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Review: JUPITER ASCENDING Is One Wild, Wacky Mess of a Movie

We should try to give the science-fiction creators a little extra slack sometimes. Of all the film genres, sci-fi has the most potential to turn wild and wonderful ideas into outrageously ridiculous movies. The Wachowski siblings know this better than anyone. The Matrix was a pretty insane idea that became a stunningly cool, clever film; Speed Racer has gone on to earn a small but vocal fan-base thanks in large part to its unexpected sweetness, and Cloud Atlas deserves a lot of credit for trying to bring a little artistry and sincerity to a genre generally populated by little more than spaceships, robots, and explosions.

I suppose that’s sort of what makes Jupiter Ascending so painfully difficult to sit through: not that it’s trite, obvious, corny, and beholden to (at least) ten other science fiction stories; but that Andy and Lana Wachowski now seem to be emulating the Michael Bay style of filmmaking: throw a ton of money into special effects, give attractive actors very simple things to say, and cobble a screenplay together from any old sci-fi clichés and stereotypes you can think of.

For a film not based on an existing property, Jupiter Ascending sure doesn’t feel all that original. In fact it feels like the unholy offspring of The Fifth Element, Dune, Battlefield Earth, The Chronicles of Riddick, Flash Gordon, and Solarbabies (yes, Solarbabies) with a few sprinkles of Robert Heinlein here and Edgar Rice Burroughs there. (Oh, and there’s one overlong homage to Terry Gilliam, which is so painful to behold that it starts to feel like one of those Japanese game shows in which contestants are forced to endure torture for no good reason.)

The plot is patently ridiculous, but frankly it’s the least of this film’s problems, so here goes: a miserable toilet-scrubber named Jupiter (Mila Kunis) is rescued from a team of alien gynecologists by a half-man/half-wolf in flying boots (Channing Tatum) who informs her that the Earth is owned by a sniveling bastard named Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne) and also that she is the reincarnation of the Queen of the Universe. And that’s just the first half-hour. Once we finally get the hell off Earth and into deep space, that’s when things get well and truly languid, garish, and confusing. Suffice to say that Jupiter Ascending has more “space politics” nonsense sequences than anything this side of the Star Wars prequels, and much of it is delivered by Eddie Redmayne in a wacky, asthmatic whisper! It’s so damn weird!

Despite a visual presentation that indicates a massive budget, not much attention seems to have been paid to things like line readings, cohesive storytelling, or anything in the realm of energy, suspense, or intensity. In their place we get turgid diatribes from a litany of unpleasant, uninteresting characters, several hollow chases and gun battles in which nothing of consequence happens very quickly, and a heroine who falls into holes and needs to be rescued by a hunky mutant with flying boots a whole lot more frequently than she logically ought to.

And I haven’t even covered Jupiter’s painfully stereotypical family full of bickering Russians that has no real purpose in the film but keeps popping up regardless, the side characters who simply switch allegiances and betray their friends without anyone really caring, and a third act that actually relies on, get this, an evil prince who wants nothing more than to marry our leading lady. If this is what passes for an original screenplay, I’ll stick with the honest adaptations.

Jupiter Ascending reportedly went through a tough post-production, and that’s pretty plain to see from just looking at the screen, but I take no pleasure in asserting that this screenplay was probably not even close to ready for production, or that the final result is a staggeringly bad film. If the very best thing you can say about a two-hour film is that the score is solid and some of the special effects are cool, well, that’s a problem. As a guy who tries to find the good in even the silliest of space movies, Jupiter Ascending simply blew my mind. I think I saw Sean Bean in there a few times, but somewhere between Tatum’s ninth bout of space-surfing and Kunis’ third altercation with gravity, the movie just defeated me. I’m sort of flabbergasted, actually.

But yes, I will be there opening night for whatever Lana and Andy Wachowski cook up next. They’re way too cool to be deterred or dismissed by one goofball misfire.

Rating: 2 rocket-booted burritos for pure audacity alone

2 burritos

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  1. hellrazoromega says:

    I hear that the studio forced them to cut something upwards of 45 minutes from the film, which would explain the choppiness many have complained about.

