The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
Send this page to Twitter!  

THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


Jupiter Ascending

You've got to hand it to Lana and Andy Wachowski; the filmmaking siblings aren't afraid of going big. In films like The Matrix, Speed Racer, and Cloud Atlas, they've shown a willingness to create big, epic, elaborate fantasies packed with grand ideas. That approach is admirable, but it's also just as likely to yield catastrophe as it is brilliance. The risk is always there to go too big and veer into What were they thinking? territory. Case in point: Jupiter Ascending, the Wachowskis' attempt to combine a princess fairy tale with a sci-fi adventure.

Mila Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a professional house-cleaner who is also an intergalactic princess. (Now there's a sentence I never thought I'd write.) She discovers her royal lineage after Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne, in a performance that gives overacting a bad name) attempts to kidnap her. Balem is part of an alien dynasty that has recently lost its matriarch. Unbeknownst to its residents, his people have “seeded” Earth, and since Jupiter could be a potential heir to whatever cockamamie operation they're running, he needs to control her. Fortunately for Jupiter, she has a protector – a genetically-engineered warrior named Caine Wise (Channing Tatum). Together, they head through the galaxy to stop Balem in his tracks.

Jupiter Ascending has a lot of things in it. Here is a partial list: a man-dog hero who rides around on hover-skates, a heroine with the ability to control bees, spaceships that resemble giant insects, royal guards who look like they're wearing bondage gear, a fountain of youth comprised of the souls of dead people, winged lizard creatures, a half-woman/half-deer, a character named Stinger Apini, and a scene in which Jupiter is given medication for her "royal bowels." One or two of these things in a movie might be okay. All of them put together only equals an excess of silliness. You know the expression “everything but the kitchen sink”? I wouldn't have been surprised if a kitchen sink had grown legs and walked through a scene.

Big and silly sci-fi can, at times, work quite well. Just look at 1980's enjoyably goofy Flash Gordon - or last year's Guardians of the Galaxy, for that matter. You really need a tight story to pull it off, though, and that's what Jupiter Ascending lacks. The plot here is slapdash at best. It feels as though this might have been a longer movie at one point, and much of the substance got cut in order to get to the action faster. Explanations for complex plot points are glossed over haphazardly. Other times, the movie just asks the audience to accept things at face value, without even bothering to explain them or put them in context. Consequently, there's a huge drama about Jupiter being able to save the entire human race that generates no interest whatsoever, because it's all been set up with a minimum of care.

Further muddling the issue is that Jupiter is probably the least interesting character here, and it's her movie! Mila Kunis, by nature a spunky and likeable onscreen presence, is given nothing to do but ask expository questions and stare wide-eyed at all the cosmic weirdness surrounding her. Channing Tatum, for his part, seems to be aware that he's in a film that's not to be taken too seriously. With his pointy ears and goatee, his Caine looks like a muscular Keebler Elf. The actor admirably tries to hit notes of self-knowing humor. He's not bad, unlike Eddie Redmayne, who not only chews the scenery, but also chokes on it. Perpetually making evil eyes and speaking in a voice that sounds like a six-year-old trying to imitate Hannibal Lecter, the recent Oscar nominee gives a performance that literally makes you feel embarrassed for him. Again, stronger character development – and a cast that was all on the same page performance-wise – might have compensated somewhat for the jumbled storyline.

Visually, Jupiter Ascending is often quite striking, although it's admittedly so CGI-heavy that it makes George Lucas's Star Wars prequels look like they were done practically. The Wachowskis throw a lot of stuff against the digital wall here. Very little of it sticks. As terrible as the movie is, I will concede that it has the quality of being fascinatingly terrible. Two years from now, when you're home with the flu and it pops up on cable, you may well kill two hours watching it. That's really the only circumstance under which this ridiculous mess is likely to be acceptable.

( 1/2 out of four)

Jupiter Ascending is rated PG-13 for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity. The running time is 2 hours and 7 minutes.

Buy a copy of my book, "Straight-Up Blatant: Musings From The Aisle Seat," on sale now at! Paperback and Kindle editions also available at!

Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.