by Sandra Kraisirideja
Jupiter Ascending takes place in a universe befitting the creative minds of Andy and Lana Wachowski, best known for The Matrix franchise.
Just as with their other films, the Wachowskis serve as writers, directors and producers on Jupiter Ascending. Try as they might, however, the Wachowskis may never hit upon that combination of ground-breaking visual effects and story that made the first Matrix such a classic.
It may boil down to the simple fact that if you were to strip away the visual effects in The Matrix, the story would still make a solid movie. In fact, if you compare it with subsequent Wachowski films, the first Matrix film is actually longer on story and shorter on visual effects.
Strip away the dazzling CGI in Jupiter Ascending and what’s left is a flimsy script with a potentially interesting story; one that is never delved into deeply enough to do justice to the glimpses of originality in the movie.
The movie has some eye-popping visual effects, and the action sequences are dizzying in their complexity and speed. A few hi-tech gadgets are enviable, including anti-gravity boots that allow users to zip around the sky like speed skaters on ice. The insect-like warplanes are also quite impressive.
There are several homages to a variety of sci-fi movies of the past including Star Wars, Dune, Brazil and even a little bit of The Last Starfighter.
What could The Last Starfighter possibly have in common with Jupiter Ascending? Both movies involve a down-on-their-luck person from Earth being transported to a faraway planet to perform a heroic act, after which the hero returns to Earth with the knowledge that intelligent life does exist – thus improving their drab existence.
In Jupiter Ascending, Mila Kunis is Jupiter Jones, a young woman stuck in a dead end job on a housecleaning crew with her mom and aunt. It turns out she is actually a genetic match to the matriarch of the Abraxas clan, one the most powerful families in the universe. When the eldest son (Eddie Redmayne) discovers her existence she becomes embroiled in a sibling battle for control of Earth, which is part of Jupiter’s inheritance.
Redmayne, who is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in The Theory of Everything, uses a overly dramatic approach in his portrayal of Balem Abrasax. His dialogue is mostly whispered except when he screams out of the blue. It’s not his finest work.
Channing Tatum is Caine Wise, a genetically engineered soldier who is sent to Earth to find Jupiter and bring her to Titus Abrasax (Douglas Booth). It doesn’t take long for Jupiter to fall for Caine, but the chemistry between the two actors is non-existent. An audible groan could be heard from the audience when the two finally share an onscreen kiss.
The talent on Jupiter Ascending really shines by those below-the-line: cinematographer John Toll; production designer Hugh Bateup; costume designer Kym Barrett; and especially visual effects supervisor Dan Glass and visual effects designer John Gaeta. It’s no surprise all these folks have worked with the Wachowskis before.
If you are looking for a movie that offers nothing more than stunning visual effects than Jupiter Ascending will not disappoint.