Apart from the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens, space opera seems to have entirely disappeared in films. As the genre often relies on extreme spectacle interweaved with political intrigue, it requires a large budget, and often space opera stories don’t have enough name recognition to warrant the investment from the Hollywood bigwigs.
So it seems like a pretty forgone conclusion that Jupiter Ascending, a space opera that ended up costing Paramount $175 million and made by a directing duo that hasn’t had a box office hit in over a decade, was going to flop and flop hard. That’s a shame, honestly, as Jupiter Ascending is, while filled to the brim with problems, not that bad.
A lowly cleaner by the name of Jupiter (Mila Kunis) has basically given up on her life ever offering her anything interesting. That is until she is attacked by harvesting aliens set on killing her, of which she is rescued from by Caine (Channing Tatum), a half-human half-wolf ex-soldier who has been tasked with bring Jupiter to where she belongs “ space royalty.
There’s no hiding this “ Jupiter Ascending is ridiculous. Bonkers, insane, loony, crazy, preposterous lunacy. However, there is something to be said for a film that takes a hugely inflated budget and decides not to play it safe in the slightest. This isn’t to say Jupiter Ascending is in any way a challenging or though-provoking film, but it is the diametric opposite of that. It strays so far away from any kind of logic, that its lack of said logic sort becomes its own internal reasoning. Why is this happening for the third time in a row and no one notices? Because Wachowskis!
Speaking of the Wachowskis, their fingerprints are very, very visible; grand sets, over the top camerawork, hamming everything up to its possible extreme, vaguely philosophical new age mumbo jumbo, it’s all here. It’s clear that the Wachowskis have not developed as filmmakers at all since their monster hit with The Matrix, and it seems that the only film they will ever make that is even remotely normal is Bound.
As writers, the Wachowskis have never been stellar, but the dialogue here is atrocious even by their standards. These are lines even George Lucas would guffaw at. In fact, Jupiter Ascending has a surprising amount in common with the Star Wars prequels, if only in the sense that it takes the good concepts that the prequel trilogy failed to do well (political intrigue, sci-fi action spectacle, central romance driving the plot) and ends up actually running with them.
All of the insanity and carnage adds up to a pulpy and cheesy charm that is impossibly to ignore. Everyone is clearly having a lot of fun making the film, from Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis’ corny but charming romance, to the Wachowskis’ decision to make 10 minutes of the film Brazil in space, ending with a bizarre and completely out-of-left-field Terry Gilliam cameo. The major weak link in the film is Eddie Redmayne playing the villain, who clearly is going for Emperor Ming, but ends up being either dull or irritating or both. He’s not hammy enough to be fun, and not layered enough to be interesting. It’s a truly dire performance that almost threatens to ruin the fun of the film.
Thankfully, Redmayne doesn’t ruin it, and Jupiter Ascending is a genuinely enjoyable film, even if it is against your better judgement.