So my wife and I watched Jupiter Ascending last night. I wanted to check it out because it looked like a pretty sprawling space opera. My wife kind of knew of it, but to say she was interested in watching it would be a huge stretch.
My wife and I are usually on the same page when it comes to movies. We both had the same reaction to the Matrix Trilogy: love the first, accepted the second, hated the third. We haven’t seen Speed Racer or Cloud Atlas. Any cachet the Wachowskis might have had, they burned to the ground with Matrix Revolutions. I would have been interested in seeing Jupiter Ascending no matter whose name was attached to it.
Well, maybe not if it were Uwe Boll . . .
The movie was fine. It wasn’t great. The visuals and action were pretty amazing and I’d give it high marks for those, but even then, in some of the fights – especially the starfighter engagement over Chicago – the geography and choreography of the fight was hard to follow. It was too quick and busy to really get involved.
This was definitely space opera. It certainly seemed to be a riff on Dune, with its trade houses and even an organization that supposedly had some level of oversight and influence on these houses – though this seemed more of an accepted fiction within the movie than an actual fact.
And this really impacted on the convoluted plot. Everyone is trying to be underhanded and sneaky about their plans and the ultimate fate of Earth (so very, very valuable . . . of course), but the big bad space police called the Aegis evidences no actual power or influence in the movie. By the end of the movie, all the Byzantine politics and scheming seem spectacularly unnecessary. Perhaps that was part of the message of the movie – without teeth, oversight is meaningless. Granted, that’s probably a good message for today, but it makes no sense in this movie. The Aegis aren’t supposed to be the FCC, they’re portrayed as a uniformed police force, the FBI, and Interpol all rolled into one.
So the plot seems needlessly complex, and within that plot are a bunch of two-dimensional characters who spout clichés. There are no surprises in this movie. Well, the lead character’s final choice is a surprise, but it also seems pretty indefensible. I can find reasons for the decision, but they frankly seem pretty weak and only viable when placed in a stark black & white, binary choice situation. There must be a million middle roads between the choice the character makes and the blandishments of those trying to use her throughout the movie.
This is a complete waste of some actors who have proven their range in other performances. They do their best with the script they are given, but they really aren’t given much with which to work. Eddie Redmayne, who plays the main villain, chews scenery like he knows exactly what kind of movie he is in and decides to have fun with it.
In the end, Jupiter Ascending has very little going for it.
I give Jupiter Ascending 2.5 harvested planets out of 5. It looks great and a couple of the action scenes are honestly tense, but in general its 127 minutes of complexity and implied profundity that actually covers its mundanity. Kind of like Matrix Revolutions.