Visually stunning and action packed, Jupiter Ascending unfortunately falters severely with it’s characters and story.
The Wachowski’s will never cease to earn my money. Good or bad, their films forever embrace creative, often original, science fiction. Their latest film, Jupiter Ascending, tends to fall into the weaker end of their filmography, while still creating an interesting, vibrant fantasy world.
The film follows the titular character Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a Russian immigrant working as a maid in Chicago, as she is thrust into the middle of intergalactic family dispute. Rescued by a human-wolf hybrid named Caine (Channing Tatum) from an assassination attempt on her life, she soon discovers that humans were placed on earth, and exist in different areas around the galaxy. Her genetic makeup matches a royal line, therefore granting her true claim over Earth. Her right would remove the previous three heirs from taking ownership over Earth, which specifically upsets the eldest, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), thus the assassination efforts.
Confused? Don’t worry – you’re not alone. The films plot is honestly not super complicated in the end, but it does a pretty poor job of conveying everything that is happening, why it all matters, and tries it’s best to not let you explore the world created for the film. Instead we get a rushed, boring, and kind of creepy love story that develops between Jupiter and Caine. Literally after having spent minutes with Caine, Jupiter is hitting on him, and refuses to let up for the remainder of the film, even after learning that he’s pretty much mentally unstable and kills people.
It’s really a shame, because beyond the love story, Jupiter Ascending is actually kind of awesome. The visual effects are top notch, and the design and aesthetics of everything created are unique and original. There are a variety of alien races that seamlessly exist in the film in ways you only see successfully pulled off in things like Star Wars and Star Trek. The film has a selection of wild, lengthy action sequences, that are enthralling and entertaining, especially when viewed on an IMAX 3D screen.
The downfall of the world created comes from the imbalance of tone expressed in various scenes. For the most part the film is a little melodramatic, but given the grand space opera vibe, it works. Some sequences really dive down different routes, from Balem’s dark, violent, and over-the-top monologues, to a sequence likened to the DMV, which is downright campy, comical, and ripped straight from Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, even featuring a cameo from Gilliam himself. It provides for some awkward transitions between scenes, where non-using music or ambient effects was clearly chosen for creative reasons, but produces really jarring moments.
In the end, Jupiter Ascending is a big disappointment. It really has the makings of a great science fiction film, but the execution blunders pretty heavily. The love story pulls away from the world too much, which is heartbreaking considering the interesting locations, creatures, and technology on display. The wavy tone throughout gives the film a sense of schizophrenia, leaving me disengaged from scene to scene. Still, I’ll always support original science fiction, even if it turns out poorly.