I’ve been looking forward to “Jupiter Ascending” since I learned it was an original property created by the Wachowskis. The last decade has been an amazing time for sci-fi movies, but most of the big ones have been adaptations or reboots. A high profile sci-fi blockbuster that someone actually thought up in this decade sounded like a great idea.
After seeing “Jupiter Ascending”, I have to be honest with myself: the adaptions are better.
Now, I wouldn’t call “Jupiter Ascending” a complete miss. I walked away entertained and pleased, and the film has an element or two where it truly excels. But, in the crowded world of sci-fi blockbuster, it just doesn’t have the plot or characters to keep up with its competitors.
In defense of “Jupiter Ascending,” it is very, very pretty. I don’t say this to condescend. It is an impressively, memorably beautiful movie. The special effects are pretty, with an interesting use of bright color during the fight scenes. The costumes are pretty, particularly Jupiter’s stunning pink and white headdress and gown. Even the people are pretty, with Channing Tatum somehow pulling off his weird wolf-person make-up. It’s not, perhaps, the complement a director is hoping for, but the beauty is a definite boon to the film.
Once you look past the visuals, however, things get a bit uglier. The dialogue is a mess and the romance between leads Caine (Channing Tatum) and Jupiter (Mila Kunis) is laughably underdeveloped. The Abrasax siblings add an interesting dynamic to Jupiter’s adventures and outshine the bland leads, but they’re underutilized, particularly in the case of Kalique (Tuppence Middleton). If the film leads to a franchise, I hope we’ll see more of her and get some insight into her motivations, which, like most of the film’s concepts, are not developed or explained well.
Eddie Redmayne is worlds away here from his Oscar-nominated role as Stephen Hawking (“The Theory of Everything”), playing the villainous Abrasax brother, Balem. He’s fully committed, although I’m not quite sure what to. It’s just a really weird, confusing role, with raspy, whispered lines and sudden outburst of screaming and hysterics, but’s it’s so disconcertingly not Eddie Redmayne that I have to name him MVP of the film. He has an impressive range as an actor.
Overall, “Jupiter Ascending” exceeded my expectations in terms of design and world-building , but had very little memorable in the plot department.
For instance, I can describe to you in perfect detail the stunning deer ears and black jumpsuit that Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character wore, but I’ll be damned if I could tell you her name.