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February 12, 2015



written by: The Wachowskis
produced by: The Wachowskis and Grant Hill
directed by: The Wachowskis
rating: PG-13 (for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity)
runtime: 127 min.
U.S. release date: February 6, 2015


Being the first big-budget sci-fi flick of the year, “Jupiter Ascending” had some fair anticipation leading up to its release. Although writer/director siblings, Andy and Lana Wachowski, haven’t been able to deliver a sci-fi film as their successful “The Matrix” in terms of box office, scope and depth, there are still some who believe they can pull off such a feat again. Being a big fan of their energetic “Speed Racer” and finding enough to admire the ambitious “Cloud Atlas” (their last theatrical outing), I guess you can consider me one of those guys who still wants to believe. It’s too bad “Jupiter Ascending” doesn’t give me much of anything to maintain such belief.

At some point, years from now, this movie could make a great Midnight Movie selection. It’s possible. Key word: could. That would mean though that somewhere in the muddled storyline of “Jupiter Ascending” there would be some aspect of the movie that could possibly grow into something to appreciate about it. As it stands right now, I don’t see that happening. Maybe time will help with this, but I have my doubts.




The movie opens long ago in Saint Petersburg, Russia, where a star-gazing Maximilian Jones (James D’Arcy, “Cloud Atlas”) has a meet-cute on a pier one night with Aleksa (Maria Doyle Kennedy) as he admires the planets one night through his telescope. The stars align, they get married, she gets pregnant and Max is adamant about naming their unborn daughter Jupiter, his favorite planet. Next thing we know, because tragedy is inevitable, Max is murdered and Aleksa gives birth to her daughter in a cargo ship on the Atlantic Ocean, as she and her family immigrate to Chicago.

Flash forward to the present and we find Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis, given very little to do) scrubbing Windy City hotel and apartment toilets with her cleaning crew family. She hates her unfulfilling life, even though she has a steady job and is surrounded by family. Then again, one member of her family is cousin Vladie (Kick Gurry), who wants to make some money with Jupiter by persuading her to sell her eggs. Family. You can’t pick ‘em.

At this point, the tone the Wachowskis are setting here is nearing an abrasively annoying level. Jupiter is a one-note protagonist that hasn’t shed an iota of originality yet and her family is a lazy ode to immigrant stereotypes – to the point where they’re just laughable, even if they weren’t trying to be funny – which they are. Mostly, the Wachowskis comedy falls flat. They give Jupiter this desire to bid for an overpriced telescope on eBay, solely because – nudge nudge – “she’s just like her father”. This flimsy character development gives her motivation to hawk her eggs and also plants the first warning signs for me to check out throughout the movie.




But hold on a minute, before I doze off, let’s pause there and travel across the universe and meet three sibling brats, because the Wachowskis aren’t finished giving us annoying and bland family members. They are Kaligue (Tuppence Middleton, “The Imitation Game”) Titus (Douglas Booth, “Noah”) and Balem (Eddie Redmayne, currently riding high on his wins for his work in “The Theory of Everything” which will lead to his inevitable Oscar win), of the House of Abraxas, known to be powerful and of some kind of royalty, we assume (mainly because they’re British and preen about in decadent glam rock costumes). All three exude a blunt aura of ulterior motives that made me start to think of things I had to tackle on my to-do list once I left the theater.

So far, “Jupiter Ascending” looks good, it really does. But you know what they say about looks, right? Sadly, these characters, which are kind of important in a movie, are the furthest thing from interesting or compelling.

Let’s go back to poor Cinderella, I mean, Jupiter Jones. What a name, right? Should we call her JJ? Nope. Later on, she’ll tell some off-worlder “call me, Jupe”. Oh. Okay. Eventually, Jupiter lives up to the movie’s title and “ascends” off into space, but that’s after she meets her Prince Charming, I mean, Caine Wise (a taciturn Channing Tatem), a point-eared genetically modified half humanoid/half wolf-man being with a talent for speed-skating on air thanks to some sweet anti-grav boots. (Note: The last time we saw a pointy-eared alien using anti-grav boots was in 1989’s “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier” – row row row your boat on that!).

