Jupiter Ascending: A Review
The latest film from the Wachowski siblings has been performing poorly at the box office, but is it worth watching?
It’s hard to watch Jupiter Ascending without seeing any of the complimentary trailers, teases and TV spots that are just part of the large (and likely very expensive) marketing campaign that the film has received. We have to make peace with the fact that this is just a sign of the times we live in now, where a sci-fi action blockbuster with a reported production budget of $176 million needs to shove as much of the movie in your face as possible, with each trailer acting as more of a 3-minute plot summary than a grabbing tease. However this is one time where seeing the trailers in advance may actually improve your experience with the film, already teaching you things about the plot and the world that are exposited quite haphazardly at different points in the story. It’s not just the mishandled exposition that you’ll notice while watching the film, but also the comedic moments that tend to fall flat.
The film’s structure does occasionally feel a bit confusing and even repetitive at different points; leaving me wishing for a pause button for the dual reasons of allowing me to think about where the characters are in the story and why certain things are happening, but mainly allowing me to take in as much of the sumptuous visuals that I possibly can. You can argue that this encourages repeat viewings, which I feel is true, but pardoning sloppy storytelling is not a just cause and remains my biggest gripe with the film. It seems as if Warner Brothers did some harsh editing to the film in order to squeeze down the run-time which has stopped the film from breathing comfortably, suddenly switching from long gasps to hurried rasps in order to keep going.
Beyond the storytelling problems mentioned above I find a lot left to like in Jupiter Ascending. Many of the big fight set pieces are visually dynamic and thrilling, containing fights that have cool choreography and feel different thanks to their use of vertical space. It doesn’t hurt that everything in this move looks spectacular. Wachowski movies always place such an influence on design, it’s an important element of their DNA as filmmakers going all the way back to the look of the real world in the first Matrix movie. This film looks jaw dropping in places, showing us all what’s really possible in film today thanks to the latest technology. In interviews the directors have described the aesthetics as having a baroque sensibility as well as being influenced by the works of the late artist Moebius (Jean Giraud), and that definitely shines through. Your own tastes will obviously influence how much you like how things look in this film but I personally find this more romanticised space opera science fiction more appealing than the grey harshness of cyberpunk.
The pulpy science fiction story sits well with me, and the hero journey that Jupiter (Mila Kunis’s character) embarks on plays out like an update of The Wizard of Oz. In the end Jupiter Ascending is a spectacular sci-fi film that feels like it was hampered slightly by producer interference. I can’t recommend it to everyone, but if you like fun romanticised science fiction (or Channing Tatum with hover boots fighting a flying dinosaur) then it should give you a good time.