1/2* out of ****
There’s too much wrong with the Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending to cover in this piece. I hated it. Despite my appreciation for science-fiction of the corny variety, this film has messy story construction incapable of producing the suspense or intrigue necessary to get its audience involved with all its twists and double-crosses. The only value to be found in this film is in its mega-budget wealth of crazy costume, set and ship designs. But they’re not much more impressive than other recent adventure fantasies which also paid a little tribute to Dino De Laurentiis productions, like Guardians of the Galaxy, Thor or even the underrated John Carter.
Mila Kunis is awkwardly cast as Jupiter, a Chicago housekeeper who learns she is heir to the planet Earth when aliens try to kill her. She is rescued by a genetically engineered part-dog warrior man with anti-gravity boots and a repressed lover’s heart -played by Channing Tatum (also awkward). It turns out that three siblings who claim dominance over planets for the sake of growing and harvesting people, are all quarreling over who will control earth. The most sinister of the three, Balem Abrasax, is played by Eddie Redmayne (VERY awkward).
Redmayne, who recently did an excellent job playing Stephen Hawking, is trying something odd with his role by giving an old man whispery voice to his character, but it doesn’t work. Kunis and Tatum are both talented and attractive, but I would describe them as sexy-goofy people and not so capable in conveying the celestial demeanor necessary for their roles. I could go on about their lack of chemistry, but I'd have to figure out their characters first.
The movie is tonally all over the place, shifting between laughable aliens trying to have serious conversations (Gugu Mbatha-Raw has giant prosthetic mouse ears) to an intergalactic DMV, where creatures work at desks in an attempt to pay homage to Brazil by Terry Gilliam – one of my all time favorite directors who made a rare cameo appearance in this section of the movie. Why this movie, Terry? Was Spies Like Us not embarrassing enough?
If there is a major failure in this film, unlikely to be discussed, it's in Michael Giacchino's unremarkably generic score. I often like Giacchino's work, but sometimes I'm disappointed at his lack of creativity. I've expressed so many times that choral sections in movie scores have been done so often that they've lost their effectiveness on me. That Carmina Burana-inspired shit needs to go away.
The Wachowski's attempt to be original through this film comes off as desperate. Like The Matrix, it blends together so many different types of fiction into one, but this time they don't manage to gel or feel fresh in any way. It's more of a movie made from salvaged garbage, than creatively recycled material.