I’ll give the Wachowskis this, they certainly have a working imagination.
“Jupiter Ascending” is the latest sci-fi epic brought to us by the Wachowskis, this time about an earth girl who doesn’t quite realize the key she holds in an expansive, violent, intergalactic battle for wealth and power. Mila Kunis plays the girl, and Channing Tatum skates in to play Caine, the rugged and principled hybrid creature that becomes her defender and closest ally. Now if that all sounds a little bit strange to you, well, hang on, cause they’re just getting started. By the time you make it to the end, you’ll have met all kinds of creatures, gadgets, and interstellar goings on, in this complex and intricate designed universe.
And let’s go ahead and place that in the positive tally for the flick, cause unfortunately there really isn’t much else to put there. But I respect a movie that is willing to really draw out such a vast and well thought out ecosystem. I know a lot of it will seem silly and nonsensical to most (and we will chat about that here in a bit) but I still think the best sci-fi comes from taking a concept and really thinking it through to the nooks and crannies, and I think they do a good job of that here. I also think think the Wachowskis haven’t lost their eye for the visual with some moments providing that gorgeous action ballet they’ve come to be known for. But even pretty pictures and a well thought out universe can’t ultimately save you, when everything else is falling apart at the seams.
And I mean everything. Let’s start with the acting. I have nothing against Kunis and Tatum, in fact I can be a bit of a Channing apologist at times, but they are both well below mediocre here. Not sure if it’s a character choice, or a purposefully dry reading, but Tatum seems to deliver each line with all the juiciness of a week old piece of rye bread. And Kunis character seems to want to be some sort of half leading lady, half comic relief that not only doesn’t work but undermines the credibility of the film as a whole. But it’s not just her struggling with that. The whole movie feels like some sort of Part Blade Runner part Hitchhikers Guide hybrid that never seems to work. That schizophrenic tone short circuits any chance the humor has to work, or any kind of love story has to work, because we can never quite decide if this world is supposed to be silly or serious. When Eddie Redmayne, whose over the top performance may be the worst of the bunch, is asthmatically breathing out his lines punctuated by bursts of scream rage, is it supposed to be scary? or am I supposed to be laughing? I wasn’t sure so I just sat there wondering what in the world was going on and trying to ignore the often obvious computer generated shenanagins going on in the world around him.
Overall, “Jupiter Ascending” is a complex and at times beautiful Sci-Fi world that is too broad and unfocused to make much of an impact. From the performances to the humor, the lack of consistent tone makes the whole thing seem both pretentious and silly at the same time, giving it little to no chance of ascending past a D+