Movie Review: Jupiter Ascending (2015) Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis

Channing Tatum gravity boots Mila Kunis jupiter ascending still

The Matrix creators’ new ambitious venture is like as though it’s a bloated film adaptation of a very cool manga series

(WARNING: This review may contain spoilers)

The creators of The Matrix trilogy, Lana and Andy Wachowski (most recent work being Cloud Atlas), are finally back putting their brains to hard creative work again to come up with a new original premise for a new sci-fi action flick. Inspired by Lana’s favourite book Odyssey and The Wizard of Oz, Jupiter Ascending is supposedly about the changes in person after going through a journey, an outcome which feels forced in the end rather than earned.

This film’s universe created by the Wachowskis is, although flawed, very interestingly complex, with an interpretation on reincarnation and a perspective on life beyond this world. But unfortunately, it comes with an overly familiar The Chosen One-like story, like in Star Wars (humble poor kid Luke Skywalker is revealed to be the son of a legendary Jedi and the galaxy’s New Hope) and The Matrix itself. Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is a well fed-looking lazy janitor who hates her life but after being saved by alien hunter Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) from being killed, she soon discovers that she’s somehow genetically an intergalactic royalty and the rightful heir to Earth. Caine is hired by one of the three siblings from the royal House of Abrasax, who are all eager to own the planet for their own gains, to find Jupiter and bring her into outer space.

Bae Doo Na jupiter ascending still

The 7-month delay of the film’s release is justified as the visual and special effects turned out pretty awesome, and its new trailers is far more fun than the first ones. The action scenes are fun and exciting. They have like mecha-like space crafts flying around with big laser guns battling enemies, and Caine’s equipped with gravity shoes that allows him to skate in the air and fight. All these are actually very, very cool indeed even for an adult like me. Too bad these enjoyable sequences chasing, shooting and fighting in the air are insufficient. The movie actually also has quite a few anime-like moments, with silly costumes, coloured hair and all. With a little rewrite and expansion, Jupiter Ascending could’ve really been a great TV or animated series. As one movie, however, it’s rather bloated. Everything feels either half-assed or rushed to fit into a 2-hour film.

We all know the Wachowskis could conceive and direct good entertaining movies but they were never actually good at writing scripts, and they still haven’t improved at all. The dialogues here are as cheesy and shallow as in most of their films. The humour and romance are at teen level at most. And despite its original universe, the story is filled with cliches (nude villains coming out of the bathtub, how unnecessarily cliched is that now?) and dumb silly excuses and conveniences for action and additional drama and complications, like the random home robbery at the beginning that took Jupiter’s father’s life which is unnecessary and it doesn’t offer more depth or connection to the plot. Even her mother doesn’t look as depressed as she’s supposed to. And why do the aliens have to disguise as doctors and nurses just to hunt Jupiter when it’s already shown in an earlier scene that they could easily barge into homes and then use the Men In Black-like device to wipe out the people’s memory? And like most intergalactic sci-fi flicks, it’s also guilty of not explaining why English is also the aliens’ language.

Sean Bean meme jupiter ascending

The acting performances are mostly mediocre. Mila Kunis (The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, Oz the Great and the Powerful) only looks pretty here, with a good “I’m all wet down there” face (Jupiter, descend now, baby), as she provides an unengaging portrayal of a character that the audience is supposed to relate with. It’s partially the Wachowskis’ fault as well for the poor character development for both protagonists and villains. Non-Earthling Channing Tatum (22 Jump Street, Foxcatcher) here is pretty much just Tatum, with almost zero effort of creating an entirely new personality of a sci-fi white knight. Oscar nominee for Best Actor Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), however, is highly menacing for his main antagonist role as Balem Abrasax, but his screen time is way too limited. For a movie like this, it needs a real big baddie for a final boss fight in its climax, which it doesn’t exactly have.

However, despite all the downsides, I’d always prefer this, a real attempt of something refreshing, over a half-assed adaptation of a young adult novel. It’s commendable that The Wachowskis gave a damn to be ambitious with this new universe that they were creating and it is indeed very interesting. Pity that they put in all the effort for certain departments and forgot about being satisfyingly entertaining.

jupiter ascending jupiter descending meme mila kunis sex

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What I would’ve named the film: “Nothing to Do with the Planet Jupiter”

Malaysia censorship: Some sequences with mild nudity were cut even for the press screening held yesterday at TGV 1 Utama.

To watch in 3D? The film was converted from 2D in post-production, which explains why not a single impact was felt even when we were watching in the great digital IMAX hall, as though we had the glasses on just to see words pop-out.

Second opinion: My girlfriend thought that the movie wasn’t bad, that it has a good balance of everything and the action scenes are cool.

Verdict: The visuals, universe concept and the very few action scenes are the only things that are good in this space opera. But still, rather this than the typical quick cash-ins and no-brainers any time.

Rating: 3 / 5

Jupiter Ascending poster malaysia largeGenre: Space opera, sci-fi, romance, action
Running Time: 128 minutes
Directors-writers: The Wachowskis
Cast: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton, Doona Bae, James D’Arcy, Tim Pigott-Smith, Bae Doo Na

Malaysia Release Date: 5 February 2015
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures Malaysia
Production: Village Roadshow Pictures, Anarchos Productions

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  1. Thomas Watson

    The big failure of this movie was that it was over ambitious and wasn't able to really pull it together. If only they stopped trying to make it all make sense, added a bit more fun and just went with the ridiculousness.

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