17. Jupiter Ascending (PG-13) - Runtime: 127 minutes
Starring: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean
Directors: The Wachowskis
Writers: The Wachowskis
This movie isn't as bad as people are making it out to be. Could it be better? Sure, but you should see this movie based on two things - a) the visuals are stunning and b) original blockbuster epic movies like this are rare. Out of all the big-time blockbusters this year only a handful aren't sequels or part of some franchise. While the writing and character development isn't this film's strong suit, it still manages to be awe-inspiring with its visuals and unique with its world-building aesthetic.
The main problem with the movie is that it takes too damn long to set-up and explain this wholly unique sci-fi universe. That humans are just cattle being raised by aliens so they can live longer is not that hard to explain, but the movie treats this crucial element of the plot as a mystery throughout. The movie approaches most of the story through the eyes of Mila Kunis' Jupiter, a genetic descendant of the alien race who has no clue about the larger universe and her role as royalty within a powerful family who own Earth. And that's a mistake because the audience is in the dark as to why and how things are happening when the movie could just simply explain things quickly and move on to better character development. You hardly get enough time with the three sibling villains and their history. Their fight for power could have been way more fleshed out. I would have loved to see more scenes between these three characters.
Instead the movie focuses on Jupiter as she's flung from one sibling to the next without barely any explanation. The problem with her character is she is a passive figure - things happen to her rather than her installing her own agency in the story. In fact, once the movie reaches the end, she does finally get that agency, but then the credits roll. It's extremely unsatisfying to watch all of these events unfold and there be no real resolution to the underlying problem that thrust her into the situation from the beginning.
The visuals and the action and the world that the Wachowskis created is simply beautiful. There seems to be a lot of care and thought that went into the design of the aliens, the architecture and the technology. It felt real and there's even a great homage to Terry Gilliam's Brazil, where Jupiter, in an attempt to become royalty, has to file an endless amount of paperwork. Even Mr. Gilliam himself gets a cameo and it's all quite brilliant.
So the movie is pretty good - the action is fun and the movie is beautiful. If you can stomach some bad dialogue and frustrating plot development, Jupiter Ascending is a treat to watch on the big screen. And bonus! Sean Bean does not get killed in this movie! I think the Wachowskis' good will has all but dried up - they just need to move on from the big budget movies and do something a lot simpler and grounded. Because I do believe these two are really creative and have a unique approach to filmmaking - but they need to get out of their own heads and do something radically different next time around.
RATING: ASCENSION TO MIDDLING HEIGHTS COMPLETE