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October 11, 2015

Jupiter Ascending

by Franz Patrick


Jupiter Ascending (2015)
★ / ★★★★

There is very little to recommend in “Jupiter Ascending” which is all the more disappointing because it is written and directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski. The story is as ordinary as any cliché-ridden sci-fi action dud to come out of Hollywood in the past two decades, the special and visual effects are so overdone that the images end up looking cheap, and the performances barely have any pulse.

The plot is irrelevant but here it is: Although Jupiter (Mila Kunis) cleans houses for living, three siblings from one of the most powerful dynasties in the universe wish to get their hands on her. This is because Jupiter is the rightful owner of Earth; if she ends up dead or married off, she, by default, will lose her claim. A genetically engineered human named Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) rescues her from an attack and the two eventually develop romantic feelings for one another.

It pains me to write the former paragraph because it sounds like fluff from a D-grade romance novel. Most surprising to me is the fact that great performers like Eddie Redmayne and Sean Bean signed up to appear in this. Did they even bother to read the script? The dialogue is atrocious—often hyperbolic when unnecessary, the futuristic lingo and alien terms sound forced and cheesy, and none of the characters gets a glimmer of complexity. I can imagine a smart and creative high school student being able to write better material than this two-hour dross.

The action scenes, which are supposed to be the highlight of the picture, do not work on any level. Take, for example, shots of a craft moving at incredibly high speed crashing onto another object or building. The impact looks soft as butter because the images, including the background, are plagued with CGI. The artificiality is so overwhelming that we never believe we are watching a real conflict unfold—just a series of pixels designed to look or emulate something that is exciting. It is an empty, disappointing experience. Frankly, I found the images to be ugly, painful to look at.

The romance between Jupiter and Caine begs to be criticized. Kunis and Tatum share no chemistry. The so-called acting is so forced and awkward, watching them is like dropping in during rehearsals. Some scenes entertained me not because of what is happening but due to the fact that I kept noticing Tatum wearing more makeup than Kunis. Moreover, the exchanges between the leads should inspire anger because we know that The Wachowskis can write on a higher level than what is presented. Here, it appears as though they gave up halfway through because the material makes no sense whatsoever or they did not even try in the first place but figured they could use the paycheck.

Sitting through “Jupiter Ascending” is an act of self-punishment. Use your two hours into doing something more worthwhile like reading a good novel, spending time with your family, or engaging in a hobby. It is a mystery to me how this film received the green light from the studio. Right off the top of my head, it is because the Wachowskis hit commercial gold before with “The Matrix” and lightning could very well hit again. While this may sound pessimistic, the final product itself does not give us any reason to react under a more positive light.

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