Jupiter Ascending review: a beautiful mess from The Wachowskis

Jupiter Ascending is a hard to turn away from disaster

What a beautiful mess. That perfectly sums up Jupiter Ascending, the latest disaster spectacle from The Wachowskis who I’m convinced would have been better suited for the silent film era where annoyances like plot and a comprehensive script wouldn’t be nearly as problematic.


We get both good Wachowskis and bad Wachowskis here. They create a fantastic original universe with beautiful backdrops, intricate costumes and unique character designs. Andy and Lani Wachowski consistently deliver all you want and more from an eye candy perspective.

It’s just that pesky script that keeps proving a more frustrating nemesis than an army of questionable CGI Agent Smiths. Jupiter Ascending is disappointingly yet another in a line of films that gives more credibility to the notion that maybe The Wachowskis just got real lucky with “The Matrix [Blu-ray]?”


At first, the film rolls along just fine as we’re introduced to Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis, Ted), a young directionless girl stuck cleaning homes with her mother and aunt.

Little does she know she’s been targeted by the Abasax siblings — Balem (Eddie Redmayne, The Theory of Everything), Titus (Douglas Booth) and Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) — who worry she is the rightful heiress to their galaxy-spanning empire.

Before the siblings bounty hunters and assassins kill her, she’s rescued by Caine (Channing Tatum, 22 Jump Street (2 Discs) [Blu-ray]), a human/wolf hybrid who wears jet boots allowing him to “skate” through the sky.


That rescue scene is dazzling and straight up stunning, but things quickly plummet back to Earth once The Wachowskis have to put more focus on the script.

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Caine takes Jupiter to his friend, Stinger (Sean Bean, Game of Thrones: Season 1 [Blu-ray]), for assistance leading to another fun battle before each of the Abasax siblings try different tactics to get Jupiter on their side.

The plot becomes overly predictable after awhile as Jupiter encounters one of the Abasax siblings, sees through their machinations and moves on to the next.

Jupiter Ascending - Tuppence Middleton and Mila Kunis

There’s a ton of potential in this universe from the various class of species, the gene-splicing efforts to the familiar Wachowski theme of using humans for fuel/restoration efforts, but they desperately need a screenwriter to refine these wondrous ideas into cohesive fashion or simply give viewers a reason to care about the characters.

That said the actors aren’t able to salvage much with their characters. Kunis, bless her, seems to be the only actor unaware of how lousy the movie is and gives it her all, but she’s largely stuck in naïve damsel in distress mode throughout.

Natalie Portman was reportedly cast as Jupiter, but dropped out — presumably after actually reading the script — and was replaced by her “Black Swan (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Combo Pack) [Blu-ray]” co-star Kunis.


Tatum has more of the Kyle Reese character with half the motivation and he’s just asked to spend most of the film shirtless.

You can get the sense that Redmayne was going for something different than the typical aristocratic villain, but he makes Balem so pretentiously preening that he quickly becomes the main source of a lot of the film’s unintended comedy. Fortunately, the completely random happenings in the script ensure he won’t be mocked all alone.


By the final act, not even a thrilling last battle can salvage the film, which conceivably would be just as good or perhaps better without the dialogue.

Jupiter Ascending is more of the same confusing, baffling and gorgeous experience that’s become synonymous with The Wachowskis and there’s no need to travel outside the solar system for it anymore.

Rating: 4 out of 10

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  • keith

    Big azzzzz bomb coming. .
    It look like one of gas station dvd bin movies. Milas is cuthe but I still don’t see her as a leading lady unless it’s a comedy. Tatum. Looks like a throwaway David Bowie look

  • It’s another silly piece from the Wachowskis, but it’s one that I actually had fun with. Good review Lyle.

  • You’re being too kind. Penny bin at the dollar store would be better.

  • There’s some parts to like for sure but the script was a mess!

  • I had hoped this one would be good, because it looked interesting, but I suspected it was too much to hope from the “Hack-chowskis”, masters of high concept bloat that they are. I don’t want to be mean about it, but honestly, they’re like Michael Bay, just with a more interesting aesthetic (and his movies at least always make tons of money). I never understood why people went so ga-ga over THE MATRIX in the first place and couldn’t believe anybody wanted sequels to it, since it seemed to be a very self-contained story. I didn’t understand why people thought it was so “new” and “groundbreaking”, because there was nothing in it I hadn’t seen elsewhere, and the much-vaunted philosophy behind it was high school level at best (and I’m being generous there).

  • It has potential. They really need to find a screenwriter who can translate their ideas into a two-hour movie.

    I’m a fan of the first Matrix, but felt like they had diminishing returns each sequel. At least with those films the action scenes were cool.

  • Sorry. Didn’t mean to go off on the rant there. I got nothing against the Wachowskis. I just don’t understand the hype. They have an interesting sense of style going for them that makes for decent popcorn fair once-in-a-while (the orginal MATRIX is one I would consider a decent popcorn movie, for example, and SPEED RACER though clearly a bad movie, but it’s still pretty fun) but doesn’t equate with good storytelling on the whole.

  • though clearly a bad movie, is still pretty fun

  • Please, that was hardly a rant 😉
    I’d have a better take on the whole Matrix saga if it had a better ending.

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