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Jupiter Ascending

Platform(s): Movie
Genre: Action
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Release Date: Feb. 6, 2015


Movie Review - 'Jupiter Ascending'

by Adam Pavlacka on Feb. 6, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PST

Jupiter Jones was destined for great things, but only when Caine tracks her down does she glimpse the fate that could altar the balance of the cosmos.

A new property from the minds behind "The Matrix" trilogy sounds like a good prospect on paper, but when it comes to "Jupiter Ascending," the Wachowskis have managed to produce something that is all style and no substance. The out-of-this-world visuals look as though they've been lifted directly out of a fantasy designer's sketchbook and look absolutely fantastic on-screen, but everything else (the acting, the editing, the script, the soundtrack) falls short.

"Jupiter Ascending" tells the tale of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a young woman who lives with her extended family and makes a living as a maid. She hates her life but doesn't see any way out of it. The twist is that Jupiter is the genetic reincarnation of an intergalactic matriarch whose family pretty much owns the market on a drug that offers eternal youth. This makes Jupiter a threat to the three surviving siblings, as all want her share of the family inheritance.

The setup may sound contrived, but to be fair, the setup to "Dune" or "Star Wars" probably sounded contrived the first time you heard it as well. Even "Guardians of the Galaxy" had its naysayers when the story was first announced. Building a world isn't easy, and "Jupiter Ascending" manages to hold it together for the first 20-30 minutes or so.

There is an initial fight between Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) and three other bounty hunters that looks like it came right out of a video game. He glides around like a boss on hover boots and uses an energy shield that could have been lifted from a covenant warrior. The choreography here is good, and the fight doesn't wear out its welcome. Unfortunately, things just go downhill from there.

Combat sequences throughout the rest of the film fail to impress, with the dogfights being the worst offenders. Whether it's a battle over the skies of Chicago or out in space, spaceship combat looks as though it was filmed by Michael Bay. Fast cuts, close-ups and plenty of screaming will have you wondering if the theater accidentally started showing a reel from one of the "Transformers" films.

Characters are just as bad, though it is difficult to tell if the performances were due to poor acting or if the script didn't give them anything to work with. Sean Bean did a good job as Stinger Apini, one of Caine's associates, but both Kunis and Tatum were merely passable. They were thrown together in a series of random situations and were supposed to be falling in love by the end of the film, but neither their actions nor the dialogue offered any sensible reason for it. It's as though the Wachowskis couldn't think up a viable motivation, so they just wrote it in as a given.

Other characters are even worse. Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne) is supposed to be the threatening villain of the film, but all he does is wander around hissing orders at people and occasionally shouting. For someone who is supposed to be intelligent, he also passes on a number of obvious opportunities to get what he wants. Instead of inspiring fear like Darth Vader (which seems to have been the Wachowskis' intent), he comes across as more of a wanna-be-evil Jar-Jar Binks.

Titus Abrasax (Douglass Booth) is Balem's incompetent brother. He had the potential to be an interesting character, but again, the Wachowskis wrote him as a one-note wonder. It's obvious from the first time you see him that he is nothing more than a self-centered playboy. If I had more faith in the script, I could almost think his character was a metatextual reference to the lack of depth in the film itself, but that would be giving "Jupiter Ascending" way too much credit.

Tuppence Middleton appears as Kalique Abrasax, sister to the two brothers. Like her brothers, there is little room for character development because she is simply there to move the story along. She doesn't do much in the film aside from explain some of the backstory to Jupiter and show off Middleton's naked rear end. The whole sequence with Kalique could've been cut, and it wouldn't make an iota of difference to the overall plot.

Ultimately, that could be said of most of the film. At its best, "Jupiter Ascending" is an extremely superficial criticism of unbridled capitalism — and that's if you're being kind. In reality, it is a CGI masterpiece that is wrapped around a script that reads like it was written by a 13-year-old who just saw his first sci-fi anime and wanted to make something "awesome."

One note on the visuals: "Jupiter Ascending" is showing in 3-D, but the 3-D effect is extremely minimal, so there is no reason to pay extra for it here.

If you were hoping for a sci-fi epic, "Jupiter Ascending" is not it. It's not a new "Star Wars." It's not even a new "John Carter." On the upside, "Jupiter Ascending" offers plenty for the RiffTrax crew to comment on. Once the DVD hits, that may be the ideal way to view it.

Score: 3.0/10

"Jupiter Ascending" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 7 minutes. It is showing in 2-D, 3-D and IMAX 3-D.

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