The Wachowskis present to us another sci-fi story that is meant to thrill and amaze. Too bad, this time around, they weren’t even close. The story follows the humble, repetitive life of house cleaner (with a concentration in toilet cleaning) Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), who is about to get her life upended when she discovers that she is actually the exact genetic reincarnation of a famous space queen, who still has a trust in her name waiting in case a genetic heir were to appear. Three siblings/her genetic children from a previous incarnation, each send people to find her. One sends previous soldier and human/wolf hybrid Caine (Channing Tatum). The other sends bounty hunters, and the final one, the head of the Abrasax Corporation Balem (Eddie Redmayne), sent all sorts of creatures to kill her. With the help of Caine’s disgraced commanding officer Stinger (Sean Bean), they are able to claim Jupiter’s birth right, but that just sets into motion a more complicated and potentially fatal land grab as each sibling tries to claim what Jupiter now owns, Earth.
The story feels like it an adaptation of a book series, which would explain why it felt like we’re being hurled into a pre-established universe. If that were the case, it would at least be mildly forgivable since that would mean there is a group of people out there that know what the hell was going on. As it stands, it seems like there were only two people who knew exactly what was happening, and they are the writer/director sibling duo known as Andy Wachowski & Lana Wachowski (Matrix Trilogy). Around every turn, you get introduced to a new character, species or galactic idea, even without fully understanding the last one you were just presented.
The overly-ambitious story gets left behind, while the visuals are able to soar. Visually, this is the best sci-fi of 2015. We are introduced to these worlds, and even though we really have no understanding of them, we can at least appreciate their beauty and the time that was put into creating them. The same goes for the costumes, and even those completely ridiculous boots that let you skate through the air. The beauty does not apply to the story, where there are as many problems as there are planets in this new universe.
This is a savior movie, where you replace Kunis’ character with Keanu Reeve’s character from The Matrix. The only exception being that in this case, the savior is the one that constantly needs to be saved, like a perpetual damsel in distress. At least in the end of The Matrix, Keanu unlocks the power he’s always had and defeats the bad guys. Jupiter Ascending takes a different approach, by reinforcing the idea that all Mila’s character ever needs is a Channing Tatum-type hero to save her. Clothing optional. Tatum’s character is the underdog/wolf of this film, stealing the spotlight from Kunis. He is the real hero of this film, no matter how farcical he looks skating through the air.
Kunis’ charm and her undeniable chemistry with *insert any counterpart* is what saves her from getting swallowed whole in a universe where everything wants to destroy or marry her, including her “children” that want to do both (in that order). In turn, her weak hero deserves and equally weak villain, who is the equivalent of a royal dandy with mommy issues. Redmayne’s villain is two note, since he is either whispering his lines or yelling them in full vibrato. The reason The Matrix was so successful was because it didn’t allow the impressive, but sometimes humble visuals overpower the well-developed story behind it. Jupiter Ascending suffers from the opposite, emphasizing an explosion of computer generated effects to cover up a convoluted story about a woman who ends up saving Earth through legal ownership of it.
Jupiter Ascending is like the cantina scene in Star Wars. It’s a mixed bag of creatures, concepts and characters. There may be a little excitement, a sexy hero or two, and some very questionable sexual tension, but ultimately it just comes off as the drunken ramblings of a patron. I wouldn’t recommend leaving home, let alone this planet, to see this film, unless watching Channing Tatum play a mostly shirtless wolf hybrid is something you can’t live without.
RATING: ★★(2/10 stars)