- - - - - - - - - - -You can never accuse the Wachowskis (The Matrix trilogy, Cloud Atlas) of not putting it all out there in their films. Jupiter Ascending might actually be the greatest example of how the writing and directing brother-sister duo let nothing hold them back in bringing their creative vision to the big screen. It's just that this time around their vision was pretty silly. Cool in parts, but still depressingly silly.
In a set-up so ridiculous and offensive to me personally that I won't even dignify it with a description, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis)—a housekeeper from a big Russian family who, as she repeats every morning, "hates her life"—learns she's an heir to the House of Abrasax, an alien empire that controls the planets. Under her rule specifically would be Earth. When the other heirs—Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Titus (Douglas Booth) and Kalique (Tuppence Middleton)—find out about Jupiter, they want to make sure she doesn't get in the way of their own plans to reign over the universe.
That's where Caine (Channing Tatum) comes in. He's an albino human-wolf splice (you heard me) charged with whisking Jupiter away from her daily routine of scrubbing toilets and bringing her up to space to meet whatever fate the Abrasax siblings have in store for her. Hands down, the best thing about Jupiter Ascending is the anti-gravity boots Caine uses to skate around in the sky. I want some. It also didn't hurt that Jupiter lives in Chicago—it's always fun to see your hometown in a sci-fi flick, especially one where it doesn't get totally destroyed (coughTransformers 3cough).
On that note, the effects are top-notch, whether they're in the form of gigantic lizard henchmen, vast space cities or one of many chase/battle sequences. It's just that everything else falls flat. First off, it was hard to believe that Jupiter would just start rolling with things as easily as she does. When Neo finds out about the reality of The Matrix, there are several reasons why he's able to jump into his new role so quickly; when Jupiter learns that she is Jupiter Ascending's version of "The One," its anticlimactic and there's nothing to support her coming to terms with a shocking new reality. She's either holding onto Caine for dear life during a chase or asking questions clearly meant to provide the audience with clues as to what in the hell is going on. There's nothing to make you believe that an unmotivated maid could suddenly go toe-to-toe with scheming aliens who've lived for centuries.
About those aliens... Redmayne's Balem speaks in a hoarse whisper throughout for no reason that ends up mattering. So it just becomes comical. Middleton's Kalique was forgettable, and Booth's Titus was pretty much the space version of Gossip Girl's Chuck Bass. His character was entertaining, but also ultimately pointless. We're supposed to believe that the Abrasax siblings are powerful and merciless, yet for some inexplicable reason they need to follow various administrative rules when it comes to stopping Jupiter from claiming her throne. What?!?
The sad thing is that the entire cast is committed. No one's phoning it in, even though you couldn't blame them if they did. But we all know the best acting still can't overcome nonsensical writing.
I really wish I'd enjoyed Jupiter Ascending because I'm always the one bitching about remakes and reboots and adaptations and Hollywood running out of fresh ideas. But the Wachowskis have proven that just because something's creative and original doesn't mean it's compelling or good.