I was really looking forward to Jupiter Ascending. The Wachowskis are an interesting, if not necessarily consistent pair of directors, their short filmography showing a large variation in both style and quality, as demonstrated by the near perfect Cloud Atlas and the mundanely bland The Matrix sequels. They are amongst just a small number of directors that are truly open to new ideas, and as demonstrated in a number of their films are more than happy to push the boundaries and test the conventions of story telling in order to provide a new experience. So an original, big budget sci-fi action film from these people? Sign me up.
Unfortunately, Jupiter Ascending seems to have taken everything I ever found interesting about the films that the Wachowski's created and buried the bodies so deep no one would ever find them.
The story follows Jupiter Jones, a cleaner who just so happens to share the same gene pattern as an alien queen, a rare event that signals to the alien royal family that their mother has been reincarnated, and as such can reclaim a portion of the inheritance that she left them. This inheritance consists of various planets, including Earth, which are being used to grow humans who can then harvested and turned into a liquid that can prolong life and restore youth indefinitely. Naturally, the three children of the royal family aren't to happy about the potential for their inheritance to disappear, and begin to conspire against Jupiter and each other in order to ensure that they each keep as much inheritance as possible. Jupiter is repeatedly saved from these nefarious schemes by Caine Wise, a human/wolf "splice" who used to be a member of Aegis, the space military.
Despite this potential interesting premise for a movie, Jupiter Ascending is one of the dullest films I have ever had the displeasure of seeing in the cinema, a film so stupid that it fails to allow any element of itself to be as fun as it should have been. Never have I cared less about the climax of a film, or the characters in it, or struggled so much to pay attention - even from before the half way mark, I just wanted this film to be over.
But it's not like the film is unimaginative or anything. There are a ton of really cool things littered throughout, such as Caine's gravity boots, some of the sci-fi weapons and a lot of visually interesting character designs. It's that Jupiter Ascending doesn't do anything fun with these elements, instead consistently choosing the blandest way to showcase these things, including the action scenes, which are incomprehensible and terminally unexciting - The Matrix, this ain't.
The problems don't stop there. Mila Kunis is just awful in the lead role, bringing a poorly written character to life with all the charisma of a limp handshake, Channing Tatum and Sean Bean doing little to liven up the proceedings. Hell, a lot of the time Tatum looks like he simply can't be bothered with this film, and he still manages to be the most compelling character in the film, which is by no means a difficult race to win. More frustratingly, Eddie Redmayne gives what could have been a really fun, over the top performance in other, better films, but Jupiter Ascending just isn't good enough to support that, so he ends up more annoying than intimidating.
And they are all playing really poorly written characters, with terrible dialogue, a lack of meaningful development and the most painfully unearned romance since Man of Steel. And because the characters are so lifeless, you don't care about what happens to them, so you end up just not caring about the story or what happens next, and ultimately find yourself just plain bored. There isn't an area of Jupiter Ascending that was consistently good. Even things that I wouldn't usually notice, such as the editing or the score, were badly done - the opening 20 minutes are a mishmash of scenes that simply don't provide a cohesive tone or a satisfying introduction to the film, and the score is obnoxiously obvious and very distracting during the action scenes.
It boggles the mind that Warner Brothers would fund this but not Cloud Atlas. Other than one scene in which the main characters have to deal with a seemingly endless bureaucracy ( which although interesting, doesn't fit in with the tone of the film and seems more like something from A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), Jupiter Ascending has literally nothing going for it, and ends up being a major let down in every way imaginable. It even fails at being "so bad it's good", a miracle considering the bizarreness of the world it is set in and some of the characters in it. The worst thing of all this though is that there is a good film lurking somewhere within Jupiter Ascending that never made it. It is wasted potential, and that is unforgivable.