Jupiter Ascending is a 2015 sci-fi adventure film star Mila Kunis (Black Swan, Ted), Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street, Magic Mike), and Sean Bean (TV’s Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings series). The film was directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix series, Speed Racer).
Jupiter Ascending follows Jupiter (Kunis), a woman in Chicago living with her mother and aunt as a cleaning lady across the city. One day when she decides to donate her eggs for some cash to buy a telescope (a prized possession of her father’s before he was killed), she is attacked by an alien life force which Caine (Tatum), a man-wolf hybrid, saves her from. Soon it becomes aware to Jupiter that there is something truly special about her and is shown that she has the same genes as a queen who had died after her 94th millennium. Taking on her new heir responsibilities on a new planet, the queen’s descendants are not too fond of this new discovery and do what they can to eliminate Jupiter as a threat.
Even if it works or not, the Wachowskis have to be admired for the ambition they take with their complex projects. Sometimes they work as with Cloud Atlas or The Matrix, or they miss the mark which is pretty much seen here. The film presents many intriguing questions to the concept of life and time or just the exploration of extraterrestrial life in general. While the concepts the film presents don’t try to root themselves in any sort of way that has already been shown, they at least seem reasonable and interesting enough to explore. The problem is there are just mere glimpses at these concepts which are shoved to the side in order to present fairly clichéd family matters within the antagonists. The film merely skips from one member to the next and how they will try to portray Jupiter and eliminate her for once. It takes away from what could have truly been some interesting scientific fiction.
The characters themselves are also built very poorly. Jupiter’s story before she goes through her space travels isn’t strong enough to be a caring rags-to-riches scenario. The interactions between her and Caine are almost too much of a push to fulfill the potential romance check box of a big budget film. The supposed falling out between Caine and Stinger (Bean) doesn’t have the weight it should and when the conflict is brought up again and again it wastes the film’s time. Also the main protagonist, Balem (Eddie Redmayne) seems to have been forgotten halfway through the film that when he returns his threat seems weak.
Now there are a few things the film does well. First off, the visuals are a thing of beauty. The 3D enhancement allows the visuals to make some of the weaker scenes watchable just due to the amount of detail and beauty in them. A few of the action sequences have some sense of enjoyment particularly the first one that takes place through downtown Chicago. The score is also notable and works with the action pieces.
There is not much to say about the acting. Bean, Kunis, and Tatum all provide adequate performances that won’t be close to standouts for their career but they’re decent enough with the circumstances. The one real miscast is Eddie Redmayne. He does the best he can with the character of Balem but the character is horribly written and whatever accent he was going for should have changed. This performance will definitely be one that won’t be remembered for the Oscar nominee.
Jupiter Ascending had the interesting concepts and visuals at hand to make a satisfying sci-fi production. However its approach to the script with its constant jumping around and incorrect emphasis, along with weak characters, lessened the film’s credibility by quite a bit. It also felt with how the film was set up that a lot was cut out and maybe if those potential pieces were added in the film may have been acceptable. For now it’s one of the Wachowskis’ weakest.
Directors: Andy & Lana Wachowski
Starring: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean
Rating: PG-13 for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity
Runtime: 127 minutes