Jupiter Ascending Review

Review #101

Jupiter Ascending movie posterSynopsis
Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is a maid who hates where she is in life. Her life changes when she gets attacked by aliens and is rescued by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), and she learns that she is the reincarnation of the leader of the House of Abrasax and rightfully owns Earth. But the three Abrasax children, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), and Titus (Douglas Booth) are reluctant to give up their rule.

Review
When I first saw the trailer for Jupiter Ascending, I was excited. For two reasons: The Wachowskis. I haven’t seen Cloud Atlas but everything else they have been involved in I have greatly enjoyed (yes, even Speed Racer). After it got pushed back from August of 2014 to this February, I was a little bummed but understanding since it looked very special effects heavy. So I was excited when it was finally here. I wanted to really like this movie when I left the theater, I really did. Unfortunately, I simply liked it.

First things first, it’s understandable why Jupiter Ascending was delayed six months just by looking at it. A good portion of this film is composed of CGI. I think it looks pretty good. If there is one thing the Wachowskis are good at is understanding how to make their movies aesthetically pleasing. Everything from the environments to character design clearly had a lot of time put into it. It’s hard to pick out something in particular that stands out but I would have to say when there were zoomed out shots of anything, I was amazed.

Along with the CGI, I am glad to see many of the actors playing alien creatures wore makeup. There is something comforting about seeing special effects that aren’t computer-generated. It seems nowadays most films opt to use CGI to create anything non-human, so it appears the art of makeup is slowly going away. Many of the aliens had cool designs that would have looked corny otherwise.

There were a few laughs to be had throughout the film. One of the highlights was seeing that even in an advanced civilization, they still had to deal with bureaucracy and long lines like the DMV. Although it may be saying something if that was the highlight of the humor. I’m not sure if I didn’t find any of the jokes funny or I just didn’t notice them.

Clocking in at around two hours, Jupiter Ascending tries to get through a lot, so it moves pretty quickly. This both helps and hurts it. As I said, there is much it tries to do and it manages to do all of it. However, the story suffers because of it. For instance, one of the characters tries to build Jupiter’s trust only to betray it. Had the movie gave more time with Jupiter and this specific character, the betrayal could have been much more shocking. Instead, there was no build up, no reason for me to care this character was making an effort to deceive Jupiter. Also, many of the scene transitions were jarring because scenes were cut short abruptly to keep trudging along to the next scene.

Another casualty of the quick pace was the love story. First off, I think it was unnecessary in the first place. But second, if a movie contains a love story, it should have time to bloom and build the relationship between the two characters. It comes up maybe three times throughout the film and the first time it seemed, at least to me, to just show up without any kind of build up. With as much as the film was trying to accomplish, there wasn’t room for another subplot. It could have been removed and nothing would have changed.

Jupiter Ascending is one of those rare films that tries to be unique and do its own thing in a world filled sequels and reboots. Unfortunately, it tried to do too much and trips over itself. I enjoyed it but still found myself leaving the theater with a twinge of disappointment.

Rating
3/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Andy Wachowski – Director / Writer
Lana Wachowski – Director / Writer
Michael Giachino – Composer

Mila Kunis – Jupiter Jones
Channing Tatum – Caine Wise
Sean Bean – Stinger Apini
Eddie Redmayne – Balem Abrasax
Tuppence Middleton – Kalique Abrasax
Douglas Booth – Titus Abrasax
Niiki Amuka-Bird – Diomika Tsing
Christina Cole – Gemma Chatterjee
Nicholas A. Newman – Nesh
Roman Tikaram – Phylo Percadium
Ariyon Bakare – Greegon
Maria Doyle Kennedy – Aleksa
Frog Stone – Aunt Nino

Jupiter Ascending Teaser Trailer

Official Synopsis: Jupiter Jones (Kunis) was born under a night sky, with signs predicting that she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning other people’s houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along—her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.

I am a huge fan of the Wachowskis.  The Matrix trilogy, V for Vendetta (screenplay), and Speed Racer (writers), were enjoyable, so anything they have their hands in, I’m on board.  Mostly I’m interested to see how Mila Kunis does in an action role.  She has been in actions films before, like Max Payne and The Book of Eli, but not in a role requiring many stunts.  Over the years, she has shown herself to be a versatile actress, so I think she will do well.  However, I do hope she gets the chance to show off some of her comedic chops.  If movies like The Avengers have shown anything, it’s that humor can be successfully integrated with explosions.

Jupiter Ascending, written and directed by the Wachowskis and staring Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, and Sean Bean, hits theaters July 25, 2014.

[EDIT 12/12/2013] The release date has been moved ahead by one week to July 18, 2014.