Since the Wachowskis came roaring into the mainstream with what is still their definitive film, "The Matrix," their projects have been getting hotter ("Speed Racer" was a Technicolor fever dream) and messier ("Cloud Atlas" was ambitious but required Cliff's Notes).
Since the Wachowskis came roaring into the mainstream with what is still their definitive film, “The Matrix,” their projects have been getting hotter (“Speed Racer” was a Technicolor fever dream) and messier (“Cloud Atlas” was ambitious but required Cliff’s Notes).
Now comes the delayed release of “Jupiter Ascending” — their hottest and messiest hot mess to date. It’s as ambitious as it is absurd. Well, no … it’s definitely more absurd.
Jupiter Jones (Mila Kuis) is a Russian immigrant living with her family in a cramped Chicago apartment. She spends her days cleaning toilets and dreaming of bigger things.
Bigger things come in the form of finding out that, duh, she’s the heir to an intergalactic dynasty! When baddies come from space to nab her, a mysterious man-dog named Caine (Channing Tatum) comes to her rescue.
I really don’t want to spoil any more of this movie, but I’m also not sure I could. “Jupiter Ascending” is basically the sort of space fairy tale you get when creative people can’t see the forest for the trees.
Andy and Lana Wachowski clearly let this story get out of control. When we start to get into the inner workings of galactic space treaties and commerce, you realize why this movie got bumped from an original Summer 2014 release. There’s some serious “Phantom Menace” going on here.
The likable and attractive pairing of Kunis and Tatum isn’t too bad, as they seem game for whatever silliness and bad dialogue (e.g. “My bowels are anything but royal”) that’s thrown at them.
On the villain tip, Eddie Redmayne’s performance is so over-the-top it’s unintentional camp gold. His quivering voice and elocution make Gary Oldman’s performance in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1992 “Dracula” look restrained in comparison. Here’s to hoping the timing of this release doesn’t sink his Oscar hopes.
The shame of the baffling, overstuffed plot is that it muddles some typical Wachowski eye-candy to the point that it’s just too confusing to enjoy. There are some wild set pieces zipping through downtown Chicago and some elaborate space sets that are so gorgeous, it almost makes it all worth it.
It’s neither the epic it set out to be, nor the epic fail that would have made it an entertaining trainwreck. I just hope it doesn’t derail the Wachowskis’ career for good.