The Hippo


Apr 26, 2019








Jupiter Ascending (PG-13)

Jupiter Ascending (PG-13)
Film reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

Extraterrestrial siblings get all Ewing family over inheritance issues while a Chicago house-cleaner tries not to be killed in the crossfire in Jupiter Ascending, a weird sci-fi movie from the Wachowskis of The Matrix fame.

Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) cleans houses with her mother (Maria Doyle Kennedy) and other members of her extended family of Russian immigrants. Waking up before the crack of dawn, Jupiter bemoans her cleaning- and family-stuffed existence.
Meanwhile, somewhere else in the CGI universe, three siblings from the powerful royal House of Abrasax are politely bickering over their inheritance. The family’s wealth comes from a serum that provides users with eternal youth — all of the siblings are centuries old. Their individual wealth is based on a division of the properties held by their mother, who was murdered. The most valuable property is Earth, a planet held by oldest brother Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne). Or at least it’s held by him so long as a reincarnated version of his mother doesn’t show up. Apparently, reincarnation is common enough that people write their new selves into their wills. So if a new version of Mama Abrasax is born, then she gets Earth.
Hey, guess who is the reincarnation of Mama Abrasax!
Safely tucked away on Earth, nobody knows about Jupiter’s royal position, least of all her. But then her cousin Vladie (Kick Gurry) comes up with a plan to get her to sell her eggs so the two of them can pocket some extra cash (with Vladie getting more than Jupiter, for some reason that never quite makes sense). Because she wants a telescope similar to the one once owned by her late father (or the exact same one? not sure), Jupiter goes along with it. But the genetic testing required for the egg donation alerts the various Abrasax members to her existence. Thus do Balem and younger brother Titus (Douglas Booth) each send mercenaries after Jupiter.
Balem’s crew is tasked with finding and killing her, which they nearly do. But then she is rescued by Caine (Channing Tatum), a former soldier with wolf DNA, who works for Titus. Because the mercenary-vs.-mercenary battle leaves Caine with no way to get off Earth, he turns to an old acquaintance, Stinger (Sean Bean). It’s at Stinger’s terrestrial home, which is covered in bee hives, that everybody discovers that Jupiter is a royal. 
Because of the bees. They have an, uhm, instinctual knowledge about royalty or something so they gracefully swarm around her, following her movements instead of diving in to attack. Like so many things in this movie, it’s a pretty visual that makes no sense of any kind. 
As Jupiter learns more about her strange royal birthright, she meets the three Abrasax siblings, including “her daughter” Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), and also more about the magical serum that lets the people who can afford it live for millennia.
I want to make a Soylent Green joke here, but I won’t.
Somewhere, buried deep in the Naboo palace shots and the Queen Amidala-goes-to-the-Oscars wedding dress and the excitingly terrible acting of Eddie Redmayne (this year an Oscar, next year a Razzie), somewhere Jupiter Ascending has some interesting story kernels. I like the idea of a movie where the aliens aren’t here to destroy us or to bond with us over our Reese’s Pieces but see Earth as yet another resource in a universe full of natural resources. That there would be a squabble over that resource, with interested parties making a grab at it both within the bounds of their laws and in more straightforward kill-y ways, also makes sense and feels like a good way to go with a story like this. 
But the execution of these elements feels like a goofy mess of ideas that went nowhere, semi-formed characters, sterile CGI surroundings, even more sterile CGI battles and an overall story that just fails to satisfy. 
So many subplots are created but not really explored, the biggest of which has to do with Caine and his motivation throughout the story. Titus got him out of some kind of prison and promised to return his wings, which are apparently given to a certain class of soldiers. Stinger also once had wings and I think at one point aids Jupiter and Caine with some kind of promise to get them back. The “what is Caine to this story” confusion is heightened by the Caine-Jupiter love connection that seems totally based on both of these characters being played by attractive actors and which the movie frequently seems not to know what to do with. It feels like an afterthought, created to add a sense of urgency in spots, but it also seems to be a thing the movie picks up and drops whenever convenient. Caine goes from being a man on a mission ordered by Titus to being a man (or, wolf-man, whatever) desperate to save Jupiter so they can, what, live together on one of the CGI worlds? Or she can go back to Earth and they can hang after she gets off work? You know, at the local bar, someplace dark, where nobody will notice he has a giant set of wings and pointy lupine ears.
Mila Kunis is not a terrible choice for this role. She is engaging and can carry off both the moments of humor and moments of badass-ness to a believable degree.
She and Tatum even have decent romantic chemistry, romantic chemistry that the movie seems completely at a loss for how to use, but still chemistry. And Tatum isn’t bad in his own right, even if half the time I’m not sure he knows what his character is supposed to be doing.
Jupiter Ascending feels like a collection of ideas and images that nobody has yet turned into a coherent, cohesive story. It is basically a failure, but an interesting one. C-
Rated PG-13 for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity. Written and directed by Andy Wachowski and Lana Wachowski, Jupiter Ascending is two hours and seven minutes long and is distributed by Warner Bros.

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