Movie Review: Jupiter Ascending (2015)
“Expand your universe.”
Jupiter Ascending (2015)
Director: The Wachowskis
Cast: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne
Synopsis: A young woman discovers her destiny as an heiress of intergalactic nobility and must fight to protect the inhabitants of Earth from an ancient and destructive industry.
For Jupiter Ascending, their biggest flop to date, the Wachowskis raid the set-up from The Matrix, their biggest hit, swapping cute but wooden Keanu Reeves for cute but wooden Mila Kunis (Friends With Benefits, Ted) and off-loading the metaphysical philosophy. In The Matrix, Thomas A. Anderson was a computer programmer who searched for something he couldn’t define in cyberspace before being whisked off to a world beyond his imagination, while in Jupiter Ascending, Jupiter Jones cleans toilets and, like the father she never knew, seeks solace in the stars – or, at least she would if she could afford a damn telescope – before being whisked, etc, etc.
The world to which Jupiter is whisked by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum – 21 Jump Street, This is the End), a genetically engineered wolf/man hybrid in hover boots, looks spectacular, but it’s really pretty dull. The war waged by two siblings over their dead mother’s legacy – a planet called Earth – is deflected by the fact that, for a reason never satisfactorily explained, modest little Jupiter is actually next in line to inherit. Balem, the oldest sibling, played by Eddie Redmayne with all the louche insouciance of an opium den regular, tries to have her killed as she sells her eggs for cash on Earth. Forced to fall back on more subtle measures, younger brother Titus (Douglas Booth) – a kind of space playboy – tries to trick Jupiter into marriage so that, after doing away with her, he can claim the Earth for himself. Why are they both so keen to own a troublesome planet with a leaky roof and dodgy heating? Business, of course – what else?
There’s a depressing sense of calculation about Jupiter Ascending that we don’t expect from the Wachowskis; it’s as if they listed all the required ingredients for a space opera and ticked them off one by one. The megalomaniac villain, the vulnerable princess, the dashing hero, they’re all present and correct. The action sequences are equidistantly spaced to prevent us from growing bored by the pedestrian storyline, and the violence is carefully modulated in order to obtain that all-important 12A certificate. It all looks very slick and professional, but it’s also empty and soulless, with no hint of the kind of creative investment the Wachowskis put into The Matrix.
This creative ennui also extends to Jupiter Ascending’s lead characters. Jupiter and Caine have to be two of the dullest creatures you are ever likely to encounter in a movie. They lack any kind of sexual chemistry, which just reinforces the by-the-numbers feel as they inevitably edge closer to a final-reel romance. Jupiter is also one of the most passive heroines to grace our screens in many a year, constantly needing to be rescued by Caine until she has no option but to fight back in her final showdown with the insipid Balem, who, although played with languid laissez-faire by Redmayne, is ironically the only character that possesses a spark of life.
Although Jupiter Ascending is by no means a disaster, it does feel like the work of people who feel compelled to emulate the unique piece of work upon which their reputation was built rather than following their own impulses. One can’t help wondering whether a move away from the genre might help revive the Wachowskis’ creative spark.
(Reviewed 4th May 2016)
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