Friday, February 6, 2015

Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending is insane (and only occasionally in a good way). The latest from the Wachowskis casts Mila Kunis in the starring role as an illegal immigrant house cleaner who is actually the resurrected matriarch of one the galaxy's richest families. Despite being born on Earth, and having no memory of her previous life, based on her DNA Jupiter is entitled to her former estates and riches which her galactic progeny (Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton) will do anything to prevent from happening.

Saved by a soldier spliced with a wolf on rocket shoes (Channing Tatum), Jupiter eventually finds her way into space to accept her inheritance which includes the planet Earth and everyone living on it.

Did I mention this movie is insane? Jupiter Ascending jumps the tracks fairly early, after a slow introduction to our protagonist's pre-space-faring life, and becomes a constantly exploding runaway train that no one involved in the project lifts a finger to gain control of for the remainder of its 127-minute running time. Visually intriguing, the film is a mess of mashed-up sci-fi ideas borrowed from better films.

On a positive note, other than its slow opening, Jupiter Ascending isn't dull. Sure, it's bat-shit crazy in the way equally-flawed sci-fi projects like The Chronicles of Riddick and The Fifth Element make less and less sense the more you think about them, but it isn't dull. The movie may gather something of a cult following for its sheer insanity. Sadly, like Riddick and Element, it's not all that smart (or even coherent) either.

Jupiter is the only real three-dimensional character in the film as the rest of the cast is pigeon-holed into ethic sterotypes (her Earth family), complete CGI creations (the interchangeable lizard soldiers), forgettable background actors (most of crew of ships Jupiter travels on), or bizarre one-note characters. Tatum is passable as the heroic loner but there's absolutely nothing more to his character than that and the movie never sold me on any real chemistry between the half-wolf and Earthborn galactic billionaire. And it's good thing the sets are mostly CGI because Redmayne devours everything is sight in his portrayal of one of the most ridiculous villains captured on film in recent memory.

As a movie experience Jupiter Ascending is at best a curiosity. Its IMAX 3D presentation is layered and beautifully rendered but its storyline and lack of coherent purpose or message doom it early on. It's spectacle, and at times visually interesting spectacle in the way a brain-dead Michael Bay action flick can keep your interest when the story isn't getting in the way, but other than its sheer ridiculousness it has little else to hang its hat on or recommend viewing. It's certainly not worth the high cost of an IMAX 3D ticket. In fact, except for those entranced by cinematic trainwrecks or willing to accept nearly anything from Wachowskis (even something as flawed as Matrix Revolutions), I'm not sure it's worth the cost of a Redbox rental.

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