Just enough crazy to keep things interesting.
Jupiter Ascending (2015): 7 out of 10: An illegal alien from Russia named Jupiter finds out she is the secret chosen one while cleaning toilets in Chicago. So it is to outer space to claim her royal heritage but her newfound ascendancy to the throne threatens the power balance among three royal siblings each more overacted than the last. Can she and her half human, half dog companion/love interest defeat the other royals and win the day?
Let’s talk about John Carter for a minute, the movie, not some presidential sibling you never heard off, John Carter was a major tent pole film that cost a fortune to make that no one showed up to the theater to watch. The reviews were mediocre and toys filled the shelves of Big Lots unsold.
Then a funny thing happened people started watching it on their favorite streaming service. And they kind of liked it. It was flawed and derivative but it also had a big budget that was on the screen and fun action beats with good-looking people riding to the rescue of other good-looking people. It wasn’t an unpleasant watch. It was stupid and confusing but fun.
Jupiter Ascending shares a lot in common with John Carter. It had an even worse box office performance and even harsher reviews. Yet I admit I had fun watching it. Idiotic fun, but fun nevertheless. There is also a hidden side to Jupiter Ascending that even John Carter didn’t have. There is a very good three-hour film out there that was chopped down to two hours. There are parts of this film that as a standalone are as brilliant and imaginative as anything you will see.
Let’s talk about what works (kind of). The Wachowski siblings have generated an interesting tale and magnificent world building with a theme that would be familiar to any Matrix aficionados. The world building is often done organically where the audience is supposed to just watch and hope the details are filled in again later. Eventually, everything comes together in an admittedly confusing mess. Don’t think too hard and enjoy the ride is definitely top advice for watching this.
There is a rather long tribute to the movie Brazil in the middle of this film. It is completely out of the tone of the rest of the movie and it is truly out of left field. It is also easily the most entertaining part of the film. I have to admire that they cut so much plot and character development but left this in here.
Some of the acting is good, plus it has Sean Bean going well full Sean Bean. That alone makes the film that much more watchable.
Okay, so what went wrong? Well, we only have time for a few highlights cause this is an endless list.
If I see one more movie where the lead character finds out they are the mystical chosen one through no actions of their own I am shooting the TV. I have no problems, in theory, of the love interest rescuing the damsel in distress, but good lord this movie does it every twenty minutes. Not to mention he, of course, rescues her at the last possible second. It is as if we were watching a dozen James Bond defusing the bomb endings strung together.
Channing Tatum does a fine job as the errant knight to Mila Kunis’s princess but making him a half human half dog was shall we say is an interesting hurdle in the film. You are a better person than I if your mind didn’t go immediately to John Candy’s half human, half dog character in Spaceballs. Then they go on to explain that Channing Tatum’s character is a bad boy who has lost his pack, and he was court-martialed cause he was a biter. Did Wes Anderson write Isle of Dogs after screening this film? Channing plays his character as someone who is loyal and protecting his master rather than a traditional love interest. Mila, on the other hand, is clearly smitten and declares it will work out cause she loves dogs. I guess Mila will be packing a jar of peanut butter for the honeymoon.
And now to the highlight of the awfulness. Not since Halle Berry put on a catsuit has an Oscar winner given such an awful performance in such proximity to their Oscar win. Actually, scratch that. Catwoman may be a worse film than Jupiter Ascending, but Eddie Redmayne’s performance blows Halle Berry out of the water. How bad is it? He won the Razzie… in a year that had both Pixels and Fifty Shades of Grey. The man beat out Kevin James, for God’s sake. He apparently is doing a drunk William Shatner imitating Marlon Brando’s Vito Corleone. I am on the record for not liking Eddie Redmayne in movies. He is one of those actors that just rubs my rhubarb the wrong way. But I am on the cusp of changing my mind. He is so awful here it is mesmerizing. To paraphrase Tropic Thunder you never go full Shatner.
I haven’t even scratched the surface of course, but the bottom line was I actually enjoyed myself. It is clear that there was a lot of impressive world building that didn’t make the screen and there will be no sequels forthcoming. But don’t be surprised if this is a cult classic twenty years from now. There is just enough crazy to keep things interesting.