MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Jupiter Ascending’ Is Silly, Gorgeous, And Fun

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Film: Jupiter Ascending
Directed by: Andy & Lana Wachowski
Starring: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne

There once lived a little girl named Jupiter who was destined for bigger and better things. One day her gravity boots-wearing Prince showed up to- wait a second; this sounds like every trope beaten to death in the most generic of big budget films. The Wachowski’s newest doesn’t dare to take the space road less traveled in terms of narrative. If spectacle is your game, then you may be hard pressed to find another film as good looking as Jupiter Ascending. Although I am a firm believer in not supporting ‘turn your mind off cinema,’ this new Channing Tatum-led space epic makes up for the slight of the simple narrative by putting you in the front seat of a thrilling roller coaster of visuals.

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) cleans toilets by day and stares up at the stars by night. Stuck in a menial job and beaten down emotionally by her large Russian family, she gets whisked off her feet by space-mercenary Cain Wise (Tatum). To spare you some redundant story points, there’s a prophecy about Jones’ importance in the universe and now the Abrasax royal family is hunting her down. Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Titus (Douglas Booth), and Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) are the three siblings who all are trying to capture Jupiter for their own reasons. Naturally, this leads to an intergalatic adventure that puts everyone’s lives at danger.

Jupiter Ascending was famous far before now for its abrupt release date change from July 18, 2014 to February 2015. The only explanation behind the move was because the filmmakers wanted to get the special effects right. If that was the real reason behind everything, then The Wachowski’s succeeded in creating some of the most captivating visual effects you will see outside of the Marvel cinematic universe. Their sense of scale, clear inspiration by Alejandro Jodorowsky’s ideas for Dune, and attention to detail all make Jupiter Ascending top-notch spectacle.

All that said, the abrupt move seems to have affected more than just the visual effects. From the opening sequence onward, you may notice that something is amiss. The way that all of the events in the narrative haphazardly flip flop onto one another with no sense of transitioning may make you wonder if there is a longer version of the film out there. One that introduces exciting things with explanations instead of shoving them in your face with the hope that you somehow comprehend what is going on. Listen, Jupiter Ascending may end up being one of the most incomprehensible films of 2015 in terms of braving new territory vs. providing context for that territory. The kicker here is that most filmmakers don’t have the guts or are watered down by overbearing studios to make such audacious things pop out on the screen. For Pete’s sake, one of the many action sequences involves giant lizard people who shoot lasers. Jupiter Ascending is two talented visual artists giving it all they have, pleasing the worst fetishes they have and sacrificing a possible gold mine of story in the process.

Apologies to whomever had to act out the material, but you didn’t make the story any more bearable. Tatum and Kunis seem lost in the grand scale of things, so used to smaller films that exercise their intellectual strengths. With this though, the term “lost in space” may give some good context to you humble readers. Sean Bean, the man who dies in every single action movie, gets to flex his muscles as a half-man/half-bee named Stinger Apini (yeah, there’s a subplot about how every character is a genetic hodge-podge). He seems to be having fun even though he is shooting something every time he is on the screen.

Oscar-nominated Eddie Redmayne of The Theory of Everything may be frightened about Jupiter Ascending releasing so close to the Academy Awards ceremony. His villain Balem is a whispering and egotistical mad man looking to destroy whatever planet stands in his way of constantly rejuvenating his aging skin. His true sinister efforts aren’t revealed until the last act of the film and seem more as a forced inclusion than anything natural to the plot line. Flash Gordon is one of the only sci-fi epics I can compare Jupiter Ascending to. The latter is as silly as the former and doesn’t care whether you care or not.

This weekend: a sponge, ‘The Dude’ dressed up as a wizard, and Channing Tatum with dog ears all battle in the dumping grounds of February. If you have any affection for silly sci-fi, Jupiter Ascending may surprise you at the lengths a studio film can go to entertain. If not, see the sponge. He’ll soak up your laughter and not disperse regret.

GRADE: B-

Review written by Sam Cohen (follow him on Twitter!)

Sam Cohen

Sam Cohen is that guy you can't have a conversation with without bringing up Michael Mann. He is also incapable of separating himself from his teenage angst (looking at you, Yellowcard). Read on as he tries to formulate words about movies!
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