By Gary Murray
Starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis and Sean Bean
Written and directed by the Wachowski Brothers
Running time 123 min
Selig Film Rating Cable
Jupiter Ascending is a big monstrous, chaotic mess which may or may not be a good thing. The film has been pulled from the summer release schedule into the backwoods of February also-rans. It is written and directed by the Wachowski Brothers, the men behind Cloud Atlas, Speed Racer and The Matrix series. This is their most ambitious film that works less as it goes along.
Jupiter Ascending opens with the death of her Russian father and the birth of his daughter named Jupiter. With such a traumatic experience coupled with a wonderful one, Jupiter’s mother leaves for America. But life for young Jupiter is harsh, being a maid and scrubbing toilets. But, the astrological stars point to a better and brighter future for the woman.
On the other side of the plot, three siblings are discussing inheritance after the harvesting of a planet. Even though their empire is equally divided, some of the worlds have a greater value then others. The crown jewel of the worlds is Earth. It is also rumored that the Earth holds the re-incarnated image of the sibling’s mother. That person is Jupiter.
Since all three want more power, the three decide to use different villainous methods to achieve their goal. To guard Jupiter, Caine (Channing Tatum) is sent to be her protector. He a hybrid—half human half wolf. He is also a trained soldier.
Caine saves Jupiter from some nefarious aliens posing as doctors who want to kill her. There are many groups who want the young woman dead. This starts the first of many battle scenes, this one over and on all of Chicago.
We soon find out that Caine is her guardian, her knight in shining armor so to speak. We also find out the exact reason for Earth’s being and where mankind actually came from. There is also the explanation of what exactly harvesting entails.
We go to a super-cool looking refining ship hidden in the clouds of Jupiter (the planet) as well as other worlds where the other siblings plan and scheme to align themselves with Jupiter who is actually the owner of Earth. She eventually accepts her role as owner of the planet and all the back-stabbing it will entail.
The film bounces from action scenes to plot explanation political intrigue, kind of a Star Wars meets King Lear but without the fun of the first or the royal affairs of state of the latter. This movie bounces around more than a pinball machine ball.
Right in the middle of the action, there is a series of scenes where Jupiter has to deal with levels of bureaucracy of the home world that ends with Terry Gilliam of Monty Python fame. It is strange and quirky and totally out of place. The entire exercise feel as it is from Brazil.
And there in lies the problem. So much of this film feels as it has been lifted from other sci-fi adventure features. There are flashes of Barbarella, Flash Gordon. Aliens, The Fifth Element, Dune, A.I. and half a dozen more films of this ilk within the framework of this finished product. And it does not measure up to any of those.
One of the other big problems is with Channing Tatum. He is sorely miscast in his role. It might be the costume with the pointy ears or it just might be a character that is not well-written. Either way, the entire lynchpin character does not work. But he does have a cool shield used to deflect lasers.
Much better is Mila Kunis. Since she always looks overwhelmed in every role she’s played, here that emotion fits perfectly with the material. She kept reminding me of Mary-Louise Parker in RED, that character totally out of her depth. But Mila is not the actress that Mary-Louise is.
On the plus side, the special effects are just amazing to look at. One believes both the otherworldly creatures and the other worlds that populate them. The directors have always been able to put impressive eye candy in every film they ever created and this is a masterwork of visuals. They should have worked just has hard to make a tight coherent storyline.
When the Wachowski Brothers succeed, they are some of the more brilliant filmmakers on the planet. But when they fail, they fail spectacularly. Jupiter Ascending is so many ways is a spectacular failure. There is this epic degree of things going wrong here that one can see this become a major cult favorite in decades to come.