OK, I admit that I had my one-line synopsis of Jupiter Ascending ready before I ever set foot in the theater. You have to be a little suspicious when you’ve seen a movie’s trailer month after month, seemingly coming and going, especially when the names attached are none other than the Wachowskis (of The Matrix fame). What was initially supposed to be a summer sci-fi blockbuster suddenly disappeared, and its release got pushed, and pushed again. When a release gets thrown into the doldrums of February, that is not a good sign. And if your sign is “Jupiter ascending”, you may not want to see this movie, to keep your astrological association pure.
That is unless your name is Jupiter Jones! Yes, Mila Kunis has officially won the silliest character name of the year, even though the year is only weeks old! Jupiter Jones (Yes! Jupiter Jones!) lives in Chicago with her Russian immigrant family, and she cleans toilets and hates her boring life, even though she is smokin’ hot Mila Kunis. One day Jupiter Jones’ life is turned upside down when she is abducted by aliens while attempting to donate her eggs (!).
Her savior is a pointy-eared man with glowing shoes played by Channing Tatum. He is also smokin’ hot, even though it looks like his blond hair and goatee are lightly powdered and he inexplicably wears guyliner. His name, we figure out kind of by chance, is Caine (though for the second half of the film, everyone starts calling him Mr. Wise), and he is that movie-favorite race of Lycan (human/wolf hybrid). He is there to save Jupiter Jones from other aliens who are actually also humans (but more advanced!), who seemingly live on Thor’s planet, and think that Jupiter is royalty reincarnated. What is Jupiter to do, when scheming royal siblings (played by Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, and Tuppence Middleton) try to manipulate this hot Earthling in order to take her birthright-by-reincarnation power?
Somehow, at a solid two hours in length, Jupiter Ascending is so crammed full of stuff and things and special effects that it simultaneously feels rushed and drags. What the hell is this movie about? Do the Wachowskis have limitless special effects funds? (They must, as apparently incomplete CGI was to blame for the delay in release.) Chicago is almost destroyed in an early, endless action scene, just to say they could (this destruction is dismissed with the wave of a hand). Mila Kunis gets lots of gorgeous costume changes. There are elaborate sci-fi sets (including a rip-off of the movie Brazil, where I wanted to write to Terry Gilliam to complain of this travesty, until I saw in the credits that Gilliam himself starred in the scene). There are tons of alien-ish characters, without rhyme or reason. (I found out on Wikipedia that Mickey-Mouse-eared Gugu Mbatha-Raw is half-human-half-deer genetically spliced! I did not catch that!) Oh, and did I mention that there are lots and lots and LOTS of endless special effects?
If I come away from Jupiter Ascending with anything, it is the ringing question of whether this film will be Eddie Redmayne’s Norbit. With the Oscars a couple weeks away, and Redmayne a front-runner for Best Actor, he must be whispering to himself, “Oh please oh please, not now… don’t release this now…” Rather, he’d be royally slouching in a throne whisper-hissing this, with one bejewelled hand ever-poised mid-air in the royal wave, ready to dismiss those that he finds offensive. His character is so royally tired, as only royals can be (so BUSY!), that the only time his voice raises above a whisper, it is to leap out of his chair to bellow with rage (before he regains his composure and slumps back into his chair). He is awesomely bad. Or is his performance awesomely great? That is just one of the many baffling things about Jupiter Ascending.
The seven “earth shattering” extras included on the Blu-Ray/DVD combo edition offer up extensive making-of footage, interviews with the cast and crew, insight into the Wachowskis’ film-making process, and thoughtful discussion of the meaning of the movie. After several actors mention not “getting” the script after the first reading, it’s easy to see why this ambitious project still misses the mark.