There are few things to praise in "Jupiter Ascending" --- Chicago looks fabulous, Eddie Redmayne is deliciously over-the-top as the quietly maniacal Balem Abrasax, and the special effects in 3-D are well done. Unfortunately, there are more than a few aspects which are unsatisfactory.
Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) was born to a Russian mother after her English scientist father was murdered during a break-in at their apartment in Moscow. Her father was obsessed with the stars --- and his valuable telescope. But Jupiter and her mother, Aleksa (Maria Doyle Kennedy), end up poor, living in Chicago and cleaning houses for a living.
Caine (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered bounty hunter with a military background, and all kinds of cool features at his disposal, is sent to Earth to find her. Balem, the current head of Abrasax Industries, after the death of his mother, and the owner of Planet Earth, wishes to find Jupiter before his siblings, Titus (Douglas Booth) and Kalique (Tuppence Middleton).
Caine enlists the help of Stinger (Sean Bean), an old army buddy, to get Jupiter safely to Balem. But learning Balem's nefarious plans for Jupiter causes Caine and Stinger to jump into action to save her.
"Jupiter Ascending" has it all --- science fiction, mind-boggling special effects, romance, intrigue, awesome costumes and big stars. But filmmakers, Lana and Andy Wachowski of "Cloud Atlas" (2012) fame, have repeated some of the very same mistakes they committed in that film. The script by both is fraught with cheesy lines and more than a few embarrassingly stupid moments.
Jupiter and Caine are immediately attracted to one another, and the film turns into a quasi love story. I loathe writing this but this is what the Wachowskis have penned. In one particularly egregious scene, before Jupiter allows Caine to go off and save the day, she must kiss him first. They keep missing their big opportunity for a smooch, and she isn't about to let that happen again. Gag me.
This is exactly the kind of scene that makes the audience (or at least the other critics around us) groan. The chemistry between Kunis and Tatum is more platonic than romantic. Why, oh why, is this silly nonsense necessary? To add insult to injury, Caine incessantly calls Jupiter "Your Majesty". It is so maddening that if Jupiter had not stopped him, I would have started screaming from the audience.
And, why do films of this genre have to be SOOOO long? At two hours and seven minutes, the Wachowskis could have accomplished telling this tale in way under that amount of time. Once again, the battle scenes linger on forever. We watch time and again as Caine and Stinger manage to wing their way through space --- dodging multiple obstacles and certain death --- only to emerge unscathed. Once --- just once --- I would appreciate a different scenario, or at least a different outcome. But, I digress ---
Redmayne is fun to watch. This is such a departure from playing Stephen Hawking in "The Theory of Everything", and he makes the most of it. One minute, Balem is silent and brooding --- the next he's shrieking and wielding a dagger!
Love it ---
Fans of science fiction will most likely love "Jupiter Ascending". I am not a fan, but I do appreciate all of the work accomplished by the Wachowskis and their immensely talented crew to make Chicago look mahhhhvelous.
Opinion: Wait For DVD
Lana and Andy Wachowski, the Chicago-born siblings responsible for the "Matrix" films, have created their first movie since "Cloud Atlas" (2012). Filmed partly in their hometown, "Jupiter Ascending" follows the exploits of an unwitting young woman, Jupiter Jones, living and working in Chicago. She is whisked into outer space because she shares the genes of an advanced race, and may be destined to rule Earth as its queen.
Although the Wachowskis reunited with a number of "Matrix" collaborators for "Jupiter Ascending", I didn't find the movie intriguing. The premise of an ordinary Earth denizen --- Jupiter cleans toilets to survive --- portrayed as a potential heir to the Universe, and Earth in particular, is unique. But it gets sabotaged by overly long battle scenes, and an unconvincing love story.
Channing Tatum plays Caine Wise, a genetically engineered bounty hunter imbued with wolf DNA, who ends up as Jupiter's protector and love interest. Mila Kunis is cast as Jupiter. While the movie is impressively photographed, particularly with its current-day shots of Chicago, the lack of chemistry between these two stars mars its impact. I like both actors from prior roles, but they never really click as a couple in this film.
The presence of current Oscar nominee Eddie Redmayne ("The Theory of Everything") is both helpful and distracting. As Balem, one of the royal heirs of his outer space family, he is menacingly quiet most of the time, and then frighteningly boisterous when he explodes in a sudden rage. Still, so close to his amazing portrayal as Stephen Hawking, I found it disconcerting to see him in this role.
The special effects here are well-designed, with Caine maneuvering around with special boots that allow him to literally fly through space. Unfortunately, he appears to be on figure skates, and I thought it looked ridiculous. In actuality, Tatum was filmed wearing roller blades, but the wheels were erased during post production.
"Jupiter Ascending" is a massive undertaking featuring vast crews. But I prefer previous Wachowski films like "Cloud Atlas", "V for Vendetta" and their first picture, "Bound".
Opinion: Wait for DVD