“Jupiter Ascending” is the latest sci-fi/adventure from The Wachowskis. Since their “Matrix” trilogy wrapped-up in 2003, they haven’t had much success. 2008’s “Speed Racer” was forecasted as a summer blockbuster and instead ended-up a complete car-wreck. 2012’s visionary “Cloud Atlas” was interesting, but not the Best Picture contender everyone expected, nor a box office hit (even with Tom Hanks!)
And now they’ve officially earned their third strike in a row with the dull, completely unoriginal and highly mainstream “Jupiter Ascending”. This was originally set to be released last July, but got pushed back to Feb. ’15 because they said the special effects weren’t going to be done in time. This could be true, but also a nice excuse which allowed the film to escape the hot spotlight of a summertime flop and, instead, be sent-off to the wasteland of quickly forgotten wintertime films. Problem is, “Jupiter Ascending” is so bad, I’m going to have a hard time forgetting it.
Channing Tatum, who had a very good 2014, with “22 Jump Street” and “Foxcatcher”, doesn’t look like he was having much fun playing Caine, the spliced part-Wolf/part-Human. Mila Kunis (who I swear waved at me while she was backing into her driveway in suburban Hollywood neighborhood I was visiting last month) plays Jupiter Jones, born shortly after her Russian astronomer father died while trying to save his prized telescope. She cleans houses for a living, but it turns out that, genetically, she the Queen of the Universe, or something like that. She’s never been stung by a bee because, as stated by Sean Bean’s military-man Stinger, bees don’t sting royalty. I wonder if Prince William would agree.
For reasons too complex to explain in writing (though the Wachowskis somehow did in order to form a screenplay), Jupiter is targeted by two brothers who rule the universe, controlling the planets and harvesting those who live on them so they can live forever. But if Jupiter is alive, she controls all. So one brother wants her dead and the other wants to marry her, and then kill her. Either way, things don’t look too promising for the reluctant queen. However, she’s got Tatum’s Caine to protect her, first here on Earth, and then in the cheesy space locations where all these ridiculous characters and creatures exist.
Eddie Redmayne is a co-frontrunner for the Best Actor Oscar for his excellent performance as Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything”. But he gives an embarrassing performance as Balem, the brother who controls Earth and wants Jupiter dead. The only saving grace for Redmayne is that he’s nearly unrecognizable and he doesn’t have a lot of screen time so he could be saved from “The Norbit Effect”, named for another Eddie – Eddie Murphy – whose performance in that disaster cost him an Oscar for “Dreamgirls”.
“Jupiter Ascending” is more than two hours, much of it devoted to dialogue-free, monotonous action scenes, accompanied by such an annoyingly loud score that it’s difficult to take any of the battles seriously. The story itself is predictable, yet confusing, but most of all, completely pointless. As for the effects – the talking alligators are pretty good, but only in comparison to Katy Perry’s singing sharks.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Jupiter Ascending” gets a D-.
Running Time: 127 min.