The Matrix; Cloud Atlas; from here to eternity The Wachowskis (Andy and Lana) will get me into a cinema to sponsor whatever they create. Unfortunately, Jupiter Ascending, much like the Matrix sequels, is a film that as you exit the cinema you wish Laurence Fishburne’s Morpheus was waiting at the door presenting you with a pill you could take to forget it. Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) becomes entangled in an intergalactic royal family’s fight for her very genetic code. Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Titus (Douglas Booth) and Kalique Abrasax (Tuppence Middleton) will stop at nothing to use Jupiter to acquire the Earth. Fortunately on her side are part wolf, part human and all flying roller-blader Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) and his beekeeper/warrior buddy Stinger Apini (Sean Bean).
The Wachowskis have missed dreadfully with a space fantasy that heavily revisits themes exhausted in The Matrix Trilogy. In Jupiter Ascending, humans are, yet again, a species mined for their life-force; they differentiate it by serving an inordinately wealthy, entitled upper class who has mastered the technology to be immortal instead of our eventual robot overlords. The major differentiation, that in their mind must have been enough to warrant treading though similar themes is the richly detailed fantasy world; although it’s that logjam of elements that cripples the flow of the narrative. With every new interaction or new character we have to halt the progression of the story for a slab of confusing explanation to try and make heads or tails of what the hell’s going on. It’s even evident in the character design and the differentiation of races in The Wachowski's universe that they’re trying to cram a lot of information down the audience’s throat. Tatum’s Caine is a part human, part wolf, former arch-angel soldier with war campaign tattoos, propulsion boots from some other significant event (one assumes); it is information and world building overload. Nothing is allowed to be opaque and slip unobtrusively into the background; you’re waiting to have your nosed rubbed in the extremely meticulous fact.
The film is not just bloated in its density; it's indulgent in these weird interludes into fleshing out Jupiter's earth bound Russian immigrant family in America. It starts to become a sitcom as they take their time with the patriarchal family and the weird relatives think of hair brained money making schemes. And in one sequence, as Jupiter is accepting her genetic inheritance, you watch an arduous bureaucratic masturbatory exercise. These threads deserved to be on the cutting room floor.
Mila Kunis is miscast and awful as Jupiter. She’s been an actress, outside of sitcoms and one piece of inspired casting from Darren Aronofsky in Black Swan, that hasn’t lived up to any of the hype. To be fair, the dialogue that she has to deliver doesn’t exactly do her any favours, but her approach to discovering a boundless universe colonised and ruled by humanoids registers about as much wonder as getting a pamphlet in the post. Channing Tatum seems to have been cast for purely aesthetic reasons. He's an impressive physical specimen that takes to the action with fervour and the most impressive sequences of the film feature his gravity defying, aerobatics. Other than scowling and sniffing at the air a few times in what feels like an afterthought; he's really got nothing else to do.
Sean Bean, the MVP for dying in films probably wishes that his character could have died before he’s forced to deliver some of the most ridiculous dialogue said in a cinema this year, and yes I have seen 50 Shades of Grey. His character Stinger Apini, has to sit with a straight face and explain to Kunis’ Jupiter that bees recognise royalty and that's why swarms of them that live around his home they aren't stinging her to death. What. The. Actual. Fuck.
Eddie Redmayne, Oscar nominee, has been getting a hell of a lot of slack about his over the top performance as Balem, the most theatrically evil and least menacing character in recent memory. Despite choosing that his character should sound like a male phone sex operator with Tourettes, he is clearly punching to add some depth to a character that has no memorable qualities.
The brief happy place Jupiter Ascending is the earthly action and its seamless integration real locations and computer generated imagery. They're fast-paced, colourful and explosive without every falling into incomprehension.
Jupiter Ascending leaves so numb that you'll have pins and needles.
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: The Wachowskis
Written by: Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski
Starring: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton, Nikki Amuka-Bird
BLAKE HOWARD IS A FILM CRITIC & THE EDITOR-IN-CHIEF/CO-FOUNDER OF AUSTRALIAN FILM BLOG GRAFFITI WITH PUNCTUATION . BLAKE IS THE HOST OF THE ONE HEAT MINUTE PODCAST. BLAKE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE PRESTIGIOUS ONLINE FILM CRITIC SOCIETY (AND A MEMBER OF THE GOVERNING COMMITTEE), IS A CO-HOST OF GAGGLE OF GEEKS ON SYDNEY'S 2SER COMMUNITY RADIO, A COLUMNIST AT THE AUSTRALIAN ONLINE INSTITUTION DARK HORIZONS AND SWAYS THE TOMATO METER WITH ROTTEN TOMATOES APPROVED REVIEWS.