JUPITER ASCENDING is a bad film. The one good and resolute thing you can say about the Andy and Lana Wachowski written and directed film is that it is visually stunning. But that’s it for the praise. JUPITER ASCENDING is an overproduced, overdirected, overwritten, and over everything… It’s just a laughable mess.
First and foremost, JUPITER ASCENDING is a sci-fi adventure film. But the Wachowskis added the trappings of melodrama to it. By adding this overly emotional, familial element to the film, it produces numerous scenes that are just downright silly. And poor Eddie Redmayne, who may win an Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in last year’s THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING, is saddled with some of the worst dialogue in the film. It doesn’t help that he plays Balem Abrasax, an effeminate space Lord, as a wheezing, soft-spoken psychopath.
But there is enough clunky dialogue to spread around to the rest of the cast. Channing Tatum, oddly, comes out the least scathed. Perhaps that’s because he is a “splice,” a being created by gene splicing human DNA with that of an animal. His animal is a lycan, and he is a “man” of action and of very few words, thus spared from the film’s poorly written dialogue. His character, Caine Wise, is the film’s hero, but not our main character. That honor goes to Mila Kunis.
Ms. Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a Russian immigrant living and working with her family in Chicago; she is the prize that each Abrasax outer space family member is fighting to apprehend in the story. But Caine Wise is the hero that is trying to save Jupiter, our main character, from being captured. This problem of main character/hero is an insurmountable flaw that only exacerbates the numerous other issues in the script. Someone should have told the Wachowskis that your hero should be your main character in an adventure film, but obviously no one did.
As beautiful looking as the film is—thank you, cinematographer John Toll (BRAVEHEART and LEGENDS OF THE FALL)—there are some poor character design choices. Balem Abrasax’s henchmen are large lizard creatures (think Spider-man’s Dr. Curt Connors’ lizard, but more menacing) that are hard to understand with all of their hissing. And then there is Gugu Mbatha-Raw, a beautiful and wonderful young actress from last year’s BELLE and BEYOND THE LIGHTS, who is also a splice. She doesn’t have a lot of scenes, but the only indication that she is a splice is that she has some seriously large ears—I’m not sure if she was spliced from Mickey Mouse’s DNA or Ross Perot’s—it’s bizarre.
Furthermore, it doesn’t help that Michael Giacchino’s score is a throbbing, overly wrought opera that hits you over the head while you laugh at the unintentional funny dialogue. It is tough to believe that the same man that won an Oscar for Pixar’s UP score and nominated for RATATOUILLE’s, could also be capable of JUPITER ASCENDING’s poor score.
But the real tragedy of JUPITER ASCENDING (besides sitting through this mess) is that it could have been this century’s BLADE RUNNER. Both films are visually stunning, but while BLADE RUNNER effectively combined the sci-fi genre with film noir, JUPITER ASCENDING’s screenplay just doesn’t work on any level. If you do decide to see the film (God help you!), go for the visuals, but you may want to listen to Vangelis’ BLADE RUNNER score in your earbuds while you watch it.
James R. Janowsky
Twitter: @jamesjanowsky and @FILM_Hotspot