I would have to give Jupiter Ascending zero points for dialogue, character development, or any idea of the finer details of a plot. There’s nothing there in those departments. But this is one of those rare movies you can watch on mute and still enjoy for its visuals and attention to spectacle. The Wachowskis have restricted their fingers from penning coherent stories, but their eye for imagination remains formidable.
What Jupiter Ascending is, therefore, is a professional exercise in visual effects and a test to see how far effects can carry a movie beyond what was intended of it. Not for a second did I think the characters played by Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum were versions of real people existing peacefully within the parameters of a film. They are joists, put in place to hold strands of dialogue and plot events together, and to essentially connect one visual effect to another.
This is usually a formula for a movie that aspires to fail, and indeed much of Jupiter Ascending is superlative failure, but what The Wachowskis have also accomplished is eliciting the notion of a very grand story. I got the sense that there is much happening in the universe; secrets and trades that go unheard by the human ear. When the heroine, Jupiter Jones (Kunis), tries to save her family from certain death, it’s all wrong, but when we are told of the Earth being but a farm for harvesting human life as a natural resource for ethereal beings, something clicks — hang on, this could go somewhere.
If only it did.
For reasons never made clear, The Wachowskis apply the brakes just when it starts to get good, when the scope of their ambition hints at triggering something exciting.
Imagine the Rockefellers. Now split them up, throw them into outer space and make them wear ridiculous costumes. Change their interest in oil to immortality. You’ve got the three villains of Jupiter Ascending. There is Balem (Eddie Redmayne), the oldest, mumbliest, greediest; Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), the disrobing, fountain-of-youth-persuing sprite; and Titus (Douglas Booth), whose name, judging by his harem, must apply to what he conceals within his pants.
They’re in a race with each other for everlasting youth. Balem owns Earth (that’s right) and has no intention of giving it up. He harvests humans, drains their essence and converts them into elixirs that impede death (their mother, we learn, was murdered at the ripe old age of 91,000).
Jupiter is the daughter of a British astrologist (James D’Arcy) and a Russian mother (Maria Doyle Kennedy), who lives with her family and cleans toilets for a living. But she is meant for something more. She is meant for true love and true love’s first kiss.
She stumbles into this plot between the three siblings, and we learn that Balem wants her executed for resembling his dead mother. But she is the prophesied queen of the universe, which seems rather silly since she has no idea what’s going on and would probably not have the slightest idea how to be regal.
Her knight in anti-gravity boots is played by Channing Tatum, who is a concoction of human and wolf and looks like something the era of Heavy Metal music might have coughed up on a sour day. He skates around and rescues Jupiter on many occasions, once in a space fighter chase so aggressive both characters should have suffered five times over from G-LOC.
The two travel the cosmos, and eventually Jupiter’s Russian family is held hostage and all must come to a crashing end, with love found and safety renewed. It’s all very humdrum.
This is why I’m disappointed, because there is nothing humdrum about what The Wachowskis have premised. They have created a look that is fresh and visually alive, with a lot of computer-generated effects and bright colours and interesting locations. They’ve started something powerful here, but have gotten lost with their characters, who remain bound by the shackles of dour storytelling. Jupiter Ascending is a movie of ambition and technological expertise. It’s also confused and flaccid, but at least it’s not boring.
Best Moment | Watching Eddie Redmayne spasm out of control, especially so soon after winning the Academy Award for The Theory Of Everything.
Worst Moment | Jupiter Jones being a fickle toy on multiple occasions.