Napoleon Dynamite: This is pretty much the worst video ever made.
Kip: Napoleon, like anyone can even know that.
With that quote to set the tone, let me say that Jupiter Ascending is pretty much the worst movie ever made.
OK, OK, clearly it’s not the worst. There are a ton of other terrible movies out there, many way worse than this one. But here’s the thing: when you have experienced film makers with near complete creative control over the movie (The Wachowskis wrote, directed, and produced this thing), big name actors, and a massive $175 MILLION budget, I’m less forgiving when confronted with such a hot mess. It would be one thing if this was a low-budget Asylum “mockbuster,” or made by some flash-in-the-pan YouTube celebrity of the month, but come on!
But since I’m too lazy to write out a proper critique (and honestly, this movie just doesn’t rate such expenditure of energy), I’d like to present my review in the same disorganized spirit as this messy, incoherent, choppy movie.
The short version is that Jupiter Ascending falls way short of the mark at every. single. discipline. of film making: plot, script, dialogue, acting, direction, character design, special effects, makeup, pacing/editing, fight choreography, etc. ad infinitum.
Classic science fiction franchises like Star Wars, Alien, Star Trek, and yes, even the Matrix trilogy, have imbedded themselves in the fabric of popular culture for many reasons, but certainly one of the strongest factors is a clear and coherent design aesthetic to their worlds. You can look at space ship or costume or a monster and instantly place it within its respective universe. It’s what separates them from other franchises which may be entertaining and well liked, but are relegated to the “mid-list” echelon, like Stargate or the Riddick films. Even the 2013 Tom Cruise film Oblivion, financially successful, yet ultimately forgettable, displayed a very cohesive design palette in its approach to technology, architecture, and vehicles.
By Contrast, Jupiter Ascending’s visual look is an overblown, hodge-podge, derivative mess. Sure, the multimillion dollar budget is on full display, but with all the class of a recent lottery winner upgrading from their trailer home to the gaudiest Beverly Hills mansion imaginable. Every video game spaceship design you’ve ever seen, every generic science fiction book cover depicting a futuristic metropolis ever painted, is chopped, dissected, and pasted into this movie. The Verge puts is perfectly: “none of it may be particularly original, but it’s a wonderful screensaver of a movie.”
Similarly, the action sequences are overblown, too-long, and in perhaps the worst sin of all, are too blurry and choppy to actually see what’s happening. Remember the gorgeous slow-mo fight scenes in The Matrix? Yeah, these are the exact opposite of those. There’s a 10 minute flying chase scene between the skyscrapers of Chicago where you pretty much can’t tell what the hell is happening, other than some things are flying fast and some other things are shooting lasers. Pew. Pew.
There’s no rhyme or reason to any of the artistic decisions made in the making of this film. The space cops have random pits of plastic-y looking “tech” literally glued to their faces. Because futuristic, I guess? It’s not enough that Channing Tatum is a bad-ass space cop, but he also has his DNA spliced with that of “something like a wolf.” Because Wolverine, I guess? It’s not enough that Channing Tatum is a bad-ass space cop with wolf DNA, but he also has a brand on his neck. Because slavery is bad, I guess? It’s not enough that Channing Tatum is a bad-ass space cop with wolf DNA and a brand, but he also used to have wings, except they they were cut off his back. Because X-Men reference, I guess?
Eddie Redmayne’s nails-on-a-chalkboard, incomprehensible gravely whisper makes Bane’s mumbling in The Dark Knight Rises sound like The King’s Speech. Sean bean has a daughter, who leaves to get supplies and coughs suspiciously, as though sick, worrying her father. What was that all about? Who knows, because we never see her again! Mila Kunis is going to sell her eggs at a fertility clinic so her cousin can use the money to…I don’t even know what, buy an XBox, I think? It’s just one of dozens of unnecessary plot threads introduced and abandoned.
The plot is needlessly convoluted. The basic premise of humans as essentially cattle in a vast intergalactic corporations holdings is pretty solid. But then the Wachowskis go and throw a half dozen other half-baked and non-relevant ideas into the mix, which not only don’t add anything to the movie, but make it overly long. Bees were genetically bred to recognize space queens. WTF? Why? Who cares, because it’s irrelevant to the story.
The dialogue is atrocious. There’s a particularly cringe-worthy scene where Mila Kunis professes her attraction to Space Elf Emo Goth Soldier through some metaphor about her compass needle always pointing towards the wrong guy, or some such crap, along the lines of that terrible poetry you tried to write in junior high. I’m telling you, that scene will make you squirm in your seat, embarrassed for everyone involved in making it, even the innocent gaffer or key grip.
Sean Bean is an apiarist (beekeeper). His name is Stinger Apini!!!
There’s an elephant-headed alien co-pilot. His name is Nesh. (Nesh! Get it?!)
I could go on and on, but what’s the point.
Deadspin summarizes it succinctly with “It’s just a sad, lonely trip to nowhere.”