If there is one thing that can be said about the Wachowskis it’s that they have no shortage of uniqueness in any of their work. In most regards that’s a wonderful thing. “The Matrix” reinvented sci-fi for the new generation and “Cloud Atlas” is a beautiful beast all it’s own.
But then you get to films like “Speed Racer” and now “Jupiter Ascending” that are brimming with so much said originality that it bursts out of the seams and into the realm of so unbelievably weird that even if there was a coherent story you’d have no way of deciphering it.
Jumping between Earth and Jupiter, “Ascending” is the tale of a plain, dull girl aptly named Jupiter (Mila Kunis) who is thrust into a world of space hotties (and weirdies), gravity boots, space lizards and Sean Bean. Now who wouldn’t want to see that movie? I couldn’t imagine anyone raising their hands until they realize that it plays out more like a story of political deception fueled by soap opera tendencies and pacing. And there go the hands.
Now a story of good vs. evil set in operatic style may sound like “Star Wars,” but it ends up being more like “Phantom Menace” than “Empire Strikes Back.” Way too long, more boring than exciting and with actors performing at a fraction of the level they could with three-dimensional characters. At least “Phantom” had dual lightsabers.
There is not a single memorable action scene in the lot and if you can recall one I bet you $100 you can’t describe what was going on. This film was pushed back seven months to work on the effects and I can honestly say it was all wholly unnecessary.
The Wachowskis put far too much detail into all the ships and scenery. There is so much clutter that when characters are spinning around and firing lasers in circles, you can’t discern who is who or where they are.
One scene involves our hero Caine (Channing Tatum) and Sean Bean fighting a horde of space drones, and the whole thing seems to be done in close-up as everything explodes while they navigate a pile of rubble. Now imagine how mind numbing that could be and double it. It’s like having someone spin you around for an hour and then shoving you in a dumpster.
Kunis and Tatum have done far better work and seem to be here simply to say they were in a possible franchise (don’t get your hopes up). Even when Kunis finds out what’s going on she approaches it with a “Well, okay” sense of calm. Tatum as a half-man, half-wolf legionnaire mopes around until he starts skating on his gravity boots. Then he looks constipated.
But I would take all of the above had they cut out the pointless sense aspect of political “intrigue” between the creepy space family fighting for control of whatever it is they want. Even with the fantastic Eddie Redmayne hamming it up for the screen I couldn’t care in the slightest for what they were talking about. All of the fancy dinners and elegant sitting can’t add up to the “Game of Thrones” style they were obviously going for.
This results in two full conclusions and climaxes one after the other and a movie that should have been 20-plus minutes shorter. But there were some glimmers in the 3D and the visuals when they are given space to flourish and though Redmayne may get some flack his screen eating is more than welcome against “Twilight”-esque acting. But a movie where half-wolf Tatum fights a giant, winged lizard should’ve been more fun and less blatant oddness mixed with political realism—especially for something aimed at 15-year-olds.