A shirtless Channing Tatum, who plays a space werewolf, skates on air with his flying boots through a cornfield. That just about sums up “Jupiter Ascending.” It is baffling that the Wachowski siblings did not stop to think that maybe this film might be horrendous. Never have I watched a movie where, when the credits roll, a fellow movie-goer abruptly stands up in the theater and proclaims to the audience, “Well, that sucked!” I couldn’t have said it better myself.
Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), born on a boat under the stars, is destined for greatness– but first she must be designated to clean toilets. When she uses her boss’s name in order to sell her eggs, she witnesses a group of small, somewhat transparent naked aliens kidnapping her boss. Luckily, the aliens wipe Jupiter’s memory clean and thus, she proceeds with the surgery only for the alien creatures to attempt to kill her. It’s an extremely distasteful scene. Mila Kunis floating in her hospital gown while waiting to get her eggs harvested could not have been portrayed in a negative light any further. But lo and behold, Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), the genetically engineered warrior with both human and wolf DNA, comes to rescue the queen. Apparently, Jones has a bounty on her head since her power can intervene with the ownership of the planets, especially Earth.
When I first saw the trailer for “Jupiter Ascending,” I kept pleading for Eddie Redmayne to drop out before it hit theaters. I haven’t seen an Oscar-worthy performance followed by a film this bad since Sandra Bullock won Best Actress for “The Blind Side” and Worst Actress for “All About Steve” within two nights. Redmayne plays Balem Abrasax, the oldest and most powerful member of the Abrasax family. When we first see Balem, he is rather shriveled and graying, which would normally explain his raspy voice. However, we learn the Abrasax family harvests human genes to make them young, and once Balem sinks into the human genetics pool and appears in his twenties again, it makes zero sense that he has to constantly speak throughout the film as if something is lodged in his throat. I couldn’t help but cringe at his squandered talent whenever he gave orders to his servants and soldiers.
The dialogue throughout the movie is forced and makes viewers burst into laughter for the wrong reasons. We’re not laughing with you, Wachowski siblings, we’re laughing at you. At one point, a bleeding Caine and Jupiter are driving away from the city they nearly destroyed. Caine explains to Jupiter that the alien creatures wipe out the memories of everyone who witnesses anything other-wordly. For the people they miss, well, essentially, no one believes them, and they just become crazed conspiracy theorists. That could seem remotely logical, except Caine just assassinated an entire fleet of the aliens, so how exactly would the aliens know who saw what after witnesses are miles away by the time a new fleet arrives?
The most ridiculous scene in the film also happens to be in the same car shot. Jupiter notices Caine’s wound and opens the glove compartment, fortunately finding a sanitary napkin. She alludes to it being “a girl’s car” and places the sanitary napkin on Caine’s injury. If you’re waiting for some hint of chemistry between Caine and Jupiter, you’re sadly out of luck. None of their interactions seem slightly genuine and the awkward tension is worse than that of “Twilight’s” Bella and Edward. While on the spaceship, Caine explains to Jupiter that he is “more like a dog than a human” and Jupiter responds blankly, “I love dogs.”
Then there’s Jupiter’s family, who remind the audience that they’re Russian by repeatedly telling Stalin jokes, because apparently Russians only know Stalin jokes. Besides Jupiter’s mother, we have zero sympathy when the family gets captured. Jupiter is portrayed as being isolated from them, especially with her lack of an accent, which is why we merely shrug when their lives are at stake. Speaking of accents, I have no idea what the Wachowski siblings were going for here. We’ve got the Russians on Earth, Englishmen in space, and whatever accent Channing Tatum attempts at the beginning but loses throughout the film.
All of the space battles are nauseating. It would have been great if the action scenes are what saved the film, but as the dizzying camera flips and turns, all hope is lost of any aspect saving this movie. Even the various alien races irritate rather than intrigue. The concept of splicing DNA has something going for the movie, but Caine is the only “splice” that is to some extent interesting. There are mouse people, elephant people, and Sean Bean, the most talented in the action-field out of the entire cast, is half-bee, dwelling in his beehive of a house. To add to the absolute randomness of species, there are superfluous robotic people and absurd CGI lizards with wings. The editing is jagged and abrupt, cutting off characters before they finish their sentences and moving on to the next scene.
“Jupiter Ascending” has high ambition, but falls short of the stars. Instead, the audience is left with this cluttered, poorly acted and scripted atrocity, disappointing the sci-fi/fantasy community.
.5 out of 5 stars.
Sammi Brennan can be reached at Sammi.firstname.lastname@example.org.