Loopy ‘Jupiter Ascending’ is a way-out, sci-fi mind scramble
Starring Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis & Eddie Redmayne
Directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski
There’s a dinosaur wearing a motorcycle jacket in the dining room, a shirtless interplanetary hunk (Channing Tatum) zipping around the sky on rocket skates, and a maid (Mila Kunis) scrubbing the toilet who’s actually queen of the universe.
Better buckle up: This is one way-out, sci-fi space-opera mind scramble. But the filmmaking-siblings team of writers, producers and directors Lana and Andy Wachowski typically don’t do anything small. Previously, they’ve given us the time-and-space-shifting The Matrix (1999) and its two sequels; a futuristic political thriller (V For Vendetta); a live-action adaptation of the Japanese anime classic Speed Racer; and the sprawling, brain-warping Cloud Atlas.
The Wachowskis’ movies are often lauded for visual sumptuousness but criticized for lack of lucid storytelling, and that could certainly be said for Jupiter Ascending, a lavish, fantastically over-the-top spectacle of outrageous special effects, Baroque set design, outlandish characters and fantastical ideas that never stop zapping and zinging. But so many of those ideas fail to find their way into a coherent package, and the whole movie rings loudly, if not proudly, in the major key of gobbledygook.
The “Jupiter” of the title is Jupiter Jones (Kunis), a lowly Russian immigrant who grows up in Chicago cleaning bathrooms, completely unaware that her lofty astral pedigree has made her the subject of an intergalactic bounty hunt. As how Jupiter came by her out-of-this-world DNA is explained (sort of), we meet the various characters that have all come looking for her.
Channing Tatum is the genetically engineered, half-wolf, half-human mutant who zips to Earth to warn Jupiter about who she really is—and what kind of danger she’s in. Eddie Redmayne is an alien business tycoon dealing in a deluxe brand of “youth serum.” Sean Bean, from TV’s Game of Thrones and the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, is a scruffy, Han Solo-ish, galaxy-hopping good guy.
It’s all wild, weird, and a high-heavens, hot-mess hoot, especially when you realize you’re seeing two guys just coming off tony, Oscar-nominated movies (Tatum’s Foxcatcher and Redmayne, for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything) now chewing such enormous, supernova-size slices of cosmic canned ham. The whole thing is so earnestly, self-seriously over-the-top, so ridiculously rich in excess, it’s like a gonzo, gazillion-dollar mash-up of Plan Nine From Outer Space and Guardians of the Galaxy steered by a committee of 13-year-old boys hyped on an all-weekend Star Wars/Star Trek marathon and fueled by an endless supply of Mountain Dew and Pixy Sticks.
But hey: In what other flick are you going to find Channing Tatum grunting like a (half) wolf, zipping around shirtless in zero-gravity shoes a la Buck Rogers at an Olympic speed-skating event, and slugging it out with a dinosaur? You’d have to traverse many a multiplex—if not the entire galaxy—to find anything that shoots for the stars quite like the loopy Jupiter Ascending. And if you’re going to ride this rocket, into an orbit that that swings w-a-a-a-y out there, well, don’t hope to understand it, just try to hang on.
—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine