Saturday, February 7, 2015

Review: Jupiter Ascending

Image courtesy of Warner Bros.
The Wachowski Brothers' "Jupiter Ascending" falls into the category of interesting mess. The special effects are occasionally impressive. Some of the (many) chase or fight sequences are done well enough. It has the kind of chutzpah it would take to deliver a sci-fi spectacle such as this one. And yet, it's a little all over the place.

For starters, this film is the type of origin story with which the Wachowskis are a little too familiar. Much like their "Matrix" films, this one follows the story of a character who is sort of the same type of "The One" character that Keanu Reeves played in the popular aforementioned trilogy. That character is Jupiter, who is embodied by Mila Kunis as a sort of likably naive house cleaner who, as it turns out, is destined to be the ruler of Earth, due to some family feud taking place across the galaxy.

I won't go into all the details of why Jupiter is destined for these great things, well, because I can't. Let's just say that she becomes a subject of interest among three squabbling siblings - the nastiest of whom is played by Eddie Redmayne.

There appears to be some rule that following a nomination for their best work, an actor must take a role in which they really ham it up. Take Eddie Murphy ("Dreamgirls" followed by "Norbit") or Halle Berry ("Monster's Ball" followed by "Catwoman") for example. Now Redmayne, who some believe will snatch the Oscar this month for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking, gets his chance by portraying Balem Abrasax, who not only breaks Roger Ebert's law of silly names, but also alternates between speaking in a low whisper or shouting at the top of his lungs, all the while dressed like a foppish character who went missing from the set of "Dune." He also commands a legion of dinosaur/alligator looking heavies who carry out his will. Let's move on.

Channing Tatum plays a (self described) man-dog hybrid, who also happens to be a bounty hunter, and he is tasked with watching over Jupiter, which - no shock here - kindles a bit of romance. That is, however much romance can be kindled between a part-Russian house cleaner/queen of Earth and a man-dog. Sean Bean also gets to tag along as another bounty hunter, who can sometimes be trusted, sometimes not.

Like I said, all over the place. What's at stake here, naturally, is the fate of the Earth because what else could possibly be at stake in a film such as this one?

"Jupiter Ascending" is not a bad movie, but it's a mess in the way many of the Wachowski Brothers films are. Sometimes those messes work pretty well (I liked "Cloud Atlas") and other times, not so much (the final "Matrix," "Speed Racer"). It has some elements worth recommending, but it ultimately doesn't quite work.

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