Jupiter Ascending (12a)
Directed by: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Starring: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis & Eddie Redmayne
Running time: 127 min
In a bright and colorful future, a young destitute caretaker gets targeted by a ruthless son of a powerful family that live on a planet in need of a new heir, so she travels with a genetically engineered warrior to the planet in order to stop his tyrant reign.
I wish I could tell you that Jupiter Ascending, the latest mega-budget effort from the Wachowsk’s, is worth getting excited about. While the directorial duo can be commended for their ambitious storytelling and attention to stunning visuals, the end product is a muddled and faltering fantasy epic which marks a further regression from the former cinematic visionaries that brought you The Matrix.
This space opera is undeniably grandiose and imaginative but the overarching theme that planet earth and the human race are a microscopic element of something much vaster and unimaginably powerful leaves the film struggling from the outset. A plot of this description requires film-making panache and unfortunately, the Wachowskis create an overblown mess which favours style over substance.
The film does have its positive aspects among the scrambled plot and under-written characters. The casting of Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones, an illegal alien living with her Russian immigrant family and working as a housekeeper in modern day Chicago, gave the film a strong female lead which is often missing in films of this genre, while casting Channing Tatum as the interplanetary warrior Caine Wise was one of the more advised decisions made by the Wachowskis. Tatum’s brooding and complex military hunter is the film’s most engaging character and creates a convincing chemistry with Kunis’ allure and self-deprecating humour. The two protagonists drive the film through some of its bumpy sequences but ultimately fail to save the film from descending into ignominy.
Following a convoluted and rushed opening 30 minutes, the film settles with a more in-depth explanation of the story and the introduction of the Abraxas siblings. Balem, Kalique and Titus are the three heirs to the powerful House of Abraxas fortune and are at odds over who inherits the most coveted part of the Abraxas fortune; planet earth. This familial rivalry suggests a narrative driven by an almighty sibling discord but it struggles to retain its focus as Jupiter begins to acquaint the three antagonists and her role in the inter-galactic struggle becomes the focus.
However, it must be said the visuals and artistic style are breathtaking and dazzling. The Wachowskis can be given credit for piecing together a world which rivals their creations in The Matrix and Cloud Atlas. The directors enlisted a team of 22 conceptual designers to construct the striking environments which dominate the film and from Balem’s Pharaoh-esque lair to the spectacularly vivid wedding hall, the artistic department construct a world of glorious imagination and creativity and deserve most of the plaudits.
Unfortunately, there is no substance or depth to accompany the visual flourishes and the epic design. The Wachowskis replace character development with uninspiring action sequences and the viewer is left to ruminate on the glaring lack of development with Eddie Redmayne’s Balem. Redmayne however, does not make up for lost time in his scenes as – bearing in mind he is a frontrunner for the Leading Actor Academy Award for The Theory of Everything – he gives a bizarre and frighteningly overcooked performance which is difficult to watch. His inexplicably gasping accent and violent outbursts are not the work of a refined actor and he is surprisingly outdone by the unheralded Douglas Booth as his younger brother Titus. Without a credible villain, the crescendo of a finale flounders when it was supposed to exhilarate.
There are flashes of the Matrix-era Wachowski here but they are drowned in the hollowness of the story and the characters they fail to sufficiently develop. Their construction of a far-flung world and concept of an ultra-intelligent species is inventive to an extent, but it counts for nothing when the storytelling is this ordinary.
2 out of 5 nerds