It took some time but I have finally come to an unimportant realization – I am not a fan of the Wachowskis. I’m not sure why it took me so long to admit it because I’ve never had the best experiences with their films. “The Matrix” was a good movie, but I never saw it as the monumental classic others have. It’s sequels interested me less. “Speed Racer” was an unwatchable mess. “Cloud Atlas” was one of the most laborious theater experiences I’ve ever had. Yet despite these not-so-stellar reactions I always find myself watching whenever a new movie comes around.
The latest from the Wachowski siblings is “Jupiter Ascending”, an ambitious science fiction romp that has all the ingredients to be yet another slog. Six years ago Warner Brothers approached the Wachowskis about creating an original sci-fi franchise. Lots of money and resources were put behind the project in hopes of producing a profitable series. That hope looks unlikely. The film barely recovered its production costs and it found very little critical support. But here is the big surprise – it’s not a terrible movie. That being said it is another Wachowski movie whose ambition is only surpassed by its flaws.
The story isn’t nearly as intelligent as the Wachowskis probably think, but it’s also not as incoherent or convoluted as some critics proclaim. In fact, at times it is pretty basic stuff, but at other times it’s just downright silly. The story is basically a melding of Cinderella and the Wizard of Oz thrown into a big, vibrant science fiction world. Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a young woman who housecleans for wealthy Chicago elites. But actually Jupiter is the reincarnated heir of planet earth.
Make sense so far? Probably not so here’s the deal. Earth and a number of other planets are owned by a powerful alien royalty called the House of Abrasax. The Matriarch of the royal family has been murdered leaving the ownership of the planets split between three siblings: the power-hungry sociopath Balam (Eddie Redmayne), the conniving playboy Titus (Douglas Booth), and the sweet but equally devious Kalique (Tuppence Middleton). The planets are considered harvest grounds by the aliens and Earth is the most profitable. Jupiter’s existence means the siblings can’t control Earth and therefore the profit so she finds herself stuck in the middle of one big family squabble.
Thankfully there is Channing Tatum as the ridiculously named Caine Wise. He is a genetically engineered “splice” – a half human and half….ahem….wolf. Yep, you read that right. To add to the character’s absurdity, he speed skates through the skies with a pair of rocket boots and has a penchant for eyeliner. His main contribution to the story is to constantly rescue Jupiter from various states of peril in the nick of time. We also get Sean Bean as Caine’s buddy Stinger. He is half human and half honeybee but do we really need to get into that?
I will say the Wachowskis know how to world build. The creativity behind some of the effects are impressive and the locations are a lot of fun. For example to get to Balam’s “refinery” you enter through the big red spot on Jupiter’s surface. On the flipside not all of the action sequences work as well. Watching Tatum skate through the sky or fly around in these bird-like ships is cool at first but the movie milks them and they grow tiresome. The movie relies heavily on its CGI which is both good and bad.
But the film’s problems don’t stop there. The story is built upon a pretty interesting mythology and foundation but most of it is told through a ton of exposition. Rarely does the film show us anything. Also for all of the cool and interesting things the story does, there are also too many moments and details that are beyond. And then there are a couple of key performances that don’t work at all. Tatum is cold, emotionless, and uninteresting. Some of it is the role but Tatum does it no favors. And what on Earth is Eddie Redmayne doing? His husky mumbling and sudden outbursts are laughably bad at times.
In a weird way “Jupiter Ascending” was a nice surprise. After my past experiences with the Wachowskis I was expecting the worst. But this is a watchable bit of sci-fi and often entertaining. Unfortunately some of its ideas are shockingly silly, it relies too heavily on its special effects, and a couple of the more important performances hurt the film. So while this may be better than some Wachowski films, it’s only marginally better and definitely not enough for me to call myself a fan of their work.
VERDICT – 2.5 STARS
Well, the “rule” is that a person has to watch at least 3 films before judging the director(s) overall. As for this movie… I disliked it less than the MATRIX sequels, which isn’t saying much.
I think I have seen six of their movies. I simply cannot get fully on board with those guys. I do appreciate their ambition but I don’t think it relates to good cinema.
Well, it is a very pretty film. It’s absolutely stunning, especially if you get it on Blu-Ray. But it is very, VERY boring. There’s a large chunk of time where nothing happens. Like you said, the Wachowskis are hit and miss with their movies, but for me, they’re mostly miss. Yeah, The Matrix was awesome, but the sequels weren’t nearly as good. The Wachowskis aren’t as clever as they think they are. In fact, they got sued by a woman who used to live in Ogden, Utah, because they lifted the idea of The Matrix from one of her books, and she won. So, yeah, the Wachowskis are HIGHLY overrated. At least they didn’t kill off Sean Bean in Jupiter Ascending, there’s that, and the music is quite nice. But the rest of the movie pretty much stinks.
