There are not enough space operas in the universe! Time has come for the Wachowskis to add their own epic to the mix. Jupiter Ascending puts forth a strong start as a girl, named Jupiter by her deceased father, is born on a voyage between Russia and America. We find Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) later in life as a toilet scrubbing maid working alongside her mother and aunt. Events quickly lead to the audience finding out that this oddly named protagonist has a galactic destiny far beyond her wildest dreams.
Plenty to Like
Channing Tatum (as Caine Wise) and Sean Bean (as Stinger Apini) effectively portray a pair of space soldiers with a complicated past. Caine Wise is a spliced combination of human and wolf; Tatum succeeds in this role just as well (if not better) as any he has done before. Sean Bean (forever Boromir for me) somehow breathes life into his character who sadly descends deep into the catacombs of melodrama near the end (I refuse to hold some of the horrible lines that come out of his mouth against him).
The concepts, methods and ambitions of unique space cultures are successfully developed; Jupiter Ascending stands out as a very original work both visually and notionally. It’s not often I point out costumes, but there’s more creativity to be found in the things Jupiter wears than in the totality of the dialogue.
The fight scenes and overall design of the movie’s universe triumph over anything put out in the last decade; although not in the same top visual tier for using 3D technology to the fullest, the extra expense is a must if you’re going to spend the money to see it in theaters. Despite that most visible content is CGI, the overall cinematography carried out the artistic vision behind the Wachowski’s universe quite nicely.
Not often mentioned in my reviews, the musical score adds another positive intangible to the film; it’s just as beautiful as the backdrops! I’d be quite remiss to not mention it.
Plenty to Not Like
Jupiter Ascending has enough plot and world building material to supply a twelve-part season of one hour episodes (and perhaps it would have succeeded better had they gone that route). It almost seems like there’s a book on which this is all based. With so much crammed into a couple of hours on the big screen the structural results are predictable: adventitious subplots, information dumping (half the movie could be described as such), rushed scenes, overly simplistic dialogue and an underdeveloped story arc. Even a novice editor could have looked at this script and refuted it as a bad idea.
Though I hate to do this, Jupiter Ascending‘s romance churns up memories of the vapid and categorically degrading constellation of blunders found in the Twilight movie series. In terms of a leading female character’s weakness, indecisiveness and reliance upon strong men in major films of this millennium, Jupiter Jones is only surpassed by Bella Swan (Twilight). Though Mila Kunis has actual facial expressions (along with other fundamentals associated with acting), the role written for her holds back any worthwhile performance from being possible.
On a personal annoyance note, Balem Abrasax’s (Eddie Redmayne) voice is needlessly strained to the point that the audience laughs at the character. The Best Actor nominee has his efforts squandered on a predictably flat and bizarre villain. It’s one of a plethora of very peculiar choices by the ever-eclectic Wachowskis: some of which work (for example Caine’s hover boots) while others force severe audience-wide cringing (like the weird half-elephant-thing pilot).
The reasons I am giving Jupiter Ascending better than a 4/10 are quite varied. If the music, visuals and concepts were merely “good” or “better than average” the film would be an undeniable and sizable failure; but the surpassing artistic successes transcend the story’s impotence. Overall, you won’t leave the theater feeling totally let down, which is quite important! Also, as a fresh world and original script I would actually like to see sequels or a successor in another form (video games, TV, etc) to the film. Though the first installment is mostly a stinker, this space opera has the foundations for being successful… with the proper script of course.
Photos courtesy of: Warner Bros. Entertainment