(Scored out of ten; below 5 = not worth seeing, 6 = OK, 7 = good, 8 = great, 9 = fantastic, 10 = next to perfect)
Let it be said here, the Wachowski’s sure know how to handle a fight scene. Jupiter Ascending is a gorgeous journey rife with action and convoluted world theories that would make for a fantastic series of novels. But it’s not a novel, unfortunately, so we ended up with a decent sci-fi flick.
Ever since the Wachowski’s burst onto the Hollywood scene with the original Matrix, the duo have been trying to reach the same narrative heights as their inaugural venture. This goal has been met with varying degrees of success. Jupiter Ascending falls a bit short of the mark but still offers a decent time at the theater. Jupiter Ascending plays with the idea that the human race was not born on earth, but instead is a very small part of a galactic empire (or business) run by a feuding family. Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a Russian immigrant relegated to cleaning toilets for her impoverished family, just so happens to be the exact genetic match to the now deceased galactic empress.
When word of this reaches the three remaining heirs of the universe, each of the three children sets into motion a plot to win Jupiter over to ensure that the Earth (which just so happens to be the most valuable planet ever) is theirs. This is where Caine (Channing Tatum), a human/wolf hybrid comes in to play. Jupiter is thrust into the middle of a space faring feud between family members while the fate of the Earth and its inhabitants hangs in the balance.
The Wachowski’s have always been excellent world builders, and Jupiter Ascending is no exception. They layer religious themes, new universal mythologies, incredible new races and gorgeous locations into a beautiful package. Had this been a more episodic narrative and all of it given time to breathe, Jupiter Ascending could have been something great. Instead, it is all haphazardly thrown into a 2 hour film where nothing gets the time necessary to really become anything more than interesting fluff. In order to service the personal tale of Jupiter and Caine, a lot of the history of the world is mentioned briefly in passing or forgotten altogether. Which is a shame considering it is the coolest part of the film.
Even more worrisome is the fact that the personal narrative falls victim to forced romance clichés. The chemistry between Tatum and Kunis is non-existent, causing a number of theater goers to audibly laugh at some of the moments I assume were meant to be emotional. Kunis does a good enough job as our entry point into this new universe, conveying the sense of shock and awe one would expect of someone who just learned that aliens and things are for real (until she suddenly isn’t shocked anymore… which was odd). Tatum, the villains and what essentially equates to the rest of the cast, are one dimensional and serve no purpose other than to either be the bad guy, the good guy, or the other guy.
For a film with such vast mythology, it is a shame to see it in such a skeletal form.
The plot is another aspect of Jupiter Ascending that fails to enthrall. The galactic empire was a novel idea, but in execution it’s just an interesting backdrop. Each of the three primary antagonists cover much of the same ground in terms of motivation, making their threats redundant. Two of the major action sequences, one of which is the finale, are almost carbon copies of one another. Just replace spaceships with Caine and a dragon dude and you have the same sequence. For such a visually spectacular film to succumb to such redundancies is a major letdown. Especially after witness what amounted to one of the most exhilarating dog fights in recent memory.
Once the action leaves Earth proper and heads off into space, the film loses sight of everything that makes it interesting. The thematic through lines, the larger than life mythos and the story of a woman trying to maintain her humanity when she learns that she is so much more. Had the Wachowski’s spent less time trying to cram every idea they had into a single film, Jupiter Ascending might have been something greater. Instead, we get a gorgeous film with a couple of inventive and fun set pieces that are ultimately brought down by creative redundancies. Jupiter Ascending is still ok, it’s just disappointing to see so much squandered potential.
Overall I give the film 6.5/10