I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Preston Barta // Editor
I have to give the Wachowskis some credit— they paint pretty fascinating sci-fi universes. Ever since THE MATRIX they have been creating some of the most visual worlds around. They also have come up with some unique concepts. For instance, in their latest feature, JUPITER ASCENDING, Earth and thousands of other planets are all owned by different families who use them to farm in order to create a forever young potion. There’s something in this idea that draws your interest, but everything else around it causes you to shake your head with frustration.
It’s clear the Wachowskis’ ambitions extend beyond just this one story. With a universe as rich as the one they created here, there are so many directions they can take the story. It’s just unfortunate that their ambition is wasted on a story that doesn’t seem to capitalize on such a universe.
In the film, Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a woman who dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of scrubbing toilets. Sound stupid already? Let’s continue— But when Caine (Channing Tatum), some genetically engineered “pointy-eared bastard,” arrives to Earth to find her, Jupiter begins to feel as though her life was made for something more, which is true. She soon realizes that she is royalty. She is the reincarnation of the mother of some otherworldly rich folk.
You will either find this idea pretty neat or ridiculous. Just depends how you like your sci-fi. With all its aliens, elephant and lizard faced species, there is a lot to admire within (or laugh at). Aesthetically speaking, this is a dazzling feature. Like AVATAR, it’s crazy to imagine how much thought the Wachowskis put into creating all the things they did; that’s the mindblowing aspect. However, one wishes that they would focus their minds on penning a more engaging script and characters.
The film does very little with the development of its characters. They feel more like caricatures guiding us through a curious universe. Jupiter and Caine’s backstories are brought forth. However, Kunis and Tatum play them in such a lifeless way that audiences only feel they are getting a small fraction and not a full character. Even as a lead, Tatum’s Caine is merely just a body meant to fight and defend Jupiter. The only reason why you may feel for Tatum’s character is because you are thinking of the actor from better movies. You may feel somewhat for Kunis’ Jupiter, but even then, she is just a walking narrator that only asks questions for exposition purposes. Eddie Redmayne, on the other hand, coming off of his recent Oscar nomination, shows more emotional depth, even if his villain character is one dimensional and whispers like Richard Gere (it’s kind of funny when he yells).
In the end, JUPITER ASCENDING marks yet another spectacle from the Wachowskis, but their MATRIX days are long, long behind them. There’s plenty to admire from a visual standpoint, but not enough to say it’s worth strapping in for. Sit this one out.
JUPITER ASCENDING opens tonight.