You say so many things that are spot on. I really don’t get how these siblings continue to get millions upon millions of dollars to make movies.
I wanted to really like this film but it stumbles over itself trying to do too much. There are many good ideas here, except none of them are given the time to develop. If the Wachowskis would have only focused on a few plot elements and left the others for potential sequels, it would have fared much better. Great review, Keith.
Thanks Drew. I think you’re on to it. A much stronger focused movie may have worked. This is just a mediocre and messy movie. Something I’m getting used to from them.
Great review! Visually, I thought Jupiter Ascending was fantastic, but the story had me laughing at parts which weren’t even funny. It’s rare for me to dislike a film so much!
So you didn’t buy into wolf blood and half-man/ half-honeybee thing? Come on, it sounds so good on paper. 😉
I really, really hated this. The worst thing the Wachowski’s have ever done IMO. Eddie Redmayne was atrocious.
That is Academy award-winning Eddie Redmayne! 😉
What Khalid said 🙂
He was baaaaad
Nice review. Very interesting pov regarding redmaynes performance. being the first movie i saw him in, i actually liked his performance. with the rest of your review, i pretty much agree. However i would give this film 3 stars for the entertainment value and the imagination.
I will give that to you. There is a lot of imagination at work.
You know I didn’t hate this movie. It’s not good but I found it so over the top and silly that it made me laugh. I guess I found some camp value to it.
You know, it’s funny. At the end of the film I felt like I should absolutely hate it. There are so many flaws. But at the same time I do appreciate the imagination and ambition even though it doesn’t completely work.
Yeah don’t get me wrong. It’s not a good movie but I did find something about it entertaining. To me it wasnt like a Hot Pursuit or Paul Blart 2 that was torture to sit through
I didn’t hate Paul Blart 2 like most. It is far from a masterpiece. But it is trying to be a family comedy and for me it was kinda like this movie – very mediocre. But I know most people really hate Paul Art 2.
Yeah I thought it was terrible. I liked the first as a family comedy but I didnt think a gag worked in 2 but humor is subjective that’s for sure. I also thought it was a giant infomercial for Wynn hotels in Las Vegas. Still my worst of year with Hot Pursuit a close second
My worst is Mortdecai. Finally posted that review earlier this week. Talk about dreadful.
Yeah luckily that one is too hard an R for me too see. Phew! Saved… 😉
You are lucky! It leaves scars! 🙂
Pretty much in agreement with you on this one. It’s bad but not that bad, and I did enjoy some of its silliness – the half man, half bee kind of stuff, primarily. And Eddie Redmayne’s performance is unintentionally hilarious, as you rightly point out. Or maybe it was intentional?
It’s really hard to make out what Redmayne is going for isn’t it? As a matter of fact you could probably say that about the entire movie. 😉
Yes! Lots of exposition slowly morphing into lots of chases. I’ve seen worse!
An intriguing mess of a film. I was somewhat entertained, not bored, with it, though. Redmayne should be mighty thankful this didn’t have negative effects with that other film of his. 😉
You’re so right. Some people probably struggled reconciling this performance with Oscar-winning actor!
Yeah, it definitely has a lot of silly moments, but as a space soap it is pretty entertaining 🙂
It wasn’t as atrocious as I expected. But it was mediocre to the highest degree.
It’s a messy and strange hybrid of a movie, but it’s an entertaining one. Nice review.
I guess I was entertained enough. But I know I never plan on watching it again. So I guess it lands in the middle for me.
Another one to bite this bullet 😛
So far, I’ve survived without doing so. I wonder how long that will last.
I feel like this movie took loads of good things – interesting concept, good cast, etc – and then pissed it all up the wall by focusing on completely the wrong things.
That’s an interesting and really accurate take on it. I think we do see some interesting thing that are just squandered.
The Wachowski’s are very much a mixed bag, man. I loved the first Matrix but the sequels are bad. Speed Racer was abysmal but I was a huge admirer of Cloud Atlas. Their low-key crime debut Bound was very good as well. Still, you really know what you’re getting. I attempted Jupiter Ascending and turned it off after 20mins. I’ll go back to it but I’m in no rush.
You mean ‘wolf blood’ and ‘half-man half-bumblebee’ didn’t immediately win you over? 😉
Didn’t really grab me buddy! It’s a bit like English folks dipping a wee biscuit into their tea… It eventually gets so sodden and mushy and half the biscuit falls into the mug. Then both are no use. Strange metaphor, I know, but it sums this film up. 😉
May give this a watch, Keith, just out of curiosity for the sci fi elements and camp value. Not much of a fan of the leads either. Thanks, Keith!
It’s better than I expected but I wasn’t expecting much.
That’s pretty much the attitude I’m going in with when I get around to this one. Thanks again!
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