The first time I heard about the Wachowski’s new sci-fi space opera Jupiter Ascending was the news last year that the film’s release had been delayed from Summer 2014 to February 2015. At the time nobody quite knew why this was the case, with the official reason being extra time needed to polish off effects, but the more likely truth is that the studio were scared by the poor (and in my opinion undeserved) box office takings of Edge Of Tomorrow starring Tom Cruise. However, those in need of a wacky sci-fi adventure were well and truly compensated with the smash hit Guardians Of The Galaxy last year, and I pretty much completely forgot about Jupiter Ascending until a few weeks before its eventual release. Would the film continue in this new found rich vein of space fun form?
Absolutely, and unequivocally, no. Jupiter Ascending tells the story of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a young immigrant cleaner living in Chicago with her Russian family who unsuspectingly becomes the centre of an intergalactic royal family and race to save the Earth. Born a complete genetic reincarnation of the former Queen of the galaxies, Jupiter, with the help of Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a part dog part human genetically engineered ex-military fighter, becomes the key attention of a group of royal siblings (Eddie Redmayne, Tuppence Middleton and Douglas Booth) to whom Jupiter’s newfound status poses a threat. It is complicated, it is busy, it is long and it is a hot damn mess. There is no denying that Jupiter Ascending is broad and ambitious in it’s attempted story telling scope, but in expanding their narrative universe literally to Jupiter and back, the Wachowskis have failed to provide the audience with characters that are either endearing or well rounded. Besides from having one of the coolest names in cinema, Jupiter Jones is a character that is required to carry the film, but at no point does she win over the audience, simply travelling from farfetched situation to even more farfetched situation with her incredibly overthought companion Caine Wise. Don’t get me wrong, Caine had the potential to be an interesting character, an ex military figure court marshalled under mysterious circumstances and stripped of his precious wings (yes, that’s right, a half man half dog wearing gravity boots who used to have wings), but much needed character development was sacrificed time and time again in favour of yet another action set piece consisting of Kunis nearly falling to her death and being saved at the last minute by her rugged and loyal companion. For a film over two hours in length, very little plot is progressed after the initial premise setting of the first thirty minutes, with every supposed ‘revelation’ coming as no shock to any viewer strong enough to have kept attention through the incessant and repetitive action sequences, some which are undeniably spectacular but that do nothing for a cinephile like myself who prefers plot over pyrotechnics. The word that keeps coming to mind when trying to surmise Jupiter Ascending is ‘bonkers’, not bonkers in a zany, fun kind of way, but rather bonkers in a dumb, not quite coming together, never quite finding the right tone kind of way. A sense of humour would have done wonders for the film, but it is sadly lacking and the entire picture drowns in science-fiction self importance.
Despite their best efforts, Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum fail to carry the film in the way that was required of them. Kunis as Jupiter is neither believable as a cleaner at the beginning nor a Queen of the universe come the picture’s conclusion, and what could have been an interesting and nuanced character journey was lost in a sea of screaming and falling off of high objects. In a way, Tatum’s performance as Caine Wise is an even bigger disappointment as we all know just how good he can be from his recent work in Foxcatcher. The actor is left with little else to do but skate around on futuristic rollerblades and display a pouty chip on his shoulder that is never fully realised or explained.Tuppence Middleton and Douglas Booth give fine but unremarkable performances as space royals Kalique and Titus Abrasax respectively, but the undeniable talking point of the entire cast is Eddie Redmayne’s relentless, so bad it’s good portrayal of key villain Balem Abrasax. For somebody who is quite rightly picking up awards left right and centre for his masterful work as Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything, Redmayne seems to have temporarily lost his mind and gone on full camp mega-baddie autopilot for this production. Every single character choice from voice to body language serves to create one of the most bizarre and cringeworthy antagonists I have ever seen. Utterly terrible but, ironically, probably the only thing I will still remember about this film in a month’s time.
Overall, Jupiter Ascending is, to put it simply, absolutely mental. The Wachowskis have created a world that feels like it has come from a much larger, more structured comic book universe, but the fact is that this is an original piece of work that leaves you with more questions than answers and quite frankly, you are so bored and confused by the end of it that you cannot be bothered to ask the questions anyway. A few spectacular action scenes are not enough to save this film from being the worst I have seen so far this year. My advice? If you haven’t seen Guardians Of The Galaxy, watch that instead. And if you have already seen it, watch it again.