I love movies. I love writing about them. Hope you like reading what I write.
Back in 1999 the Wachowskis released their most famous work, The Matrix, to great critical and commercial success. This was followed by two lackluster sequels and they haven’t made anything so successful since. (On a side note, I loved the brilliantly written and edited Cloud Atlas.)
Now they attempt to recapture that old glory with their latest foray into science fiction, Jupiter Ascending. This is an action movie of someone who thinks that they are human, but strange people come to them. They show this person that they can be so much more if they believe in themselves, to the point where they can stop bad guys from harvesting humans as an energy source.
Yes. That is also a fitting logline of The Matrix. Don’t get me wrong though. These are different movies.
The Matrix involved metaphysical debates about existence in the modern and future age, sometimes with an unfortunate degree of pretentiousness. Jupiter Ascending is, in one sense, a more simple movie. Aliens are going to destroy the world. Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum have to stop them.
On the other hand, this is a very complicated film. These aliens are led by aristocratic siblings who are squabbling over their rights to Earth. They all have weird names (again, like The Matrix) and their evil/good schemes get so fiendishly complicated, I’m still not sure what was going on as I write this. And yet somehow it follows all the cliches of epic sci-fi.
So the big epic space story is a little confusing (which is not necessarily a bad or a good sign, depending on what you like), but what about the more human element? What about our heroes?
Channing Tatum plays a Lichen, ex-legionnaire (it’s explained what that means in the movie), who is sent to protect the titular protagonist Jupiter, played by Mila Kunis.
Both these actors are talented and they do their best with these roles. But Tatum’s character is so boring and normal, that the chops he showed in Foxcatcher are difficult to spot under his growling. Yes, his character growls.
And Jupiter? While it makes sense that she’ll be a little clueless, considering she is a human in an adventure far bigger than herself, there is no word that can be used to describe her that is so fitting as moronic. She’s constantly needing to be rescued. She makes big defiant, “I’m-going-to-do-things-my-way” decisions that end up risking literally billions of lives. She constantly pines for Tatum despite his refusals to go out with someone with her power. And, while she does have an arc which means she ends up appreciating her normal life a little more, which is always a good arc, wouldn’t it be inspiring for her to actually take some action to continue defending other planets from annihilation in the same way she did with Earth. Well she doesn’t! She cleans a toilet!
This is especially confusing considering The Wachowski’s track record of encouraging the treating of people of different sexes and sexual orientations with respect. But this is just dumbass-in-distress material from the 1960s.
While the movie tries to deceive you as to who the bad guy is (everyone’s got bad in them, its message being), it also makes it very clear from the beginning through the script’s partly clumsy, parly excellently world-building dialogue, that the real villain, whose character name I can’t remember, is played by Eddie Redmayne.
Redmayne’s performance in The Theory of Everything earlier this year was definitely worthy of an Oscar. But as what’s-his-name he swings from good OTT, to they-really-should-have-used-a-different-take OTT. I promise you, everyone in the cinema, myself included, laughed out loud at one particular moment of his silliness. Although, I have to say, if this is the worst performance of his career, I’ll take it.
The Wachowskis once again deliver a beautiful looking film, with their trade-mark slow-mo and costumes that wouldn’t look out of place at a Genesis concert. It also has the genuinely thrilling action we’ve come to expect from them. But at best it’s nothing more than a bit of sci-fi summer fun that’s been pushed back to February. If you want more than that, I suggest you head elsewhere.
Recommended Scenario: If you want to switch off your brain and go for a cinematic swing. Or if you can’t get the switch to work, go for Cloud Atlas.
If what I have written tells you that you would like this film, you can book tickets to see it at your local Cineworld here.