If you think an intergalactic fairy tale sporting tons of prosthetics needs spicing up with a mix of royal family infighting and corporate takeover, then I refer you to Phantom Menace-era trade blockade enthusiast George Lucas, and now Jupiter Ascending. Pursuing their now-trademark singular vision that defies commercial or critical reaction, the Wachowskis have produced a head-scratching blend of action, cosmic grandiosity, over- and under-acting, and flat romance that’s never predictable in when it will stun the senses or bore you into submission.
Stars Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum are seriously miscast as the Cinderella/Neo and love interest/pet/Morpheus characters respectively, never evidenced more clearly than when they display zero chemistry when either trading zingers or pashes. Normally that’s not essential in a blockbuster, but when there’s so much ‘splainin’ to do, thanks to Jupiter Ascending’s elaborate Wachowski world-building, an investment in a (mostly) human relationship would have been a welcome relief from the often tedious narrative.
Luckily, Jupiter Ascending comes packing a bunch of distractions. Some of the action scenes dazzle, but not as much as the spacecraft, cities and planets that populate the film’s universe. While over-investment in their own ideas appears to be a storytelling problem for the Wachowskis, the sense that they really, really care about every frame of their films means this often looks fantastic, providing frequent rewards throughout. As does Academy Award nominee Eddie Redmayne, whose performance as principal villain is puzzlingly terrible, turning from whisper to scream on a dime, and seldom anything other than hammy, amusing if impossible to take seriously.
And, as with The Matrix, you can spend time looking at what the filmmaking siblings have “borrowed” from elsewhere – though Neo never had to negotiate a bureaucracy straight out of Brazil that’s awkwardly shoehorned in here. Then again, Brazil’s Terry Gilliam cameos in said shoe, so perhaps that lends it some legitimacy? There’s a question to ponder while your mind inevitably drifts during this.
‘Jupiter Ascending’ Movie Times (also in 3D)