There’s one thing you can say about the Wachowski sibling’s new film Jupiter Ascending, it is a movie that exists containing both audio and visual elements. But enough about the positives lets talk about the bad… namely everything else. Whew what a stinker! After the brilliant but polarizing Cloud Atlas the Wachowskis seemed poised to make a comeback, if not financially at least creatively. Sadly Jupiter Ascending is not going to be that comeback film for them.
The film is a mess from beginning to end. The performances, the writing, the direction, even the score never gels to be anything other than laughably bad. If someone took the time to measure the amount of script dedicated to exposition I would bet anything that at least forty percent of the dialogue in this film was straight up expository drivel. Which makes the fact that the film is so hard to follow that much more criminal. The filmmakers really swung for the fences in terms of world building, they unfortunately struck out, but it’s still commendable that they tried to build a complete new universe from the ground up. A universe where people are spliced with animals for hilarious effect, we get to see rat people, people with giant animal ears, Channing Tatum as a dog person, even an elephant man. All for no real discernible reason. Theres also a race of lizard-like dragon creatures, whether they too are a human hybrid or some other race all together we don’t know because the film is too busy explaining the other five thousand names for things and rules they made up. More than once we are given several different names for things with the explanation that “this is known by many names such as…”. Yes, we understand that in any culture some things can be known by several names, but for the love of god why does this movie need to provide all these alternate names for the movies macguffins? Especially since they then pick one name to refer to for the rest of the film.
Another area where the film feels especially clunky is in its transitions from scene to scene. The film is so overstuffed that every three minutes we see another sequence of a random ship flying through space and/or portals to new destinations. There is no flow to these transitions we just find ourselves moved from location to location. Quite often the change of location is only to give us another long-winded scene of exposition, why couldn’t we have just stayed in the last location to receive this new information? Cause reasons that’s why!
There is a future for this film despite all its flaws though. You can put money on the fact that people will be watching this movie for years to come for one very good reason, it’s so bad it’s almost good. Like The Room or Birdemic and countless MST3K movies Jupiter Ascending is such a mess, so ridiculous, so terribly written and badly acted that once you can watch it with a group of friends and a lot of alcohol there will be many things to enjoy. Moments like Mila Kunis getting horny over a blonde haired dog man, or the time we learned that “Bees are genetically engineered to recognize and respect royalty, and BEEs DO NOT LIE!”, and lest we forget the time a man with an elephant’s trunk for a nose trumpets into battle. Oh and every scene with Eddie Redmayne is like Nicholas Cage and Riff Raff from Rocky Horror had some drug addled psycho love child. It’s amazing that at the same time he could very well win an Oscar, Eddie might also be in a movie that will likely win him a Razzie next year. Take all of these wonderful things along with some creepy incestuous moments in the film and you have a perfect mix for the next cult classic. I look forward to online shows like “How Did this Get Made?” and “Nostalgia Critic” tearing the film apart in the next few years for our enjoyment.
Now most films have at least one thing they did right and Jupiter Ascending is no exception. Most of the effects work is exceptional, while the scenarios might be ridiculous and nonsensical, at least the visuals are achieved in a beautiful technically proficient way. It’s part of the reason that the lack of any real tension or drama is such a shame. We get these gorgeous action scenes but the staging is so boring and the characters so two-dimensional that we never feel anything for them. There is one scene that probably would have to be the high point of the film, we basically get a Terry Gilliam inspired DMV in space. Fittingly Gilliam makes a cameo in this sequence and it’s actually a pretty funny bit, although it retreads the same ground as Brazil and Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but unfortunately this section is all too short and not nearly enough to save the film.
Now if you still insist on seeing the movie there is one way to get some enjoyment out of it. We have Channing Tatum with gravity boots leaping all over the place with his friend Sean Bean, trying to save Mila Kunis a girl of royal descent who is constantly being abducted by strange animal creatures including giant dragon men. While you watch the film just pretend that Sean Bean is Mario, Tatum is Luigi, and Mila Kunis is Princess Peach being kidnapped by Bowser, yes the Wachowskis have made their Version of the Super Mario Brothers Movie!