  2. scott says:

    Two soggy food stuffs is too generous 1 at a push this movie is awfull!!! PS i am a sci-fi fan … But its just an exercise in making money …a turgid one at that

  3. Sighs says:

    From a huge Wachowski fan… this review is spot on.

  4. marry says:

    Watch jupiter ascending full movie>>>

  5. Halo says:

    I actually quite enjoyed it.  An original film instead of another reboot or franchise, a decadent over-the-top story with insane visuals.  Yeah, hate it all you want, it was really fun.

  6. Josh says:

    I’m so very sick of PG and PG-13 Sci-Fi films, they all tend to be more tween porn bull like the Twilight films of the recent few years. The better Sci-Fi films have been put out by Neil Blomkap and we all know it. Hell I’d like it if he did a more updated version of a really good Heinlein novel named Farnham’s Freehold which many should read if you enjoy good sci-fi novels in general.

  7. Vern says:

    This movie looks beautiful, the design is second to none, phenomenal.

    Outside of that its a mess, a barrage of cliche and, for me the biggest sin for an action film, its boring. A little way in there’s an action sequence that just goes on, and on, it’s well choreographed, I suppose, but the characters are so dull, I just don’t care if any of this ‘peril’ gets them or not (it won’t these are the leads, and we’re only twenty minutes in).

    JA has the blueprint of The Matrix, the end shot Harry is eulogizing is exactly what they did with Neo when he stepped out of the phone box at the end of The Matrix, except that shot came after a tight 90 odd minutes of game-changing excellence.

    I’m sick to death of theatrical cuts of films that are obviously just a string of action beats with all the character removed for running time, if you can’t tell your story in 90 – 100 minutes, the story you want to tell isn’t a movie, it’s a TV show, maybe somewhere there’s a three hour cut of this mess that’s good, but I doubt it.

    Mila Kunis is an actress I’ve liked in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and even Ted, but here she is given nothing to do but flounder in poorly written nonsense – and I’m not talking about all the twiddly space bollocks, all of the family stuff is fucking awful, spectacularly unconvincing faux Russian accents from British actors who you can hear counting the cash in their heads.

    If I’m glad of one thing, it’s that this tripe has spluttered onto the screen before Eddie Redmayne’s award buzz has died down, this cack is Cuba Gooding Jr in everything since Jerry Maguire level shite. A couple of lacklustre weeks in the cinemas, and then he can brush it under the carpet, and get on with riding his rising star.

    And then Terry Gilliam shows up, and instead of enjoying the homage to him and his work, it just made me sad that we live in a world where The Wachowski’s can get a van full of cash to make this rubbish when Gilliam can’t get a film off the ground, Terry Gilliam’s Jupiter Ascending would have been amazing, odd, fun, creepy and joyful, instead we get none of this.

    If anyone bought DVDs any more then this could go on one of those cheapo double-bill discs with Battlefield Earth, and then everyone could spend the rest of their lives not buying it.

    Jupiter Ascending. Chances Of Me Ever Watching Another Wachowski Film Descending.

  8. Jack Faire says:

    Eww it’s always bad when people try to emulate a bad director like Terry Gilliam. Kind of cool that there are shades of a good movie like Solarbabies. 

  9. Johnny says:

    Those Japanese game shows aren’t even real game shows.  They’re comedy bits in variety shows where low rent celebrities put themselves through anything for screen time.  So if that’s the case then the comparison does seem fitting.

  10. Xoandre says:

    1. Yes, the damn whispering throughout the film was annoying. Eddie Redmayne was fantastic in The Theory of Everything, but in this – with that hoarse, breathy mumbling, it is quite a strain on the audience to make the effort of focusing their (non-pointed) ears on his vocals.

    2. True to pattern, nearly every scene with someone using an accent (British, Russian or other) should have had subtitles, because the actor in question is not even trying to speak clearly or enunciate. No, I am not harping on their accents. I am just astonished that the volume seemed extremely low and that the actor was in no way projecting, enunciating, or being clear in their lines. It all comes across as a mumble fast jumble of words that apparently have no bearing on the story, or they would have been covered through ADR Dubbing.

