Mark Reviews Movies

Jupiter Ascending


1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Directors: Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski

Cast: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton, Doona Bae, David Ajala

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity)

Running Time: 2:07

Release Date: 2/6/15

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Review by Mark Dujsik | February 6, 2015

Jupiter Ascending features a trio of villains who are so evil that they squabble over which one of them will oversee the harvesting of the precious bodily fluids of every human being on Earth yet so dull that they want to ensure all the paperwork for such an operation is in order. They have no moral or ethical quandaries about eradicating billions of people, but they'll make certain they do it by the book. You may have heard of the concept of the banality of evil; these villains encapsulate the evil of the banal.

No one in the movie seems particularly shocked by the plan to systematically destroy every human being on Earth, and that includes our Earth-born heroine. In her defense, a lot of unexpected information is thrown her way over the course of the movie. The primary piece, of course, is that Earth is not the only planet that contains life.

From there, there is plenty more: that aliens interact with earthlings on a regular basis but wipe the memory of anyone who may have seen them, that human beings didn't start their existence on Earth, that Earth is just a farm for a corporation, and that the heroine is the genetic reincarnation of the matriarch of a regal family, which, according to intergalactic law, makes her Queen of the Earth. That means there's likely something in intergalactic law about the proper way to carry out a planet-wide genocide, but hey, she used to clean houses for a living and is now a queen. Maybe the whole "It's legal to exterminate an entire species from a planet " thing isn't a high priority for her to fight right now.

Right now, there are contracts to seal, tax identification numbers to file, wills to probate, and property rights to dispute over and over and over again. There's a sequence in which Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), the Earth-born human who learns she's a queen (and that hers is not the silliest name in the universe), and Caine (Channing Tatum), her alien-human-genetically-spliced-with-a-wolf protector, must navigate a Möbius strip of bureaucratic red tape in order for Jupiter to be officially recognized as the primary heir in a will. Our heroes stand in the background, as boredom quickly becomes annoyance.

Writers/directors Andy and Lana Wachowski don't seem to realize that the process is eerily similar to the movie itself. We might laugh out of recognition, but it's because we've been witnessing this sequence play throughout most of the movie.

The other parties in this case are the three children of the matriarch of the Abrasax family. Titus (Douglas Booth) has hired Caine to retrieve Jupiter and bring her to his giant spaceship to discuss a contract agreement—namely to marry her. To iterate for emphasis, Titus wants to marry the woman who is genetically identical to his mother, and if no one seems stunned by the planned mass murder of humanity on Earth, you'd better believe nobody bats an eye at Titus' proposal.

Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) has hired a pair of other bounty hunters to nab Jupiter and transport her to Kalique's palace on an alien planet so that they can discuss a contract agreement. Balem (Eddie Redmayne), the primary antagonist (We know this because he whispers almost all of his lines in the fashion of an especially fussy librarian), has a team of winged lizards try to bring Jupiter to his corporate headquarters within the gaseous hurricane of the planet Jupiter in order to—you guessed it—discuss a contract agreement.

The movie is not all about the excitement of contract negotiations, of course. There are some impressive visual effects, particularly the journeys through the swirling vortex of Jupiter's Great Red Spot and a shot of spaceship emerging from the rocky rings of some alien planet.

We get the requisite actions sequences, too—laser-blaster fights (Caine's gun, amusingly, sounds like a barking dog), gravity-defying chases with the help of Caine's gravity boots (He had wings at one time, but considering that his boots make him fly, that seems a tad showy), ship battles through Chicago and in space, and plenty of climbing up and jumping across collapsing edifices. The sequences never particularly involving, which is mainly a symptom of how routine they are. It's also because they oftentimes become a blur of strobing silver and explosions.

Make no mistake: Jupiter Ascending is superficially big and goofy and ostentatious. The movie seems too afraid to truly express those qualities, though. Hence, we wind up with a movie where the fate of Earth is on the line and the climactic scene focuses on whether or not our heroine will sign a document.

Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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