its time on Earth, trying to get us to sympathize with Jupiter, while also showing us what’s going on with the shady Balem (Eddie Redmayne), the recently deceased matriarch’s son, who wants the throne and has sinister desires.
It’s all a yawn, but it picks up (kinda) when Channing Tatum flies onto the scene wearing his gravity boots, which allow him to glide through the air in roller skate fashion. Tatum plays Caine Wise, an ex-military hunter with both human and wolf DNA. He also has the previously mentioned floaty-boots along with a wicked goatee and a pair of ears that make him look like he belongs in a Middle Earth adventure. And to be completely honest, he was my favorite part of the entire movie, zooming in and out of scenes with flashy vibrancy, being in the center of most of the best action sequences.
Speaking of said action sequences, they are pretty spectacular. Even the film’s haters will have trouble faulting some of the action scenes throughout, but they can easily fault others as there are some that feel counterfeit, unrealistic, and obviously green screened. But even when there were large ships zooming through the expanse of space, accompanied by embarrassingly loud sound effects that simply couldn’t happen because there is no sound in space, I was practicing thankfulness for the fact that it wasn’t a dialogue scene.
This is the Phantom Menace for the Wachowskis, a film that has some beautiful visuals but is completely void of any dialogue of an equal level. Whenever Caine and Jupiter entered a room together, I began shaking my head because I knew I was about to get my dose of post-2000 Lucas. Really, it is quite terrible. But it doesn’t stop with those two. Balem, or should I simply say Eddie Redmayne, is terrible in this film, and yes I’m speaking for the actor who is currently up for the Best Actor in a Leading Role Oscar instead of the villainous character himself. From his first appearance on screen, Redmayne doesn’t know what he’s doing, whispering inaudibly for ninety percent of the time and screaming in uncomfortably bad outbursts for the remaining ten. Maybe Lana and Andy (the writers/directors) instructed him to do this, but it didn’t work. He’s terrible.
One thing I did like about the movie was Sean Bean, and do you want to know why? Because he’s Sean Bean. He’s one of my favorite screen presences in general, so that was a given. But his character isn’t given much to go on, so all that’s left is for him to stand there and take the check. But at least he has some fun doing it, and there is a nice surprise for anyone familiar with Bean’s career-long, um, streak, if you will. In addition, as I said, I liked Channing Tatum in the movie, even though when he glided through the air in his little rocket boots it made me think of the Green Goblin. Those pointy ears didn’t help, either. And don’t let me forget the score by Michael Giacchino, which makes everything better than it could have been without the music of a true talent.
It just doesn’t has enough oomph to get you through. Mila Kunis is hot, but she isn’t good in the movie, nor is she presented in any memorable fashion whatsoever. This character is the heir to royalty. Her royalty calls for her to own planet Earth. Literally, own it. That’s a ripe recipe for a strong female character. Unfortunately, the Wachowskis’ script puts her in the shoes of a damsel in distress… multiple times. Jupiter Ascending is a boring snooze. So boring, in fact, that when the guy beside me pulled out his iPhone, I didn’t get angry at him. Instead, I stared straight ahead, debating whether to turn to him and say, “Hey mate, how much longer?”
2 hrs. 7 mins.
Rated PG-13 for for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity
Starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Sean Bean
Written and directed by The Wachowskis