    3. The dialogue overall seems on the same level of Anakin’s complete list of lines from the SW prequels. Did they bring in George Lucas to rewrite the lines?

    4. One reference I am surprised is missing from the review is how (and they even mention it in the film) this is basically a Cinderella tale with lots of fast-cut spaceship battles that need not be so strobe-effect cut together. Excitement is actually REDUCED by the intercutting of 20 edited shots per second.

    5. Perhaps the Wachowskis could get those invisible aliens to erase our memory of this film and have them take it back to the drawing board, reshoot half of it, and correct the dang audio.

  11. Derek says:

    Saw it wished that I had read this before hand. This review nailed it. There is 30 minutes of plot 90 minutes of shooting, flying and fighting. Cool graphics but epic stinker.

  12. np says:

    Yikes! This reviewer wants to be harsh just for the sake of it! Why the confusion? Three siblings want to control trade. They believe in reincarnation and their murdered mother’s will goes to her reincarnated self and not to them. End of story. Great effects and homage to the directors’ influences, something a lot of other directors have done, sci-fi or not with a lot less criticism. Just learn to enjoy the space opera movie for what it was not what you wanted it to be!  Oh, and the Russians I watched the movie with were actually thankful that for once they were not portrayed as evil in the movies.

    • Halo says:

      Agreed. I’ve read several reviews that claimed the plot was hard to follow. I don’t get it. It was very clear what was happening. I’m surprised so many people seem to deny the sheer thrill-ride this movie is.

  13. Snick3 says:

    I think it was a great movie, one you should catch at least catch at the matinee. I don’t think 3D did anything for it but I will see it again in 2D just to make a comparison. I give it 4 out of 5 stars. 

  14. Randy says:

    It was actually a great movie that is a must see at the theater. At the very least you should see it at a matinee. I don’t think that 3D was necessary but I will go see it again in 2D just to make a comparison. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. 

  15. Alex says:

    “As a guy who tries to find the good in even the silliest of space movies, Jupiter Ascending simply blew my mind.”

    Please learn how to write.

  16. Rumplestilskin says:

    Stop giving the Wachowskis credit for the Matrix. They were sued and lost because they stole it. 

  17. Rumplestilskin says:

    Stop giving the Wachowski’s credit for the Matrix. They were sued and lost because they stole it. 

  18. epobirs says:

    The Wachowskis are good at scenes and bad at movies. The Peter Principle at work for second unit directors.

  19. Chris says:

    Dave, I look at Rotten Tomatoes as a whole and weed out the obvious. I only trust like one or two critics on there. But it was like everyone had the same issues with it. And knowing how those brother write (Cloud Atlas) It was probably indeed a mess. I’ll still watch it anyhow.

  20. Anonio says:

    I went to watch it and I ended up having a good time. True, story and characters needed more cooking but I was entertain from beginning to end. Some guys in the cinema were all noticeably excited after the first spacecraft battle over the city ended.

  21. Tavo says:

    This has to be the best review I’ve ever read.

  22. Rob says:

    Previewed it a year ago.  Mr. Weinberg is spot on. They delayed it a year and it still apparently sucks.

  23. Dave says:

    It’s a good thing you peons have these “critics” around to tell you what to like otherwise you might have to form your own fucking opinion. Goddamn sheeple.

    • Jim says:

      Reading through this, it’s fairly apparent that this is only a summary of what one person didn’t like. But you clicked on it and read it despite the fact you know what reviews are and what they do, and then still knocked your blocks over and shit your pants. It seems as if you’re the one with the weak mind. 

    • Dan says:

      So… you showed up to a film review to troll everyone reading the review? I think you’re the one wasting your time here, bub.

  24. Michael says:

    One misfire?  I think you miscounted. I count 1 good movie over a dozen years ago. 

  25. Mark says:

    Um, ouch! That’s a pretty good review. I’ll wait for it on Netfix when I have some debilitating condition that forces me to be bed ridden.