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Jupiter Ascending (2015)
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton

Written & Directed By: The Wachowskis

The Short Version

The Wachowskis find another way to make life on Earth not what we thought it was.

Too bad the not-so-bright heroine isn’t very interested in the proceedings.

Way too many stories are crushed and rushed in a flash of special effects.

Jupiter Ascending would make a great series of books, but…

As a movie, Jupiter Ascending is a mess of wasted potential that’s just not compelling at all.

The Long Version

What Kind Of Cheese Is It?


There’s a whole lot of great potential here, but now it’s a mixed up mess that’s gone to waste.

Pairs Well With...


Ads show that Mila Kunis has a barrel waiting for her in a few years.  If you’re going to watch this movie, you might want a glass or two in advance.

“My mother never cleaned a toilet in her life.”

I didn’t just want to like Jupiter Ascending when I’d first heard it was coming; I wanted to love Jupiter Ascending.  A fresh science fiction concept from a proven creative team: sure winner, right?  Even when the movie got pushed back by almost a year (from 2014’s tentpole season to 2015’s dead zone, specifically) to “allow more time for post production,” which is a rarely a good sign, I managed to keep up my optimism.

But then the time came to actually see Jupiter Ascending in a theatre, at which point my optimism had about fifteen minutes left to live, after which I found myself being very glad that my theatre of choice has bar service.

Simply put, Jupiter Ascending is a mess.  Sure, it’s an ambitious mess, but if anything, that ambition only makes it worse.

Jupiter Ascending amalgamates a plethora of familiar science fiction plotlines (to enumerate which ones would be to spoil too much; even though the trailer does exactly that, I won’t) and does indeed turn them into the foundation for a fresh, potentially exciting new universe.  Had the Wachowskis taken all of the stories they attempt to tackle in the short space of Jupiter Ascending and instead spun them into a series of five to seven books (either on their own or with a more prose-familiar collaborator, in which case I would have hoped for the likes of Charles Stross), I imagine those books being a rich, awesome read.  But no; all of those tales are crammed into a single two hour movie wherein the visual effects have been given primacy over the story, and the so-called heroine has decided that she can’t keep up with the rush so she’s not even going to try.

Actually, “decided” may be too strong of a word, since “decided” implies an active thought process, which I am not convinced that the character of Jupiter Jones ever demonstrates during the course of Jupiter Ascending.  She starts off as a dull, lazy, gullible fool who is perfectly happy to take whatever path of least resistance someone else offers her – like, say, allowing her greasy cousin to convince her to sell her eggs to a fertility clinic so he can buy himself a new big screen television – and by the end of a series of adventures that have revealed her to be a member of outer space royalty (that’s hardly a spoiler), she remains a dull, lazy, gullible fool who is perfectly happy to take whatever path of least resistance someone else offers her.  Jupiter never grows as a character at any point during the film, and by the third or fourth time that she displays the kind of drive and intelligence that would get her killed before the halfway point of any respectable slasher flick, it becomes very tempting to start rooting for the bad guys.  (Not that I’m blaming Mila Kunis, for any of this, mind.  She’s just playing the character as written, and frankly, had the original casting selection gone through and Natalie Portman taken the title role, I can’t imagine Jupiter Ascending being watchable at all.)

However, the bad guys perform the Herculean feat of being even more annoying than Jupiter, with special mention going to Balem (played with an air of disinterested boredom by Eddie Redmayne), for whom the secret of eternal youth has somehow not erased an utterly grating COPD wheeze.  (Should you decide to subject yourself to this film and that wheeze makes you want to scream “WHY?!” at the screen whenever you hear it, you will have my sympathies.)  As for Balem’s brother, Prince Valium- er, Titus… all I can say is at least he doesn’t wheeze.

As for Jupiter’s allies… Channing Tatum (who, regardless of anything, should not have gotten top billing for a film in which he’s not playing the title character, a sin that I personally have chosen not to perpetuate) has the thankless task of doing an emo turn as a space werewolf who surfs on hover boots (and does most of Jupiter’s best thinking for her) while he tries to act past makeup designed to make him look like a young Ron Perlman.  The results are just as messy as that sounded.  Meanwhile, Sean Bean’s talents are wasted on this movie, and he looks just as tired throughout the proceedings as everyone else does...

And that is another damning mark against Jupiter Ascending.  Here we have a space opera – by definition the most adventurous of all adventure subgenres – and everyone who matters spends the entire movie looking bored to the point of tears.  Even when there are jokes to be cracked – and yes, the film makes several excruciatingly obvious attempts to go out of its way to be funny – no one appears to be having any fun.  Not the house cleaner who’s just discovered that she’s outer space royalty, not her evil relatives, not the hover boot surfing werewolf; no one.  And that lack of having fun is infectious, making it well-nigh impossible for the audience to have any fun, either.

Maybe that’s why the plethora of special effects shots – you know, the ones that have very plainly taken primacy over the story here – feel so soulless.  Sure, they’re pretty, I guess, especially when the action moves to the planet Jupiter, but exciting?  No; not really.  No “ohs,” no “ahs,” no seat edges to be experienced.  Definitely not the reaction one hopes for when that many millions of dollars are being blown, or when the effects are allegedly the reason that the film’s release date was pushed back to begin with.  (You only half-buying that one, too?)

I really wanted to love this movie, but it just wouldn’t let me.

Bottom line, Jupiter Ascending is a glaring disappointment from start to finish: a rushed waste of adventure potential built around a badly written, utterly uncompelling heroine.  If you’re going to subject yourself to this, please, at least wait until it becomes available on a streaming service that won’t charge you any extra for the wasted two hours, and definitely have a drink or three handy.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, February, 2015

You can email Ziggy at ziggy@cinemaontherocks.com. You can also find us on Facebook.


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