Movie review: ‘Jupiter Ascending’ serves up action and romanceMovie Review Thursday, February 12th, 2015
My biggest fear before I saw Jupiter Ascending was that the Wachowskis would take themselves too seriously, yet again, and try to drench the audience with wishy-washy New Age philosophy, a la “everything is a facsimile!” in The Matrix Trilogy and “we’re all connected!” in Cloud Atlas. But they restrained themselves, thematically anyway, and instead produced a ridiculous, often ridiculously fun, space opera that is a wonderful antidote to the over-serious Oscar films dominating movie-going. It’s hard to claim that Jupiter Ascending is “good” but it’s certainly entertaining. It’s the most fun I’ve had in the theater in several months. (But it’s still not “good.”)
Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, the daughter of a Russian immigrant (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and an astronomer (James D’Arcy) who was killed before his daughter was born. Jupiter cleans houses with her mother and aunts and dreams of making enough money to buy a telescope. But Jupiter is the genetic reincarnation of one of the richest people in the universe, a queen thousands of years old who owned multitudes of planets. After the queen’s death, her children Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Titus (Douglas Booth), and Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) have squabbled over her fortune (and the sinister way they make it), and when they discover that she has reappeared as a clueless Earthling, they all send bounty hunters to get her – or kill her. One of those is Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a part-wolf, part-human super-soldier with a problematic past. He reaches Jupiter first, just as all hell is breaking loose, and he convinces his former commander Stinger (Sean Bean) to help him protect Jupiter.
The rest of the film is a series of chase sequences, super-heroic battles, double-crosses, myth-heavy back story monologues and jaw-dropping, occasionally hilarious, art direction. In other words, it’s a Wachowski movie, and for a change, this is a good thing. The action sequences are not quite on the revelatory level of The Matrix, but when Balem’s minions pursue Jupiter and Caine through the skies above Chicago, it was so thrilling that the review audience I was part of cheered. This is the same audience that laughed at some of the worst lines and even worse acting, much of which involved an epically silly Eddie Redmayne, doing some sort of Darth Vader meets the Green Goblin thing that makes his soon-to-be Oscar a bit questionable.
Some of the dialogue – especially that of Balem, Titus, and Kalique – is pretty preposterous and reminiscent of some of the worst parts of David Lynch’s much too earnest Dune, and it ends up being funnier than the deliberately comedic flirting between Jupiter and Caine. A similar thing happens with the costumes, which seem to have been inspired by Flash Gordon or Fifth Element, pointy and ornate 1990s and 1990s avant garde. But just as in those films, this becomes part of the appeal: pulpy, B-movie science fiction that has no other goal than to entertain.
And how much was I entertained! I cheered, laughed, gawked, had my heart race and then I wished that it would make enough money for a sequel. As goofy as Redmayne is, Tatum and Kunis are delights, taking a cue from their directors and taking neither themselves nor the film seriously. But they still serve up action and romance, grounding the film in a humanity needed as a counterpoint to so many computer-generated effects.
Directed by the Wachowskis
Starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis and Eddie Redmayne
At your local multiplex
Unnecessarily in 3-D
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