After several weeks of watching either good or mediocre movies, I finally watched a movie so bad I must review it, in hopes of purging it from my consciousness. Jupiter Ascending was released in February 2015, seven months later than initially advertised. Ninety-five percent of the visual imagery is computer generated; I imagine the extra time was needed to give the CGI artists’ wrists a break.
This short theater run, rushed to DVD affair is a Wachowski brothers film, the same guys who wrote and directed the Matrix series. The Matrix movies were stunning, new, and fast; this sort of neutralized their bad dialogue and occasional flat acting. Jupiter Ascending is certainly loud and fast—its extended explosions and bumping Midi keyboard soundtrack gave me a headache—but with none of the interesting plot points and no decent dialogue. The lead actress, Mila Kunis (best known as the annoying Jackie of That Seventies Show) is a one-trick pony; she wears the same wide-eyed, vacant expression for the whole movie. Her sassy catch phrase, “Holy Crap!”, hurt me a little more every time. Jackie plays Jupiter Jones, a girl who somehow ends up in Chicago after her pregnant mother is kicked out of Russia; the two clean houses and live with boorish, ruddy-faced relatives—it’s shameless stereotyping of Russians, the fat patriarch uncle actually lectures Jupiter on the value of a dollar in America. But all that is backstory (painful, plodding backstory); suddenly, she’s on the universe’s hit list, and scores of aliens are chasing her through downtown Chicago (which is where the Wachowski brothers are from, and I guess explains the pointless, eight minute long exploding chase scene across the Chicago skyline). The jarring transition from dark family life to bombastic space war was the first of many plot spasms so violent they threatened to blow up my DVD player.
Luckily, Caine (Channing Tatum) gets to Jupiter before the other buff bounty hunters do; his orders are to abduct, not kill. Caine was hired by one of the three Abraxis siblings who rule the universe, or something. The plot of this bloated space opera is nonsensical, overly complicated, and I refuse to sacrifice any more neurons explaining it. Caine’s DNA is part human, part wolf (so he’s “moody”), and he wears a pair of reverse gravity boots all the time; these reminded me of those flashy kids’ sneakers with cheap roller skates hidden underneath. Honestly, I can’t describe more of the storyline without bringing on a migraine, so here’s an attempt at summary: Jupiter and her moonboots-wearing wolfman abductor fall in barfy love as petty, evil siblings fight over the resources of earth and nearby planets (read: slaves), employing dozens of side characters who glance off the plot, leaving visible skid marks behind. Soft disclosures about alien life and upcoming plasma technology are scattered here and there, but anything more profound or coherent collapses under the weight of this $175 million hack job.
The über bad guy is the whiny older brother of the Abraxis siblings (abraxas is a medieval magic word, akin to abracadabra—the Wachowski brothers are big on lifting stuff from literary and historical sources willy-nilly), played by Eddie Redmayne. He’s utterly forgettable, alternating between a pained whisper and a pathetic screech in every forced exchange. To be fair, Eddie Redmayne—I can’t remember his character’s name, and I watched this mess last night—is mostly talking to himself in an empty sound stage, while wearing a cape. All his henchmen are CGI characters; perhaps the lack of human interaction doomed his performance. A little more on the CGI characters: there are unblinking transhumans, saurian lizard generals, elephant-faced pilots, “traditional” giant head and slanted black eye aliens, and humanesque people in a stunning array of sexy costumes. If only these interesting shadow characters had somehow risen up to take down the nauseating leads, the movie might have redeemed itself.
So, there’s a boring wedding scene, where Jupiter is dressed lawsuit-close to Queen Amidala of Star Wars, there’s a slow-mo massive explosion sequence at the bad guy’s slave planet mine (where, “surprise,” Jupiter is saved at the last possible second by her wolfman in roller-skates), and there is the sloppy conclusion, which brings Jupiter back to earth with her now slightly kinder family of Russian slobs (who she saved from abduction and anal probing—seriously).
I’ll leave you with one of the more glaring plot holes: after Caine rescues Jupiter during the final kabooming slo-mo smashup (the soundtrack here was an Anglican ladies choir singing “aaaaaaaaooooouuuuuuuuu”), they have to catch a ride on the only ship nearby, piloted by a British lady in uniform (so I suppose she was a cop—I was only half-watching by this point); they don’t actually get to the ship, but they make it through the same temporary space portal nonetheless. On the other side, an alien crewmember on the ship says, “Captain, there’s no logic for this, but I’m picking up signs of Caine,” to which I said, “Exactly.” There’s no logic for most of what happens in Jupiter Ascending, and if I had to give it a rating out of five stars, I’d give it one and a half. The CGI and costume artists (I saw at least three hundred artists in the credits) deserve any available acclaim; the Wachowski brothers and the lead actors deserve a prolonged shower of rotten tomatoes.