Film Review – Jupiter Ascending
Jupiter Ascending is an epic sci-fi story written and directed by The Wachowskis (Matrix trilogy, Cloud Atlas) and stars Mila Kunis as Jupiter Jones, an earth-born genetic reincarnation of an ancient alien queen who, unbeknownst to her, has inherited a vast galactic real-estate portfolio that includes the planet earth (the whole thing). The ancient dynastic clan she was born into includes 3 siblings who each would love to get their hands on the inheritance for themselves, and ultimately “harvest” the human population and render their essence into a potion that gives them immortal life. Tracking her down on earth is genetic-mutant canine warrior Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), who protects her from the bounty hunters sent to kill her, reveals her “true destiny” and of course becomes her love interest.
Jupiter Ascending is a very ambitious, special-effects laden, action-packed film that has the Wachowski fingerprints all over it. Familiar themes resonate throughout the film, such as humans being reduced to a commodity only except a battery (as in The Matrix), it is a youth potion. Elitism and anti-capitalism play prominently as well, and though saturated with a unique visual style and interesting technology, it makes the film seem a little less original. Visual effects, which no doubt account for the majority of the rumored $175 million budget, are pretty spectacular and successfully create a unique vision of alien worlds on an epic scale. Full of lavish, opulent settings, it’s clear no expense was spared in creating the vision sought by the filmmakers.
As would be expected, there are some intense action sequences which include everything from land-bound fight sequences to some very fast-flying dogfight type sequences that are sometimes difficult to fallow and may even make some people dizzy. None of them are particularly groundbreaking, and one fight scene in particular that takes place in very close quarters in a doctors’ office is very reminiscent of the groundbreaking early scene in the Matrix where Trinity escapes after being cornered in a room. But, I did find the anti-gravity “surfing” boots worn by Caine to be fun and innovative.
Unfortunately, where Jupiter Ascending excels in visual style, it falls short in substance. The plot is pretty predictable, and the lead character Jupiter Jones comes off like an annoyingly reluctant heroine, overshadowed by the much more interesting character of Caine. The “royal” Abrasax siblings seem too familiar to be an ancient alien race, and instead sound like a bunch of British snobs. But, I would highlight Eddie Redmayne’s as the standout performance- he really goes for it and elicits a significant creep factor. Overall, though it is an enjoyable film with some outstanding visual effects, lavish style and some unique elements, it could greatly benefit from a richer plot and a few more surprises.