‘I’ ON CULTURE
The new film Jupiter Ascending is a gorgeous mess. The special effects are stunning, as is star Mila Kunis. Unfortunately, it looks like the writers were from a junior high school writing class. There were fancy space stations, Air Jordans that could really fly and all sorts of space aliens. And just about all of them seemed to be getting in the way of any logical story rather than providing a structure. This movie is so corny and messed up that it actually is fun at times.
Jupiter Jones (Kunis) is an alien (from Russia, not space) working in her uncle’s home-cleaning business while hating her life. One of her cousins persuades her to sell her eggs to a fertility clinic as a way of raising money. She wants $4,000 for a telescope because her father had been an astronomer before he was murdered by gangsters. The cousin plans to take most of the money, swearing he plans a good investment (which turns out to be a super large television with lots of games). She has a gene scan, and that is the key to the start of what little plot there is.
Her genes exactly match those of a dead queen of the galaxy, and as soon as that is discovered, she becomes the target of a group of aliens (who all look basically human) to kidnap her for various reasons. By their standards, she owns Earth because she is the reincarnation of their mother. A whole group of bounty hunters are sent out, but the key one, Caine (Channing Tatum) is part human and part wolf. He saves her from one group of hunters and brings her to the home of a former colleague, Stinger (Sean Bean).
After a few battles, Stinger betrays them and Jupiter is presented to Titus (Douglas Booth), who plans to marry her so he gets title to Earth from his brother. His sister Kalique (Tuppence Middleton) demonstrates that by using “human essence,” aliens like her stay young forever. Titus throws Caine out into space without a spacesuit, but he survives (another bit of pure fantasy… he would be dead in a couple of seconds in reality). Caine returns to rescue her, but she is then captured by the oldest brother, Belem (Eddie Redmayne), who kidnaps her family to get her to make a deal to turn over Earth. It turns out he plans to “harvest” all of us in the very near future. And, of course, Jupiter is rescued by Caine. She returns to life with her crazy family, but she still can play with her rescuer.
Kunis looks lovely even while scrubbing toilets and manages not only to say the dumbest lines without cracking up but is able to bring some real feeling to the part. Tatum has dog’s ears and weird facial hair, which ruin his good looks. He does the part, but there’s not much there. Bean is actually pretty good as the friend who occasionally betrays them and comes through in the end. There has been a lot of criticism of Redmayne, who just gave one of the great performances in film in The Theory of Everything, but the part was written so badly and he is onscreen so seldom it barely makes a difference. The actors playing Jupiter’s Russian family were delightful, providing a counterpoint to the main plot that was far better than the main story.
There were some good parts to the film. As mentioned above, the Russian family was good for laughs. The most fun in the picture was when Jupiter had to deal with the galactic bureaucracy. They make the Department of Motor Vehicles and Internal Revenue Service seem sane and valuable. It seems corruption in government is the one absolute that remains throughout space and time.
But, despite the fact there are some entertaining moments, most of the film is a repeat of a hundred similar movies or a chance to show off 3D effects that really have no bearing on the story. The plot moves along quickly, but that probably is a result of having so little of it in the first place.
Wait until Jupiter Ascending comes to television and watch it on HBO or one of the other stations. Putting down good money would really be a waste.