Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Jupiter Ascending

Movie Review: Jupiter Ascending (2015) *A Reasonable Critic Review*

Mila Kunis, Jupiter AscendingJupiter Ascending is an extremely cool movie layered on top of a bad one. I have never been so entertained by a movie this flawed. I don’t mean I enjoyed its awfulness, like Plan 9 From Outer Space. I mean I actually found it enjoyable.The question is, do you want to shell out money to see it, particularly in IMAX 3D?

A lot of critics have expressed confusion over Jupiter Ascending’s plot, but I found it to be straightforward. In short: the ruling class of an intergalactic empire seeds planets with life, allowing human beings to evolve and advance towards a state of
Darwinian perfection. Eventually those humans are slaughtered and processed into an elixir that grants longevity to the universe’s rich and powerful, who travel in circles where time is the ultimate commodity.
Earth is one such seeded world. Even more unsettling, the members of the space empire are humans, too. All that separates us from them is that they have more knowledge and better technology.
Jupiter Jones is a cleaning woman on Earth who discovers that she is an example of something called “recurrence.” This means that, by coincidence, she has the same genes as someone who has lived before: in this case, the royal owner of the Planet Earth. And because of a cosmic loophole, Earth now belongs to Jupiter Jones, which does not sit well with the noblewoman’s heirs in outer space.
Mila Kunis, Jupiter ascending
With a target on her back, Jupiter is rescued and protected by Caine, a genetically modified mercenary. He whisks her into outer space, where she gets caught between heirs as they attempt to screw her out of what is rightfully hers.
What is right about Jupiter Ascending? For one thing, the baroque production design is unique, a near-masterpiece of world building. The action sequences, including a chase through the skies of Chicago, are eye-poppingly awesome. But the most impressive set piece is a humorous depiction of the galaxy’s impenetrable bureaucracy, filled with nods to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, including a cameo by Gilliam.  But while Jupiter Ascending is reminiscent of many things (the overall concept seems especially close to Frank Herbert’s Dune), the ideas feel fresh, at least when it comes to cinema.
So what is wrong about the movie?
Only the foundation.
The script is cringeworthy. It’s worse than the romantic dialogue in Attack of the Clones.  The dialogue in Attack of the Clones was delivered by highly gifted actors who were lost at sea. But while they can be appealing in the right context, the actors in Jupiter Ascending are no Natalie Portman or Ewan McGregor.
 Mila Kunis was not meant to be a sci-fi leading lady. Her performance, and her character as written, would have been perfectly acceptable in a rom-com, but I did not believe for a moment that she was a person from Earth who had suddenly been thrust into a dangerous game of intergalactic intrigue.
But Kunis is excellent when compared to Channing Tatum as Caine. Those antigravity boots he wears ought to be iconic, but he gives the most wooden performance I have ever seen outside of a B-movie. To be fair, he was given virtually nothing to work with. His character has no personality, no distinguishing traits at all, except for the fact that his genes are spliced with a wolf’s, and he is good at picking up scents.
Eddie Redmayne, Jupiter Ascending
It must be said that Eddie Redmayne, as the evilest of the royal heirs, exists in a place where creepiness and camp are inseparable. He is so languid it’s over the top, and he is a rare standout in the cast. Otherwise, the giant lizards who serve the nobility make the biggest impression of any of the characters. And while they are impressive, they are special effects.
There is something else, something off about this movie that I can’t quite put my finger on, but seems to exist in every frame. My guess is that the rumors are true: at the last-minute the film was heavily re-edited to change the focus. It also feels like it was edited for time, that we are not getting the full picture originally intended by the Wachowskis.
The sheer scope and ambition of Cloud Atlas helped to overcome its weird flaws, but Jupiter Ascending is a science fiction/action movie. When a movie’s problems are this fundamental, incredible action and CGI are enough to distract, but not transcend.
Mila Kunis, Jupiter Ascending
Ultimately, I am glad I saw Jupiter Ascending. It’s an amazing spectacle that demands to be seen in IMAX 3D. At the end of the day it all comes down to how demanding you are as a filmgoer. Some people want to be challenged every time they walk into a theater. They want every film to be (gasp) well-acted. They require a fully rounded film every time. Me? While I love the strange, dark, cerebral stuff, sometimes I just want to witness some cool action. If a movie gets too weighed down I just close my eyes and picture scenes from The Matrix.
When Could Atlas bombed, I was heartbroken that more people wouldn’t get the chance to see what I thought was one of the most wonderful, groundbreaking films to be released in my lifetime. But when Jupiter Ascending bombs (and it will) I won’t shed any tears. I won’t be telling anyone to rush out and see it. I’ve loved all the Wachowskis’ previous films.  Sooner or later they’re going to lose their Hollywood privileges, and deprive us of their imagination altogether.

