Thursday, February 5, 2015

Jupiter Ascending review: What goes up, must come down

Jupiter Ascending is one big exposition dump that somehow still manages to confuse. From the very first shot we get a mildly long voice over narration in which Mila Kunis' Jupiter Jones divulges her back story involving being born on a freight ship to her poverty-stricken family, the astrological signs which foretell of great things for Jupiter, her parents' back story, and even Jupiter's personal feelings about astrology. All before the title slide. Yeah.

Things don't improve much from there. Even as Channing Tatum's Caine Wise is introduced and the story picks up, some form of explanation is always being crammed in, in between the cheesy dialogue and admittedly entertaining action sequences. The material here isn't awful, it's just a lot to swallow at once. The Wachowskis would have fared better adapting their idea into an HBO television series as opposed to a two hour-plus film.

As I alluded to earlier, the writing in this film tends to feel a bit awkward and hammy. Typically, some level of ham is expected when you bill Channing Tatum as your star, but Jupiter Ascending struggles tonally, sometimes opting to take the darker, more serious route. One scene Jupiter's flirting with Caine, obviously trying to get him in her pants by dropping such gems as "My inner compass always seems to point towards Mr. Wrong," and the next she's using a crowbar to bash in the skull of one of the many bad guys.

Jupiter Ascending also suffers from what some like to call Too Many Villains Syndrome. Over the course of the film, Jupiter meets each living member of the Brasax family. The Brasaxes are the family who owns the rights to all the planets in the universe, having been the ones who planted life on all of them with their magic life-sprouting ooze. Each sibling in the Brasax family is somewhat of a jerk, as you'd expect, and in what feels like chapter-styled confrontations, Jupiter takes each one down. Why this is such a problem for this film is because each confrontation ends the same way: with Tatum's Caine blasting through the wall and saving the day. I thought the film was going to end about three different times.

It isn't all bad, though. The Wachowskis' latest has its highlights. One of which is its many action sequences. This directing duo is known for their well-choreographed, stylized action and there is no shortage of them here. The film is also impressive from a technical standpoint. The special effects are first-rate and the makeup, costumes, and set design all help the film to pop visually. It's definitely going to earn a few Oscar nods for its work in these areas.

After seeing the film, it's easy to see why Warner Bros. pushed it back so far. It definitely could have benefited from some fine editing and a more consistent script. As it is, Jupiter Ascending is an overly-long exposition dump with some entertaining action and gorgeous visuals.

Grade: C

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