Tell me if this sounds familiar to you—a bland, underdeveloped main character who hates his or her life but doesn’t realize the reason for existing until someone or something is on the attack, causing the person to rise up, accept destiny and fight back.
This story is tired and old, but I wouldn’t mind that if it had strong characterization, a gripping story and an imaginative world.
Andy and Lana Wachowskis’ latest science-fiction adventure, “Jupiter Ascending,” they certainly have created the world well. The film excels at establishing this new universe with great detail and first-rate computer-generated images. The problem with this is that it constantly distracts from everything else and the characters get lost in it. You know the expression of the actors “chewing the scenery”? This is the scenery chewing the actors.
What’s worse is the scenery is trapped in a story with uninteresting characters, exposition that lost me as quickly as it had me and even a shorter running time than it needs to explain the backstory instead of rushing it out so quickly. However, I should probably take back that last one, because it’s already two hours, and I wouldn’t want to sit through much more of this mess.
Now, to be fair, there are a few nicely done action scenes, including one about attacking spaceships and a soldier flying around in anti-gravity boots, evading enemy fire and keeping hold of the film’s protagonist at the same time.
That was a riveting scene, and it had my attention. A lot of the action is nicely handled. But there’s another problem with that—I easily forget what it is these aliens are fighting for. I assume it’s Earth, as it usually is, but what is the reasoning? (To be fair, I probably missed it in the ongoing exposition.)
Oh yeah, there’s a story here, right? Our protagonist is Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a Russian immigrant to the United States who works as a maid to aid her indigent family in Chicago. Things turn upside-down when a band of aliens try to kill her. It’s a hit ordered by the inter-dimensional Abrasax family — Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) and Titus (Douglas Booth) — who see Jupiter as a threat and as an opportunity to get what they’re interested in. It seems Jupiter is the reincarnation of someone who was originally part of their world, and she may even be of royal blood. A half-man/ half-wolf being named Caine (Channing Tatum) is hired to protect her. As he gains her trust, he brings her back to his world, they experience more chases and fights and she realizes who she truly is by the end of the film.
I must reveal how they find out Jupiter is “royal” because this made me laugh so hard that I almost fell out of my seat in the theater. Jupiter and Caine visit a farm where bees follow Jupiter’s every move. Why is this happening? As one character explains, “Bees recognize royalty.” If you think that’s funny, you’re going to love the true answer to the question, “What killed the dinosaurs?”
So much happens in this hastily rushed story that it is hard to keep track of the different backstories and even harder to be invested in what little character development there is. Jupiter and Caine are supposed to fall in love, but I think Anakin and Padme in the “Star Wars” prequels had better chemistry than these two. There’s never a sense that these people connect in a meaningful way. Jupiter is hardly interesting; she’s just a “regular person” without much depth. Caine is a semi-interesting character, but that’s only in his background of being engineered as a half-man/half-wolf creation. Aside from that, he’s a standard tough badass hero role. Kunis and Tatum are likable actors, but they don’t have much to work with here. The villains actually have nice moments and are given at least some personality traits, such as Titus’ smarmy charm. This brings me to another problem with the film: Eddie Redmayne’s performance as Balem. Balem is a straightforward villain, but Redmayne plays it with what he probably thinks is an “intense whisper,” but comes across as actor Hugo Weaving imitating Dumbledore. Redmayne is currently nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for “The Theory of Everything,” and we know he’s a great actor, but he really made the wrong choice to play this character in this manner.
“Jupiter Ascending” is rated PG-13 for violence, sci-fi action sequences, suggestive content and partial nudity and is playing at the Cinemark Theater in Conway.