by Adam Riske
Being a fan of The Wachowskis is like being a parent of a kid that plays soccer. During some games they’ll look great and score the game-winning goal (The Matrix, Cloud Atlas) and during others they’re going to be all over the field (Speed Racer, The Matrix Reloaded) and maybe even shit the bed (The Matrix Revolutions) but there you are supporting them through thick and thin. With their latest, Jupiter Ascending, you and the kid are going to need to go out for ice cream afterwards to cheer each other up.
The movie is just not very good. Awkwardly structured, confusingly set-up and drowning in flop sweat, Jupiter Ascending is a real missed opportunity that reminded me of Titan A.E. and, in most cases, the Star Wars prequels – there’s a fun moment here and there but you’re in mediocre town most of the way. I admire The Wachowskis for doing their own thing; this is not a movie that feels the victim of studio notes, but the fact of the matter is that not much of this movie works.
This is a standard "chosen one" story that only seems complicated while you are watching it because it’s so poorly laid out and lethargic in the outset. I was often confused in the first act who the characters were and how they connected to one another. Forty five minutes in, I was quite bored and it took a while for me to get back into the proceedings. That’s my definitive issue with the movie: the story is uninteresting. For a movie with a universe this big, why not have it be that the fate of the universe is at stake? Instead we are put through the paces of an uninteresting family’s power struggle and the fly in the ointment that is Jupiter Jones.
Oz the Great and Powerful, I think it can be said that she should stop acting in fantasy movies. She seems lost and cannot carry them on her shoulders with her limited range. While everyone else seems to be acting in the same movie, Kunis plays her role like she’s the lead in Maid in Manhattan. She’s a damsel in distress that is always acted upon instead of moving the action herself and never seems all that surprised by anything. It gets really annoying after a while. Sean Bean is on hand in a supporting role but he fades into the background. The less said about Eddie Redmayne (who I must say deserves the praise he is getting for The Theory of Everything) the better. He plays his villain like someone suffering from strep throat. It’s hammy nonsense.
Many of the supporting characters and the locations are digital effects. The creature designs are creative but underwhelming; none are stand-outs and the all-CGI environments rob the movie of much vitality. I read a critic somewhere (at some time) describe a movie as an action painting where animation has replaced photography and the actor(s) remain the only thing real in the shot. That is a perfect way to describe the majority of Jupiter Ascending and I don’t mean that to be complimentary.
I really wanted to like this movie. I wish it were more entertaining and not so dull. With a budget reportedly north of $175 million, it’s important to many (namely Warner Bros. and The Wachowskis) that this movie is successful. It does not appear that will be the case, unless it does great internationally. That’s a shame. This movie bombing financially tells the film industry not to give directors like The Wachowskis, who make movies on a big scale, chances to create original projects of this size. This is a case of no winners and only losers. It was important for this movie to do well, even if it doesn’t necessarily deserve it.
Now it’s time for the ice cream. Rocky Road seems appropriate.