The Wachowskis are ambitious filmmakers. From the seemingly ubiquitous Matrix trilogy to 2012’s Cloud Atlas, none of their films can really be described as ‘safe’ or ‘simple’. Even with their misfires, the Wachowskis invest fully in their projects. Jupiter Ascending is one of such misfires, but the movie doesn’t apologize for its inadequacies. Its lack of self-awareness is made so much more attractive when met with its complete passion.
The story of Jupiter Ascending follows that of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a housemaid transformed out of her average life when aliens attempt to murder her. After being rescued by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a wolfman and ex-military hunter, Jupiter discovers that she is of genetic royalty. Traveling between worlds, she must deal with mortality while also struggling to stop various villainous forces in her way.
This movie manages to do something amazing. It manages to make the city of Chicago look boring. Opening the film in a very familiar setting allows for a much more astonishing juxtaposition when the audience is shown a variety of fantastical environments, though in this movie the effect is somewhat muted by several scenes containing alien worlds that interrupt the Chicago sequence early on in the film. Since all of the worlds showcased in the film are so unfamiliar, the locations tend to blend together, despite all being so unique. Nonetheless, the different environments are fascinating to look at, even if they add ambiguity to the movie’s continuity. That also seems to be a general theme with this film. There is lots of exciting action and the colors are enjoyable to look at, but there tends to be a lack of emotional weight.
Throughout the film there are various interesting concepts introduced. And I mean throughout. Well into the third act of the film, new ideas are still being brought forward. Most of these concepts aren’t really utilized in the film after they are mentioned, they are just kind of created and then ignored. The Wachowskis appear as if they thought up a bunch of really cool ideas for the film, but were too excited with other light bulbs to figure out how to reincorporate the original ones. The result is a screenplay that appears to jump all over the place without a serious center of focus.
Steadfast to many other films in the genre, the actors in Jupiter Ascending tend to blend into the scenery. They serve their purpose, but seem artificially created, as if they were just a visual effect. None of the performances, and it’s tenuous to call them that, are memorable, but they don’t hinder the movie either. With one exception. Eddie Redmayne (Redlionmane, Redmayballine, Readmaine, there’s just so many options) gives one of the most hysterically awkward interpretations I’ve seen in a while. He delivers his lines with a combination of mumbling and screaming (90% mumbling, followed by an abrupt 10% screaming) and no in between. It’s hard to imagine how the character was decided upon and approved. Redmayne is a fantastic actor, and while total commitment to his characters has lead to some great performances, without proper guidance it is easy for them to come off as dumb. Mila Kunis’s Jupiter Jones is very much used as a lense for the audience to experience the new worlds, so consequently there is not much dimension to her character. However, as time goes on, Jupiter breaks from her initial development as a prop, and makes decisions for herself independently, which is refreshing for a movie like this.
It probably seems as though I’m defending this film. I guess I am, to some extent. I like ambitious films. The Wachowskis make ambitious films. I like the Wachowskis. When there’s a lot of energy and fervor behind a movie, I tend to forgive it of some of its more serious problems. Jupiter Ascending is really stupid. Logic does not work in this film’s favor. Yet, I wasn’t seriously bothered by this. I recognize a lot of the movie’s faults, but I couldn’t bring myself to hate it. However, I have a feeling that a lot of you will.
Given Hollywood’s increasing desire to tap into foreign markets with big, special-effects driven blockbusters, it would seem as though Jupiter Ascending was created so international audiences could marvel at exciting visuals. However, the film is far too exposition-based for this to be a completely valid argument. While only a small percentage of the movie’s gross is coming from the domestic box office, these numbers are about average with the Wachowskis track record; their films are just generally received slightly better overseas (Nearly 80% of Cloud Atlas’s revenues came from foreign audiences, partially explained by the fact that a majority of the film was funded by foreign investors). Given the large production budget for Jupiter Ascending and the apparent lack of financial incentive, the question is begged: Why did this movie come into existence? Because the Wachowskis wanted to make it. And that’s what makes them so endearing as filmmakers. 5/10.