-Film Reviewed by Jemma Beggs–
Directed by the creators of The Matrix, Andy & Lana Wachowski, viewers expect a kooky, thought provoking and brilliantly composed film. The science fiction epic now in theatres, Jupiter Ascending, however, is a mixed bag. Confounding oddities counter every awe-inspiring moment, leaving audiences asking, “What the hell was that?” As the film progresses, these distressing moments begin to mount. We are on a journey through space; following a young girl as she makes the transition from toilet cleaner to owner of the earth. Meanwhile, a genetically engineered warrior attempts to prevent her from being killed by a menagerie of increasingly extraordinary creatures. This is fantasy at its most fantastical.
Some scenes in the film are downright bizarre. When Sean Bean kneels before Mila Kunis, (AKA the terribly named, “Jupiter Jones”) after a swarm of bees reveal that she is, in fact, “Queen of the Earth,” this new ordering of the universe is difficult to swallow. Bean’s character is fairly pointless in the grand scheme of the plot. Seemingly included only to reveal the reason for Caine’s fall from grace, his back story would be depicted more effectively through the use of a flashback.
Despite the fundamental weirdness of the plot and its characters, the film does have some bright spots. The incredibly imaginative inhabitants of this futuristic universe make for some extraordinary visuals, and audiences are quickly immersed in the colorful, detailed and strange new world that Jupiter Ascending creates. The planets, in particular, are intricately detailed and visually stunning, projecting gorgeous backdrops that, at times, overshadow the action taking place upon them.
The film’s many ferocious creatures combine excellent graphics and special effects, dominating the production. Unfortunately, the plot suffers as a consequence. Action sequences displace dialogue and themes lack gravity. Likewise, there are far too many boringly predictable close calls. Caine Wise, (played by the supremely ripped but bizarrely goateed Channing Tatum), is constantly swooping in, just in the nick of time. He rescues Jupiter from plunging to her death, being burned alive and marrying a psychopath. The fight scenes also drag on interminably, diminishing their significance. This directorial choice is a real shame, as these battles could have been superb, especially in 3D.
Character development is also lacking. Caine is a genetically engineered, half-albino ex-military fighter with both wolf and human DNA, who once had wings. Surely he must have some pretty hefty back story? Viewers, however, are denied any real explanation. Tatum does not appear particularly pale, and his wolf characteristics consist solely of his slightly pointed ears and a faint growl (when angry.) Audiences would certainly appreciate a few flashbacks depicting the creature’s beginnings.
The biggest shocker of the film and a major let-down is the fact that despite being two of the most gorgeous people on the planet, Kunis and Tatum have zero chemistry. Predictably, the two characters are destined to fall in love, but their courtship lacks romance or any build-up to what turns into an incredibly awkward and cringe-worthy scene. Poor writing is the culprit here, not the actors, as both Kunis and Tatum are brilliant in all other aspects of the film, making what they can of the lackluster dialogue. Following her heroic rescue from a bunch of homicidal aliens, Jupiter asks, “Who are you?” To which, her rescuer replies “Caine Wise, I’m here to help you.” The cliche encounter strands these lovers in the vacuum of space.
Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton and Eddie Redmayne are all magnificently cast as members of the broken and twisted Abrasax family. Redmayne, however, with his raspy voice reminiscent of Lord Voldemort, steals the show. He is convincing as a madman, willing to do anything to maintain control of his empire. The plan: harvest living creatures to create an elixir of immortality… If there is a take home message underlying this space thriller’s special effects, explosions and high tech space crafts, then it is easy to draw parallels between the current debates regarding climate change and inequality. Jupiter Ascending depicts a wealthy class exploiting the masses to maintain and feed their extravagant and selfish lifestyles. Our society’s lacking regard for the environment and the culture of consumerism in which we live are all under scrutiny.
Jupiter Ascending is a strange concoction of great potential strangled by tired plot lines and half-evolved characters. Freudian intrigues and bursts of technical imagination establish a vivid world and certainly help audiences leave orbit, but this film may be a black hole when it comes to paying admission.
Post Photo Courtesy of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jupiter_Ascending