For anyone keeping track, it’s been almost 16 years since the Wachowskis (siblings Andy and Lana) blew audiences minds with The Matrix. Too bad for them, that’s also how long it’s been since they made anything of that caliber again. While The Matrix Reloaded let everyone down by focusing on the action and skimping on story, we all learned why when they got to “the meat” of their Matrix films in Revolutions and wish we’d never asked for it. Visual eye-candy is where the Wachowskis thrive, but now they’re trying to meld the two in Jupiter Ascending, their biggest endurance test yet.
Here, we learn that Earth, and many other planets, are seeded by alien royalty. Earth is basically a human farm where the aliens harvest evolved creatures to produce a youth elixir. Bathing in this elixir allows one to live forever. After the death of the matriarch of the House of Abrasax, siblings Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), and Titus (Douglas Booth), are on the verge of war over their inheritance. They all know that Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is the true heir to Earth (based on DNA duplication) and Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) — a lycanthropic warrior — is sent to find her from the bounty placed on her head by Balem and save Earth from their pending harvest.
If any of that made a lick of sense, we can all thank Wikipedia. Having suffered through the film, you really have to be paying attention to get any kind of plot out of what’s happening onscreen. Jupiter Ascending is all flash with no substance. And even the flash wears out its welcome in the first half hour. Tatum may get to strut around with his shirt off while looking like he’s been sucking on the sourest lemon ever. Kunis’s Jupiter is wide-eyed and thoroughly confused, while asking “what’s going on?” countless times leading to unnecessary exposition. Had the Wachowskis added just a little bit more context, we could turn our brain off and at least try to enjoy the ride, but man, what a bloated mess.
Don’t be surprised to see this one nominated in countless categories at next year’s Razzie Awards, especially Redmayne. There’s really no describing how awful he is here — it’s such a shame after how fantastic he just was in The Theory of Everything. The Wachowskis are clearly hoping for their own Star Wars franchise, but this is as bad as haters claimed John Carter was. That film is way better than its reputation, while Jupiter Ascending is way worse than you think. One of the year’s worst films has arrived early, but considering it was pulled from its original release last summer, merely two weeks before, mind you, you know what you’re in for. February is one of Hollywood’s “dump months” and there isn’t a more fitting time to release Jupiter Ascending.