Thursday, February 12, 2015
Movie Review - "Jupiter Ascending" (2015) - This is how we start 2015?
I'm not sure whether it is a good or bad sign that the first film of 2015 that I watch falls into the category of "So bad, it's good."
On the one hand, "Jupiter Ascending" thinks that it is clever, original and has something intelligent to say, only for all that to get lost in a predictable romance, over the top performances and lots of explosions. However, the film also ends up being unintentionally hilarious due to the over the top and unpredictable nature, and tendency for actors to scream their lines unnecessarily or go off on strange tangents that no one can decipher.
Think of "Jupiter Ascending" as "The Matrix Revolutions" if all the actors were played by eight-year olds. Quite fitting, since both films are brought to us by The Wachowskis, Andy and Lana. Unfortunately, they also gave us "Cloud Atlas" which I just picked as the best film of the 2010s so far, so that makes "Jupiter Ascending" a bit disappointing.
Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) hates her life of scrubbing toilets and cleaning up after people. But when aliens start trying to kill her and a genetically engineered bounty hunter (Channing Tatum) becomes her bodyguard, Jupiter is more than willing to tag along and travel the vast reaches of space. Along the way, Jupiter learns that she is part of a much bigger plan, led by the Abrasax family, leaders of a planetary business over control of the universe, specifically the young Balem (Eddie Redmayne).
Let's start with the most uproarious part of this film - Eddie Redmayne. I do not know if he thought he was giving a good performance or if he did not take the role seriously and tried to pull a William Shatner, but Redmayne's character cannot be taken seriously. Either he mumbles and whispers every line, or is screaming them at the top of his lungs. There is no in-between. All the while, Redmayne chews up the scenery and does everything in his power to make me laugh.
For crying out loud, this guy is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor this year. Yet here he is, making John Travolta's role in "Battlefield Earth" look subtle and dignified.
The role of Jupiter Jones is severely mis-cast. While I do think Mila Kunis is a fine actress, and one of the most beautiful women in cinema, she does carry certain baggage with her that makes her unfit to play a role where she has control over part of the universe. As such, a role like this needs to be played by an unknown actress. Someone who has no major film appearances, but is still a competent actress.
Throughout most of Kunis' scenes, I keep having "That 70's Show" and "Family Guy" flashbacks and think that Meg could not be queen of the universe.
On top of that, the relationship between Jupiter and Channing Tatum's character is nothing special. Tatum growls and sneers at everything and seems to always know exactly where Jupiter is, ready to swoop in and save her. Also, very progressive to have this all-important queen constantly get saved and never actually do anything for herself.
Many plot points and story elements are brought up but never addressed. For example, there is a fight over the Chicago skyline and many buildings are destroyed and people killed. Yet the next day, the buildings are magically rebuilt in moments and Tatum says that people's minds will be wiped of what they saw. Does that include the minds of the people who died? Or their loved ones memories of how they died? How does one go about wiping the minds of everyone in the Chicago area? Do they have control of the media and made sure that no news reports were made about the destruction and the possibility of alien attacks? If they don't, how do they wipe the minds of everyone who watched the news? Are they wizards that can go back in time and wipe people's minds in the past?
It just raises too many questions. None of which will be answered.
I'll give "Jupiter Ascending" this much though It looks stunning. From the alien landscapes, to the ship designs, to the interior of the mining colony inside of the Jupiter's eye, to even the shots of Chicago and Earth, the cinematography is breath-taking. I feel like I went on a visual National Geographic tour of a few alien worlds.
But overall, that is pretty much all "Jupiter Ascending" is good for - eye candy and a few laughs that were not intentional. The poor writing, bad casting choices and lack of chemistry between the leads makes the film hard to watch at times, but when something is done incompetently but the film thinks it is brilliant, that is what leads to the most laughs, especially from Eddie Redmayne. This was a fun ride at times, but not for the reasons that the Wachowskis intended.
Final Grade: C-