It has been apparent for some time now that the Whachowski siblings are completely convinced of their own brilliance. The big problem with “Jupiter Ascending” is that they’ve apparently convinced Warner Bros. of it as well, and the studio has responded by handing them the keys and not looking back.
The Wachowskis want desperately to construct a deep, fully realized world — ala, the “Star Wars” universe — but they keep trying to make it happen all in one movie. Viewers will find themselves lost through most of “Jupiter Ascending” trying to pick up on lingo with no explanation. Equally, we’re expected to identify with characters we have no relationship or connection to.
We are given no back story, though it is readily apparent that the Wachowskis have it all written out in their heads. Instead, we are tossed into a story concerning a human woman (Mila Kunis as the titular Jupiter) who learns that she is the new owner of the Earth. The reason for the planet suddenly becoming hers is so convoluted and silly that it defies succinct explanation, and it is also the biggest flaw within a deeply flawed film.
“Jupiter Ascending” was sold to audiences as a sci-fi fantasy with healthy doses of action in the mix, which is technically true. But rather than being the centerpiece of the film, those elements are actually just dressing, wrapped around the story’s real core of galactic bureaucracy and red tape. No scene drives this home more effectively than a five-minute sequence smack in the film’s middle.
Taking possession of a planet is a complicated thing, and it apparently involves a ton of paperwork. And it is for that reason that Jupiter and her escort (a sadly misused Channing Tatum) pay a visit to Space DMV and stand in a variety of lines, waiting to get the appropriate tax forms and title transfer papers filled out in triplicate. It is, without a doubt, the most bewildering thing I have ever seen on film — and I own three Alejandro Jodorowsky films.
“Jupiter Ascending” is a gorgeous film. None of the computer-generated imagery (CGI) has the weight behind it to actually connect with an audience, but when they flash on the screen, it is hard not to be dazzled by the scale and the color. Just like 2008’s “Speed Racer” or 2012’s “Cloud Atlas,” “Jupiter Ascending” squanders all of its beauty by not giving audiences a concrete story to actually follow.
Characters show up with little fanfare and for no apparent reason (hey look, Sean Bean is here!), other than to advance some portion of the plot as conveniently as possible. But once we move from one set piece to the next, the story bogs back down again with talk of contract loopholes and leveraged acquisitions. The entire final confrontation takes place under the guise of a title transfer.
In short, even in an era of films like “Jack and Jill,” the Wachowskis have managed to create one of the most insipidly idiotic films of recent memory. At no single point in the film’s sprawling, two-hour run time do they give the audience anything resembling a coherent storyline. Their writing is hamfisted and self-indulgent, their direction is clumsy and unfocused, and everyone who has already seen the film should be able to sue for their time back. This film is the intellectual equivalent of ipecac. CV