It is safe to declare the sci-fi soap opera ‘Jupiter Ascending’ an epic in the making. Now wait and let us finish this thought process…an epic disastrous dud disguised as a big-budgeted, glossy Science Fiction vehicle with manufactured melodramatic momentum in the realm of outer space. In reality, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ is a bombastic and bloated bore of an outlandish fantasy-filled feature that basks in its convoluted escapism. Exasperating, excruciating and excessively exhausting, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ is the latest brainchild from cinematic siblings Andy and Lana Wachowski.
The Wachowskis, of course, are the breakthrough masterminds behind the mind-bending ‘Matrix’ movies. It is hard to imagine that the innovative tandem wrote and directed this laughable and lumbering space yarn that honestly descends more than it ascends. Riddled with silly-minded storytelling, stiff-looking eye candy leads in Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum, mechanical acting and decorative but over-indulgent special effects, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ basically labours about as a flat and flavorless space opera going through the mundane motions.
The Wachowskis forgettable 2012 sci-fi confection ‘Cloud Atlas’ pretty much boasted the same kind of wondrous window-dressing and fetching lead and supporting players set against the background of an ambitious but aimless narrative but never quite overcoming the lack of emotional punch or purpose. Still, at least ‘Cloud Atlas’ showcased the likes of Oscar-winning ‘royalty’ in featured players such as Tom Hanks, Halle Berry and Susan Sarandon (as well as a prominent cast) undertaking various roles and personalities. In ‘Jupiter Ascending’, we are treated to an exotically radiant, bubbly-eyed Kunis as the film’s mysterious titular tart and sought-out shirtless studmuffin Tatum. Enough said.
‘Jupiter Ascending’ feels as if its conceived conception of themes and thrills were extracted from leftover Science Fiction flicks gathering dust on a cutting room floor. A curvaceous cleaning cutie. A high-flying desirable dog-man. An assortment of ambiguous human life-forms and other colourful creatures. Gaudy-looking spaceships. Derivative laser battles pitched in the blackness of the galaxy. Mystical self-discovery and empowerment. An unconventional and predictable romance. One is left wondering if the Wachowskis ate too many spoiled mushrooms during the filming process. Relentlessly meandering and incomprehensible, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ is an over-extended costume party thrown within the confines of the cartoonish cosmos.
The lovely English-Russian Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is an immigrant new to the Chicago area where she resides with her randy family. By profession, Jupiter is a cleaning lady that toils over scrubbing floors and toilets for the wealthy as she and her relatives upkeep their posh homes. She feels deep down inside that she is destined for better things out of life. Little does the foreign blue-collar babe realise that she is indeed somebody…a princess to be exact. The question remains: who will inform Jupiter of her special royal status?
Enter heroic hybrid Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a half-human and half-canine soldier whose past rabid behavior has him on short notice with an overseeing authority. Caine’s redemption involves his protecting the sacred skin of the treasured Jupiter. Should Caine complete his mission he will earn back his stripped prosthetic wings as an incentive. Talking about one long dog day afternoon!
Jupiter, as it turns out, is harboring some majestic genes that match the ones embedded in the deceased Queen of the Universe. This makes Jupiter quite the Powerful One in intergalactic circles of prominence. The wanted Jupiter’s genetic bloodline is important to the late Queen’s conniving offspring currently ruling the corrosive depths of the universe. The siblings’ iron-fist rule of the universe is inherited and getting their hands on Jupiter is almost as genetically appealing as reuniting with the late ‘Mommy Dearest’ to further their agenda. What does this so-called agenda involve? How about harvesting their species on the planets such as the vulnerable Earth for instance? Yikes!
The trio of Abrasax siblings is something else to say the least with treachery as their calling card. Titus (Douglas Booth) is the one who commissioned Caine to bring along Jupiter in hopes of exploiting her eerie ‘motherly essence’ in the royal struggle for galactic greatness. Another villainous sibling, the eldest (Oscar-nominated Eddie Redmayne from the elegant ‘The Theory Of Everything’), speaks as if he swallowed soap detergent thus allowing for his distracting scratchy vocal delivery.
Thus, the synthetic suspense unfolds ad nausea. Can the put-upon planetary princess Jupiter deal with all the cockeyed space-aged strife that surrounds her? Will the seedy siblings keep on promoting their shady shenanigans among the galaxy stars? Could the romantic union between dashing dog-man warrior Caine and former scrubbing siren-turned-cosmic cupcake Jupiter find happiness in the love nest that is their static-driven stratosphere?
Heavy-handed and hackneyed, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ is a massive mess linked with a disjointed foundation from clunky dialogue to revolving uneven caricatures parading around in a scrambled sci-fi bomb. The Wachowskis want to enthusiastically stack the deck with pseudo opulent outer space battles and intermittent talky sessions involving the forethought of planetary politicking. However, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ merely patches together a sting of eye-rolling shiny events that never click cohesively or creatively for that matter. The tired and toothless wooing between Tatum’s Caine and Kunis’s Jupiter feels tepid at best although some may try and fish out the Twilight-inspired young adult titillation that a comely couple such as Kunis and Tatum hope to sizzle among their fanbase. Redmayne, ridiculously showcased as a larynx-challenged lout, serves as a head-scratching stain in this flaccid fantasy. Here is hoping that his inclusion in this Wachowski whimsical washout will not tarnish his bid for Oscar gold in the weeks to come.
CGI Lizard-men, dog-men, elephant-men…oh my!
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
2 hrs. 6 mins.
Starring: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Sean Bean and Tuppence Middleton
Directed by: Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Genre: Science Fiction/Action & Adventurer/Space Fantasy
Critic’s rating: * 1/2 stars (out of four stars)
(c) Frank Ochieng 2015