9 thoughts on “Movie Review: Jupiter Ascending (2015) *A Reasonable Critic Review*”

  1. Great review! I also enjoyed the movie, but the flaws you pointed out are ‘spot on’. Really a shame because I feel like us Sci-Fi fans keep getting our hopes dashed that the genre can make a box office impact (John Carter, Prometheus).


    1. I feel validated that someone already agrees with my review (I am the Reasonable Critic. The moniker keeps me honest). I am also waiting for a true science fiction movie to break out, but I am growing increasingly skeptical that it will ever happen.

      I was thinking the other day that if the advertising people had only given each of the six plots in Cloud Atlas a single tagline, maybe they could have made the film seem clearer and more compelling, thereby selling it to the general public. For example:

      A slave yearning for freedom
      An artist with a vision
      A woman targeted by evil
      A brother imprisoned by a brother
      A slave reshaping the future
      A man bound by an oath

      But then I realized that nothing would have helped, because, as amazing as it seems, a majority of people don’t even realize that true science fiction exists. People equate the genre with simplistic action films like Terminator. They go into a a sci-fi movie expecting to give their brains a rest, and when they discover that the movie requires them to pay attention instead, they grow irritated and restless and fail to grasp plots and ideas that are really not that hard. It has nothing to do with intelligence and everything to do with expectations built up in Hollywood over the course of a century.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. First, I want to thank Peter for taking the bullet and seeing this. We’ve already talked about this, but I feel the polar opposite of Peter of Cloud Atlas. I think it’s one of the biggest messes to ever hit the screen, but different opinions is what makes this fun. I was DONE with the Wachowskis after that though, so Peter braved the trial.

    If I saw it, I think I’d probably feel the same way from the comments, but given my distaste for their inability to develop a script since The Matrix, I’d have been harsher on them. I’m mean like that.

    I don’t know when we’ll see a truly original, relevant sci-fi pic. Chappie seems like a possibility. District 9 is one of the best films in that genre in the last ten years and Neil Blomkamp really has a feel for it. But something as amazing as , say, Inception, I don’t know. Those tend to sneak up on you and maybe we’ll get lucky.


    1. I loved District 9 (and you know I was not thrilled with Elysium) but I am a little concerned about Chappie. Not because it looks like Short Circuit meets RoboCop (complete with a “rival” robot that looks just like ED-209) but because when it comes to stories about artificial intelligence… I feel like we should be past this. We’ve seen so many sci-fi pinochio stories. There was even that segment in The Animatrix. The Second Renaissance, I think it was called, where the robot was in danger of being deactivated, and was put on trial for murdering its master.

      The way to make cinematic sci-fi more like literary sci-fi is to make the classics. Stranger in A Strange Land. Foundation. Childhood’s End. Novels with titles that people have heard of, being spoken about in venerated tones. The Wachowskis would have been better off if they had actually remade Dune. Which, by the way, is first on the list of classics that need to be made (I once thought there was a version made by David Lynch, but my friends tell my I must have been hallucinating, because the stuff I described to them was just too weird.)


  3. Hmmmm… you know, as soon as you said she was the “recurrence” I thought “Matrix… Neo…blah” and I kinda lost interest in the whole thing….


    1. Jupiter Jones is not a messiah figure. The reason she is important is that she holds the deed to the planet Earth. The bigger similarity to the Matrix is the idea of human lives being reduced to a commodity.

      All these parallels with the Matrix are far down on the list of the movie’s flaws. The only reason to see it is the surface glitz.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

Gravatar Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s