Life + Arts Movies

‘Jupiter Ascending’ takes off, can’t break its orbit

jupiterLiving a life scrubbing toilets isn’t Jupiter’s (Mila Kunis) idea of the best life, but everything changes when a half-wolf named Caine (Channing Tatum) comes to rescue her from aliens. It turns out that she is the reincarnated soul of the matriarch of a family that controls much of the galaxy, including Earth. The eldest heir to Earth, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), wants to harvest it for his own gain, while siblings Titus (Douglas Booth) and Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) want to use the planet against him. Meanwhile, Jupiter is being prepped to receive her inheritance.

“Jupiter Ascending” is the latest ambitious project from the Watchowskis, venturing more into the realms of sci-fi and fantasy than other recent films. The originality of the universe created is much-needed in the industry, but the film chooses to incorporate familiar aspects of other stories as well. The result is a beautiful, action-packed, albeit yet cluttered and predictable film set on a grand scale. You can’t fault the directors for trying to do something big.

Lana and Andy Watchowski created “The Matrix” trilogy, and their recognizable style tends to divide audiences, evident in the reactions to the flashy “Speed Racer” and the time-bending “Cloud Atlas.” With “Jupiter Ascending,” the two created a new universe with different species, travel methods and ways of life, proving their skill as world-builders.

Visually and aesthetically, “Jupiter Ascending” is phenomenal, with a meticulous amount of detail that went into the film. Originally slated for release in July 2014, “Jupiter Ascending” was pushed back due to “effects still needing work,” and that’s partially believable after seeing them. Everything from the weapons to the creatures, even the portrayal of space travel, is exceptionally well-done. It helps that the actors look like models, and the film’s focus on time makes their distinctive look even more enjoyable.

Channing Tatum dominates most of the screen-time with his power boots and ferocious attitude, proving he can play superhero and still have fun. Mila Kunis isn’t given much to do, but Jupiter is endearing and her realistic adjustment to a new world is often amusing to watch. Eddy Redmayne, the Oscar front-runner for “The Theory of Everything,” plays a whispering, menacing villain, proving he can play an evil character. Sean Bean brings relentless energy, Douglas Booth is unsettling and Tuppence Middleton calmly and quietly takes command of her character.

When it comes to the story, “Jupiter Ascending” ventures into the campy realm, as it’s hard to take seriously at some points. Jupiter’s humble beginnings only serve as a gag for the film and could have been left out. Intergalactic love isn’t a new theme, and the villains are hardly worth fearing. Even the main characters are underwritten, and Kunis is often given some laughable dialogue. The ending quickly becomes obvious, and an unreasonable amount of time is spent on action sequences, as though the Watchowskis took a page out of Zack Snyder’s book.

“Jupiter Ascending” isn’t the colossal train-wreck it was predicted to be, but doesn’t change the game. The original story is the film’s weakest aspect, though the gorgeous visuals and the actors who go along with the absurdity make the film enjoyable.

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