Well, the Wachowskis are at it again. Their latest attempt at another science fiction odyssey is called Jupiter Ascending. They appear to still be riding on the coattails of their only hit, 1999’s The Matrix. Since then it feels like, about every three or four years, they come out of the shadows and try to recreate that one success and majorly fail at each turn. Ex: The other Matrix films, Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas. Each of those had its issues. Money-wise, critical flops, and even the audiences weren’t there in some cases. Well it’s sad to say that they have stayed true to form and once again made another mess of a movie.
From the very first scene, with its confusing voiceover, this movie becomes an unfocused disarray so fast it should get an award. We’re introduced to Mila Kunis’ character, Jupiter Jones, via flashbacks which normally give us information about the characters we are going to spend time with in the movie. Instead, what is given, is a shoddy history that ultimately confuses the story and leaves you with unanswered questions of how and why.
Jupiter is a lonely maid who really hates her life. It’s the same day-after-day for her. In search of some extra money she decides to have a few of her eggs harvested. This leads a group of aliens on a search to find and kill her because of a certain genetic marker in her DNA. Just then, in a very dramatic, action packed scene, we are introduced to Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a genetically engineered interplanetary warrior who is also a defective, genetic splice, half-albino with both wolf and human DNA. Yup. You read that correct. He’s been hired to save/collect her for the children of The House of Abrasax, the most powerful of the alien dynasties in the universe.
Confused, lost, and not having a way off the planet, Caine and Jupiter seek out Stinger Apini (Sean Bean). Stinger was in the military with Caine, but when Caine got into trouble and Stinger stood up for him, his wings were removed and he was exiled to Earth. Stinger still has contacts off world so he begrudgingly decides to help. But, guess what? Right then, more bounty hunters and aliens find them. Jupiter gets kidnapped. The first of many kidnappings, by the way.
Jupiter is delivered to Kalique Abrasax (Tuppence Middleton), one of the Abrasax children. She approaches Jupiter and befriends her, but just like her brothers Balem (Eddie Redmayne) and Titus (Douglas Booth) they’re all at war over an inheritance. This gives way to all of them having ulterior motives and reasons to want Jupiter. The next, what feels like, five hours is a bunch of scenes where Jupiter is being told a lot of information which, in a better movie, would be for our benefit as well. But, here it’s just way too much information about things that don’t involve the plot. Just a bunch of background things that may make the world we’re in more interesting but ultimately makes the story that much more confusing.
In these scenes, Jupiter and Caine learn that, because of Jupiter’s genetic structure, she is the reincarnation of the matriarch of the House of Abrasax, which marks her as royalty, thus she now owns the Earth. They are then moved/kidnapped from ship to ship, from planet to planet by Titus Abrasax, who wishes to marry Jupiter to save the people of Earth. Here is where we find out that humans are all aliens and we were placed on Earth eons ago to grow, breed, and then be harvested once the humans have reached a perfect “Darwinian state of perfection.” That’s about as stupid as Unobtainium. It’s never said how, why, or what the harvesting really is, other than it takes one hundred humans to make one vile of this gross looking jelly that can keep people from growing old. Giving way to some stupid speech about how the only real currency in the universe is “time.” WHAT!? That makes no sense whatsoever!
Of course, Titus isn’t telling the truth. He just wanted to marry Jupiter to get her title of the Earth, which she now owns. Like you do. Guess what Caine and Jupiter do now? Yet again, leave another ship to go to earth. Once on earth we learn that Balem, the most evil of the Abrasax children, has taken Jupiter’s family and is holding them for ransom, and unless she gives him the earth, he’ll kill them. Which of course, leads to…. you guessed it! Jupiter once again being taken to another damned planet. Once on this new planet, which you find out, is…..ready for it…. Jupiter. (Sigh) This takes us to the final battle for her life, her families’ lives, and Caine’s. All of them engage in one giant fight that has little to no suspense whatsoever. Caine saves Jupiter, her family, and the earth. This garners him some metal wings and then he and Jupiter make out. Credits.
It leaves the audience in a state of wonder. Asking themselves, “What the hell was that?” The movie is an unfocused sci-fi mess that tried to do everything and sucked at all of it. It’s no wonder the movie was moved from its original release date of July, 2014 to February, 2015, giving some time to “fix” issues. At the time it was said the move was due to more time needed for special effects, which could be true, but maybe more time should have been given to plot, story, and character development. Just because a piece of crap is shiny, doesn’t mean it isn’t still a piece of crap.
The actors all do well given the terrible material they had to work with. Tatum is still a good, kick ass, action guy and Kunis looks flawless in all her space outfits. But, overall they just blend into the background of just way too much happening. The actor who stood out, and not in a good way, is Eddie Redmayne. A brilliant actor who is most likely going to win a Best Actor Oscar at the end of the month for his amazing portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. What he’s doing in this movie is so off-the-wall crazy and ridiculous, you’ll have a hard time not laughing out loud at it. He manages to pull you out of the movie so far, you’re in another universe altogether. I couldn’t tell if it was an acting choice, or he was being directed to act so terrible. Either way, if he does win an Oscar, after his acceptance speech, the Academy should promptly take the award away because of his performance in this movie.
The movie’s world is so undefined that it’s hard to enter. A world where even the directors and writers may not have answered all the questions themselves. If they don’t know their own movie’s world inside and out, how are we supposed to understand it? There are so many bizarre looking human-spliced-hybrid-animals in this you may think you are at some strange Furry convention. The issue isn’t that there are human-animals, robots, and cyborgs walking around, the issue is they never tell us why. They just assume you’ll put the pieces together. It’s hard to put a puzzle together if you don’t know the picture you are making. Just because you have a bunch of Captain EO rejects taking up screen time doesn’t mean you know what’s going on. They make for great looking extras, but they don’t make a movie better.
With all the negative things I’m saying, the movie did have a few positives. Mainly the special effects, which are some of the best I’ve ever seen. The filmmakers are flawless in the use of CGI, rear projection, and the mixing of the two. The same could be said for the creature design. They all looked great, even if they were completely useless to the movie. The world’s look and feel were all there. It was just the inhabitants and the dressing of the world that was given no care. It’s a shame the same detail wasn’t given to the rest of the movie. Everything just looked like it was added last minute and just plain stupid.
I believe it’s time for the Wachowskis to go the way of George Lucas. Stop directing and devote time to pushing the boundaries of special effects, because no good comes from making movies such as this. It is one colossal mess, with each scene making it seem worse than the last. No amount of awesome action and wonderful special effects can save your movie if the story and characters aren’t there to match. It’s a shame. This had potential. But, when you try to fit a trilogy into one movie, this is the $175 million mess you get. And, it’s not pretty.