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‘Jupiter Ascending’ is a new creative low for the Wachowskis

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(Warner Bros. Pictures)

(Warner Bros. Pictures)

In “Jupiter Ascending,” Channing Tatum plays Caine, a half-man, half-dog who flies around on magical levitating boots saving Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) from a variety of perilous alien-related situations. That sentence alone should convey how ridiculous this movie is. At one point, Caine tells Jupiter that they can’t be involved romantically because he “has more in common with a dog” than with her, and she replies, “But I love dogs.” That should give you a sense of the quality of dialogue in this film.

This is an atrocious movie. However, if you happen to be interested in the convoluted intricacies of fictional space-politics, this might be the movie for you. If you are intrigued by the idea of watching Eddie Redmayne, who is currently nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking in “The Theory of Everything,” whisper his way through a terrible performance as a villainous immortal royal alien, this might be the movie for you. If you are curious what Mila Kunis looks like when she is being swarmed by CGI bees that recognize her royal blood, this is likely the movie for you.

The plot is barely worth describing. Suffice it to say, Balem (Redmayne) and his siblings, who are part of a family of ancient alien royals, spend the whole film fighting, or more accurately, standing around and arguing, over control of the Earth. Meanwhile, Tatum flies around protecting Kunis from all manner of aliens who try to, at various times, kidnap her, marry her and kill her.

Why anybody thought this movie was a good idea is beyond me – there are no redeeming qualities here. The performances are especially bad. Kunis is dreadful as the lowly maid who finds out that she is alien royalty. She doesn’t seem to know that she’s in a high-budget science-fiction action movie and she plays it like one of the many awful rom-coms that she’s been a part of over the years. Not that she’s given much to work with. Her character is so helpless and so lacking in any sort of motivation or action that one wonders why she’s the protagonist of this film in the first place.
Slightly better is Tatum, whose decent, fittingly intense performance is made laughable by his ridiculous costuming. His blond spiky hair and beard, pointy ears and dark eye shadow are eyesores.
Sean Bean shows up for a few minutes, but for no particular reason.

The romance between Kunis and Tatum’s characters is the most cringe-worthy element of this film. This could be chalked up to their utter lack of chemistry, but that’s just excusing the filmmakers for lazy screenwriting, because, in reality, the god-awful script is the issue here. The Kunis-Tatum relationship is barely developed, from the point early in the film when he kidnaps her for his master, to the end of the film when everybody is living happily ever after. We are given no reason to care if they end up together, no reason in fact, to care if they end up alive.

One of the more promising aspects of “Jupiter Ascending’s” marketing campaign was its touting of the film’s visuals. After all, “Jupiter Ascending” is a product of the Wachowski siblings, creators of “The Matrix.” A space epic in their hands surely has potential to be visually interesting at the very least.

Wrong.

The “space” depicted in “Jupiter” is one of the more generic depictions of space that we’ve seen in cinema recently. With the spectacular space films “Gravity” and “Interstellar” still fresh in our minds, it’s nearly impossible to look past the laziness that went into the space CGI in this film. The alien cities are boring sci-fi futuristic city landscapes. The action is lackluster and couldn’t be less exciting. The aliens are bland and badly rendered – in the moments where they are supposed to be frightening, they come off as silly instead.

“Jupiter Ascending” is two hours and seven minutes long. If I wasn’t reviewing it I would’ve walked out at the halfway point. Hopefully, studios will learn their lesson from this misstep and hesitate before giving the Wachowskis another big budget film. Their career trajectory since “The Matrix” hasn’t been very promising, and this will hopefully solidify their status as filmmakers of the past, not the present.

Eli Fine can be reached at [email protected]

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