Through various bits of exposition, we learn that half albino Caine, who has a keen sense of smell (good boy!), has been sent by Titus to locate her. Why? Good question. I’m still wrapping my brain around it all (not that I truly care though), but apparently all three of those obnoxious siblings want Jupiter dead. Whatever did she do to them? It turns out, Jupiter is actually a genetic descendant of extraterrestrial royalty, which somehow gives her claim over Earth. Yep, the entire planet. What’s a cleaning lady to do with a planet all her own? But wait, there’s more – the convolution continues.




Get this though – she’s also the reincarnated mother of these three Abraxas brats. But they all want to kill her for their own reasons, one of which is so they can have Earth all to themselves, harvesting humans to maintain their vitality, or something. Balem seems to have the biggest beef with or Oedipal rage over Jupiter, claiming the rights to our planet should be his – or maybe he never felt loved by mommy.

All that is cockamamie nonsense to bog down the fairy tale fantasy of wolf-man sweeping in to rescue Jupiter (the first of many) from….an operating room full of aliens. Not explaining that one. After an amazing dogfight over the Chicago River, which finds Caine pursued by Kalique’s bounty hunters. An often shirtless Caine takes a somehow smitten Jupiter to meet a fellow ex-military pal, Stinger (a welcome Sean Bean), who’s holed up in a farm house in rural Illinois. Stinger is sliced with bee DNA, hence the name and, well, his place is swarming with bees and when they sense Jupiter they submit to her whim, because she’s – wait for it, a queen. If things weren’t already ridiculous here, that scene with its explanation of the intuitive traits of bees, seals it.

From here, the trio heads off-world to take the fight to Balem and his reptilian goons. But before that the Wachowskis insert an homage to Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil”, complete with a cameo by Terry Gilliam. What follows is more dogfights in space amid captivating nebulas and intricately designed spacecrafts as well as awful dialogue, plenty of free-falling Jupiter and a rescuing Caine. Things get further complicated when Jupiter’s family is kidnapped and used as motivation for her to marry one of her sons and sign off Earth to Balem – or something along those lines.




I rarely ever admit this, because it’s kind of embarrassing, but I fell asleep a couple times while watching “Jupiter Ascending”. Don’t blame the magnificent scope of the movie, because that’s definitely something to behold. The Wachowskis have surrounded themselves with frequent collaborators that make this movie visually impressive. The visual effects work by Dan Glass and John Gaeta (both of whom worked on “The Matrix” trilogy and “Cloud Atlas”) is dazzling. The score by the always-great Michael Giacchino (“Speed Racer”) perfectly accompanies the varying tones of the movie. Add to that all the costume designs, hair and make-up work and you got a great looking sci-fi flick. Too bad that’s not enough.

Which brings us back to my dozing off. That you can blame on an incoherent and painfully uninteresting story. It doesn’t help that every actor here is at the mercy of weak characters, but the biggest blight on the big-screen is the over-acting by Redmayne. His spends the entire movie in this over-enunciating indecipherable lines using an annoying hoarse whisper through puckered lips. He stirs up an occasional petulant outburst, but he is purely awful here. He’s so bad it’s not even funny. Again, maybe one day it will his performance will be comical, but right now he just comes across as irritating.

Considering some of the impressive work that Redmayne, Kunis and Tatum have delivered in other films recently, it’s too bad “Jupiter Ascending” was pushed back from it’s original release 2014 date. It only would’ve helped their careers if this one movie would’ve gotten lost amid all the other blockbusters last summer. Instead, here is a movie that would and is “descending” into cinematic derision, regardless of when it’s released.










One Comment leave one →
  1. Windi Noel permalink
    February 12, 2015 6:39 am

    Couldn’t agree more. Character development? Who needs that when you have an unlimited cgi budget?? Yes, the movie was very pretty. The characters though! Too many, and no development. And either no acting or way over acted… Didn’t seem to be much in between. I knew the movie had the potential to be either really good or really bad with no in between. These movies tend to be like that. I was so hoping for good.

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