‘Jupiter Ascending’ is the latest movie directed by the Wachowskis, who are best known for creating ‘The Matrix’. Yet for well over a decade since Neo took the red pill, they haven’t been able to produce anything that has managed to stand on its own legs and walk out of the shadow of that great movie. So when I heard their latest creation was an action packed science fiction movie, I asked myself “Can it be? Is this The One?” And now, finally, after having watched ‘Jupiter Ascending’, I can say with great confidence… No.
The movie is about a young woman who’s stuck in a dreary job and hates her life, but then learns that she has a special destiny. She discovers that there is a whole world beyond her own and that in this industrial distopic world there is a terrifying fate awaiting all of mankind on earth. Sound familiar? It should, because it’s basically a reincarnation of The Matrix… except in this life The Matrix has returned to earth as a dung beetle, shoveling the same old horse shit around a bit.
The storyline remains vague, confusing and contrived (even for a sci-fi) throughout the movie and it is evident that this has also affected the performance of the actors, who seem equally perplexed and disoriented. Not even Sean Bean—touted on the Internet Movie Database as “England’s most versatile actor”—seemed to be able to do anything with this script. The acting is overwhelmingly flat and expressionless and mostly focussed on action scenes. There’s also no chemistry between Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum, who play the two main characters of the movie. Consequently, you never relate to any of the characters, you never feel any love, pity or sympathy for them. Basically, you couldn’t care less about what happens to them. And you never laugh. Not even at the apparent attempt to imitate the absurd bureaucracy of Terry Gilliam’s 1985 masterpiece ‘Brazil’, during one part of the movie.
So is it all bad? No, it’s obvious that the Wachowskis understand how to make an action movie. There are indeed lots of explosions and there’s plenty of splendid computer generated wizardry going to keep you occupied. But I don’t watch movies just to keep myself occupied. A movie should be an artistic and intellectual expression, not an expensive marketing product for the console game. I expect a movie to move me in some way, or at least make me reflect on what I have seen. And all the CGI stuff should come second. To put it another way; You can have a great play on a ruined stage, but no one is ever going to remember a ruined play on even the greatest stage.
Here it would seem that most of the budget for the movie—an estimated 127 million dollars—was spent on special effects. A poor decision. You don’t really end up with a movie, you end up with a roller coaster ride or a playstation. The actors and the script seem to have been merely thrown in as an afterthought, reduced to stage props to support the expensive computer generated whizpoppers. The Wachowskis have put the cart before the horse and the unfortunate result is that after two hours, you end up traveling nowhere. I give the movie a 5 out of 10.