Jupiter Ascending

A banal, pointless and chaotic attempt at telling a sci-fi fairytale.

Once upon a time, a pretty damsel was forced to clean toilets until she was swept away by Prince Charming. She lost her slipper, he found it, they lived happily ever after. Heard that story before? Well, here it is again, an inter-galactic space opera called Jupiter Ascending, only this time, Cindy has to sacrifice her eggs so that aliens can live forever. Or something like that.

Welcome to the world of the Wachowskis where a simple story has to be convoluted, contrived, and copious, just to illustrate even simpler metaphors in life. Brainchild of the Matrix films and Cloud Atlas, films about other worldly existence echoing real world choices, the Wachowskis stuff Jupiter Ascending with nonsensical psychobabble that converge into its preachy messages – Aim for the stars and you might just land on the moon, and that time is a universal commodity. Problem is, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), is a starry eyed dreamer, but without any aspirations of being anything other than a janitor. As a Russian immigrant living with her family in Chicago, Jupiter’s nonexistent life changes the day she is abducted by alien humanoids. Apparently, her genetic structure makes her a threat to an alien enterprise known as the Abrasax, alien royalty led by the evil Balem (Eddie Redmayne) and his siblings Titus (Douglas Booth) and Kalique (Tuppence Middleton). Balem wants Jupiter dead but Titus and Kalique have their own agenda so they send Caine (Channing Tatum) to protect her. Caine is no prince charming, but as a half-wolf, half-human, half-albino, genetically modified warrior, who can smell foul play a galaxy away, Jupiter has half a chance of outwitting the Abrasax. And she loves dogs. Thus begins a razzle-dazzle, visually bombastic, non-stop action fairytale that goes on and on and on until you realise you’ve been had.

Sooner or later, and before the pyro-porn ending, you will also find yourself in increasing face-palm moments. For instance, by the time you look at your watch for the second time, Jupiter would have fallen from the skies several times, and each time she falls, Cain is there to rescue her. That’s not just being tediously repetitive, it’s downright bloatware filling up the running time. Neither are any of the actors worth mentioning, except that each is worse than the other. Kunis is definitely miscast and in over her head with nothing but dumb lines when her character isn’t falling. Redmayne is perhaps the biggest disappointment as the villain, a role where he looks like Glenn Close from 101 Dalmatians and barely audible. It’s a low blow considering his Oscar run in The Theory of Everything. As the only justifiable casting choice, Tatum has some inventive stunts during action scenes requiring Cain to fly around using jet propulsion boots. It’s a nice touch and perhaps the only thing original in this film.

 It won’t take long for fans of the Wachowskis to accept that this film isn’t about passion or a vision or anything resembling conventional storytelling. It’s a film made for the heck of it where almost every bit of its $175 million production budget seems to favour visual effects that are frankly has-beens in a Michael Bay film. Add to that, ludicrous characters (a lizard henchman and an elephant that flies a spaceship?), an ill-conceived mythology alongside a struggling story and we are left with a colossal failure as large yet as insignificant as the titular planet. The Wachowskis on the other hand, have aimed for the stars but seem to have crash landed in a black hole. If only they had paid a little attention to Christopher Nolan.

Rating: ★½☆☆☆

About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.