Jupiter Ascending presents a complex world dynamic that leaves audiences visually entertained throughout. The film has a playful tone, as Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum work to leave viewers with a constant smirk.
Don’t get me wrong though; both Kunis and Tatum give pretty bad acting performances. (Use best accent) But c’moooon, no one comes to see Kunis and Tatum for their “superb acting chops” (though I give Kunis some credit for Black Swan). These two are at their best as charming, sarcastic, biting off more than they can chew, boy/girl next door types. They are most enjoyable when they’re having fun, and on screen, Kunis and Tatum seem to be having fun relishing in their ludicrous intergalactic fiasco.
The picture starts with down-on-her-luck Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) scrubbing toilets with her mother somewhere in Chicago. Jupiter’s father died before she was born when Russian robbers killed him tussling over a cool looking telescope, leaving viewers to inwardly scream: Why didn’t you just give them the freakin’ telescope?
As Jupiter struggles to make money, her cousin has the spectacular idea to sell Jupiter’s reproductive eggs, but the money isn’t to help out the family; instead, Jupiter’s cousin wants a big screen TV, and Jupiter is hoping to get the telescope she’s been dreaming of.
Frankly, the movie is mundane and cliché up to this point. That is until Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) literally glides into frame to save Jupiter from freaky looking aliens disguised as doctors. Caine is a genetically engineered ex-military half-wolf, half-man solider who has a sick pair of anti-gravity boots that reminds you of Marty McFly’s levitating skateboard from Back to the Future II.
The aliens are hitmen hired to kill Jupiter because Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne) wants to inherit earth. Eventually Balem plans to harvest the people of earth in order to produce a youth serum – a sought after, highly demanded intergalactic commodity. It turns out that Jupiter is the genetic reincarnation of the murdered matriarch for the House of Abrasax, who in her will left Jupiter as the sole inheritor of Earth.
In the midst of finding all this out, all three Abrasax siblings at one point capture Jupiter, including Titus Abrasax, who tries to marry Jupiter just to later kill her off so he can obtain Earth (remember she’s the genetic copy of his mother). But fortunately Caine is pretty much always by Jupiter’s side, despite having a reputation for disliking royalty after an incident that cost him and his commander (Sean Bean) their mechanical wings.
Okay… You get all that? You keep up? Yeah, convoluted storylines are not an uncommon problem with directors Andy and Lana Wachowski. The two filmmakers sometimes make grandiose looking films that have an overly complex narrative – Cloud Atlas and Matrix Revolutions, to name two. Jupiter Ascending is an eclectic mash of common subplots with a beginning reminiscent of Batman, a rags-to-riches Cinderella feeling, and a plot similar to the Matrix. But none of the film’s parts are nearly as good as its predecessors. The movie doesn’t take the time to explore some of its bigger themes about bureaucracy and capitalism. The Wachowskis needed to dial down the action and take some solid moments to explain the film’s inner workings, like Morpheus in the first Matrix. Unfortunately, Tatum and Kunis just don’t have the acting skill. The audience would simply laugh at long explanatory monologues by Tatum or thought-provoking pieces of wisdom by Kunis.
Luckily, this film, unlike the overly complex ones I mentioned above, is not trying to take itself seriously. So despite confusion over who’s double crossing who and for what reason, every time Caine goes into action with his groovy boots, like the Roman messenger god Mercury (a coincidence? I think not), you stop worrying about all the hoopla and just enjoy the experience. Redmayne does a good job as the villain. In a more dramatic movie, I would see Redmayne’s part as overdoing it with his grandma whisper, but for this film, it provides a perfect stereotype of a villain that the audience can laugh at, be creeped out by, and take seriously. Also, Jupiter Ascending sprinkles in some great comedic moments, especially when Jupiter has to go through a DMV-like process to get marked for inheritance.
So yeah, the film leaves one too many questions unanswered, as if information was withheld to save for the sequel: Why did the bad guys target Jupiter at that point in time? Wouldn’t it be more efficient to drink than bath in a youth serum? And most importantly, did you see Balem Abrasax’s servants? How the giant intellectual lizard people aren’t ruling the universe is beyond me.
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