Movie Review: ‘JUPITER ASCENDING’ Descends Into Oblivion

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Preston Barta // Editor


JUPITER ASCENDING | 127 min. | PG-13
Director: Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski
Stars: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne, Tuppence Middleton and Sean Bean

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.

Channing Tatum takes Mila Kunis for a ride on his rocket boots in JUPITER ASCENDING. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

Channing Tatum takes Mila Kunis for a ride on his rocket boots in JUPITER ASCENDING. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.

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.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.