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‘Jupiter Ascending’: The Wachowskis’ latest epic, indulgent misfire

By Ian Flanagan / Staff Writer

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“Jupiter Ascending”

Directed by: The Wachowskis

Starring: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean

Rated PG-13 for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity

Grade: D

The early-year movie dumping ground just received a new shipment: the overblown and thoroughly generic “Jupiter Ascending.”

The Wachowski siblings — Lana and Andy — still living off of goodwill from the first “Matrix” film, have concocted another ambitious sci-fi epic. They seem to hope that it’s in the vein of the scope and intelligence of their last film “Cloud Atlas,” but the end product has far more in common with the colorful, repetitive folly of “Speed Racer.”

The borderline self-parody sounds about as corny and contrived on paper as it looks onscreen. Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is a disgruntled caretaker, unaware of her status as royalty — she’s something of a reincarnation of the late queen of Abrasax, a powerful alien dynasty. The family has control over the earth, which is ripe for harvesting the human population for an elixir that grants immortality, but Jupiter’s presence makes Earth’s future uncertain. Titus (Douglas Booth), one of three heirs to the throne, hires out hunter and half-wolf, half-man Caine (Channing Tatum) to bring her to him for marriage so that he can take over Earth. Balem (Eddie Redmayne), the other male heir, has equally nefarious plans of his own. 

What sounds like it barely qualifies for a TV movie is pumped with a $175 million dollar budget and taken all too seriously. The Wachowskis’ attempt at an original science fiction universe is admirable, but it comes off as a rip of “Star Wars,” “Star Trek” and damn near everything in between — it’s a melting pot of nerdy, half-baked ideas. While the result is visually impressive, it does not elevate the legitimacy of the project, but only makes it more obvious how little originality and purpose lies in the film’s lifeless script. The same goes for Michael Giacchino’s score, which blows a blood vessel while straining to be epic.

If only its performances could save “Ascending.” Kunis has yet to prove that she can headline any sort of dramatic material, but her lack of charisma and presence is almost befitting of such schlock. Tatum is fine, and he pulls off his elf ears better than expected, but his emotionless character gives him little room to turn in a strong performance. The only consistent redemptions is Redmayne, clearly aware of the ridiculousness of the laughable space opera surrounding him, whose villainous turn is both menacing and slyly tongue-in-cheek.

“Jupiter Ascending” is, at the very least, watchable trash. Caine’s anti-gravity boots, which he uses to skate through space, are neat but shamelessly overused, being the basis of nearly every action scene. Jupiter Jones falls, enter slo-mo, Caine catches her — the exact sequence is repeated multiple times. Despite one long slog of a midsection and an overly generous runtime, the Wachowskis squeeze every bit of underdeveloped drama, hackneyed romance and unneeded visual bedazzlement they can out of their “original” creation. 

As risky as it is terrible, “Jupiter Ascending” makes you wonder how it possibly got made at every turn.

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‘Jupiter Ascending’: The Wachowskis’ latest epic, indulgent misfire