It is a sci-fi thrill ride that takes full advantage of the big screen.
Sometimes all you can ask of a film is that it make your time at the theater enjoyable; especially in the early months when we are in the wake of those end of year films that have us so tunnel-visioned on the award season. It is good to step back, grab some over priced concessions, throw on those annoying 3-D glasses, and just have some fun watching a movie. Jupiter Ascending, the latest offering from the Wachowski siblings (The Matrix Trilogy), is an unapologetic good time. For every instance worthy of an eye rolling groan there are at least two moments that make up for it with elaborate imagery and extended action sequences.
Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is a modern, working girl from Chicago who, for reasons that may or may not be fully answered by the time the credits roll, is the unbeknownst rightful heir to planet Earth. Three rival siblings from a distant galaxy each want our planet and would lie, cheat, and steal to take it from Jupiter. Caine (Channing Tatum) is a renegade bounty hunter hired to protect Jupiter and see her true destiny fulfilled. Other than that, any attempt to try and summarize the plot in a way that would actually make the film enticing will fall short. The concept is intriguing but the gaps are filled loosely with unappealing dialogue and wafer thin subplots.
It is worth noting what this film does look and sound incredible. The eye popping worlds created here are masterfully done. Gargantuan space ships, well designed alien creatures, elaborate technology, and colorful cities that surpass anything seen before in the sci fi genre make this well worth the extra 3-D ticket price. You will have a hard time finding another film of this style that delivers the big screen impact of this one. It is for these reasons that one can overlook the laughable story arcs and hole riddled script. You appreciate the action scenes and are glad that they go on for long stretches of time because they keep the characters quiet. Not to mention that they are choreographed with expert timing.
For as uniquely designed much of this movie is there is also lots of familiarity. Fans of the sci-fi genre can easily jot down a dozen elements that seem "borrowed" from the classics. This will come across as nostalgic or blasphemous depending on how you take it. our hope is that the filmmakers are paying tribute by adding in these pieces. Star Wars, Blade Runner, The 5th Element, and of course The Matrix all seem to influence the final product. The props and costumes worn by one group of alien trackers look like they were bought from a b-movie, back lot yard sale. The styling is so stereotypical on the trio that they seem added just to be able to use them.
The actors in the film had to pull off the action more than the conversations and they all do fine. Kunis and Tatum work good together and seem to have fun with the role without making fun. They come across as being comfortable with the script instead of embarrassed by it. That goes a long way in helping the audience get past it too. Eddie Redmayne seems far removed from his award winning role as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Here he plays a ruthless brother who wants to see Jupiter Jones and Earth destroyed. His character Balem feels like the lost love child of Loki and Voldemort. Maybe it was the only way to add other franchises into the recognizable mix. He embraces the role and is convincing; but some of his characteristic choices are questionable.
Jupiter Ascending is rated PG-13 for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity. It is safe for those 13 and up with little to be concerned about. There is a very brief glimpse of a nude female bottom but not in the erotic fashion. The language is mild and the violence controlled. I cant give it high marks for writing, 2.5 out of 5 at best, but certainly can raise that mark for overall entertainment and fun. It is a sci-fi thrill ride that takes full advantage of the big screen.
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