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.

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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]?”

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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