Jupiter Ascending is easily the Best of all the Worst movies I’ve ever seen. The enthusiasm present in every frame is intoxicating, and the wretched excess present in all Wachowski Sibling films is front and centre. Make no mistake, this film is complete and utter Trash of the lowest order, but it is Fun and Glorious trash, and there is something admirable in that.
Jupiter Jones is an Illegal Alien (in more ways than one), whose incidental birth under a certain constellation and genetic structure mark her as the destined reincarnation of a deceased Intergalactic Overlord. Said Overlord’s children take exception to this, and Jupiter Jones finds herself fighting for her life and navigating the convoluted pathways of Galactic policies with the aid of a Half-Man Half-Wolf who roller-skates using hover boots when he’s not flying with prosthetic wings.
Or at least that’s the plot when stripped of the many extraneous scenes and stilted romance.
I suppose we should talk about the genuine strengths of the film first before snarking non-stop at the glorious mess that is Jupiter Ascending. The effects are brilliant, spaceships gleam and hover-boots sear the surrounding landscape as Heroes and Villains zoom about the landscape while shooting at each other. And the Art Direction, at least in regards to the Intergalactic scenes, is beautifully lush. It is true that most of the character designs have a ‘OC you made when you were Twelve and on Deviant Art’ vibe, but the sincere realization of their overdetailed designs is actually very charming. And Jupiter Jones, while inconsistent and ill defined, is a likeable character who has moments to shine and exercise her own Agency.
But in all honesty, the best parts of this film are the enjoyably bad parts.
Many of you will be familiar with the Auteur Theory advanced by the New Wave movement of France, which states that certain Directors have recurring motifs and themes that help us to characterize their styles and identities as Film Makers. And if we see the Wachowski’s as a collaborative Auteur, then it appears that pretentious and poorly written films accompanied with lush action scenes and visuals are their particular independent style.
And believe me, this is actually one of the worst stories I’ve seen in a while. The motivations of the characters change on a dime, the scenes of Jupiter and her family are both annoying and actually serve to hurt the story later on, and themes such as the dangers of artificiality and the possible future of genetics aren’t so much dropped into the story clumsily as they are tossed over the shoulder of the film makers haphazardly.
Jupiter in particular is a mess, we are told (not shown) that she pushes people away, doesn’t believe in romance, and that she has a difficult relationship with her overbearing family.
However not five minutes after such token characteristics are introduced, she opens up to people with clockwork regularity, actively pursues a relationship with her Human/Werewolf/Angel Bodyguard, and towards the film’s climax she acts like she is enormously close to her family, despite all previous scenes of her with her family suggesting otherwise.
Though I will actually give the Wachowski’s credit for one improvement, they’ve finally accepted the fact that contractions exist. Instead of supposedly everyday people using phrases like ‘it is’ ‘we could have’ and ‘they have’, many of them now use ‘it’s’ ‘we could’ve’, and ‘they’ve’. After so many characters like Morpheus sounding like stiff human puppets it’s a relief to finally hear something approaching normal human speech in a Wachowski movie.
And let’s talk about the acting in this movie. For the most part it’s not much, though to the credit of the actors they’re given little to work with. Channing Tatum is inoffensive enough as Caine, and he sells the action scenes well. Mila Kunis actually does really well with the confused and poorly written main character that she’s given, she’s a major part of what holds the film together.
Some of the smaller parts have time to shine because of how over the top they get to play it, particularly Nikki Amuka-Bird, Terry Gilliam and Samual Barnett.
But the real Acting gold here comes from Oscar Winner Eddie Redmayne
I’ll give Redmayne this, he took one of the most boring and unoriginal characters on offer and made it a hoot to watch. Whispering as if he’s on the edge of orgasm throughout the entire film, Eddie is brilliant fun to watch, and it really speaks to his ability as an Actor that he can chew the scenery even when speaking in a whisper. All of the villains are pretty large hams actually, though given the cliché and vague lines that they were it’s difficult to see how they could have played the roles any differently.
I realize that it must seem as though I hated this film, given that I spent the entire review blasting it. But in fact this is one of the most enjoyable films I’ve ever seen. The story is so badly told it might as well not be there, the acting rises to the level of the script, and everything from the art direction to the music is tinted with an almost adolescent sensibility.
But I genuinely love this film, mostly because the film makers obviously loved this film. And even if it is a failure, it is at least a failure with great style and aplomb.
Words By: Jack Dawson
Picture Credit: Retrozap.com & Matt Patches @misterpatches