Combustible Celluloid
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With: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Christina Cole, Nicholas A. Newman, Ramon Tikaram, Ariyon Bakare, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Frog Stone, David Ajala, Doona Bae, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Written by: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
Directed by: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity
Running Time: 127
Date: 02/06/2015

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

1 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

A Planet-Sized Disaster

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The list of what went wrong with Jupiter Ascending is a fairly long one, so let's get started. First, the story is both unnecessarily convoluted and terribly uninteresting.

Three cosmic royal siblings, each thousands of years old, own many of the planets in the universe and use them for financial gain. One, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), has high hopes for our earth, but his backstabbing brother (Douglas Booth) decides to ruin his plans by sending for the rightful queen of earth.

She's a humble housecleaner, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), who doesn't know she's the queen. A warrior, Caine (Channing Tatum), finds her just in time to save her from some evil aliens. Jupiter quickly gets wise, works both ends against the middle, and tries to save the day while causing lots of explosions.

If you're already lost, or if you have basic questions that poke holes in this story (why does earth even have a queen?), you're not alone. Double-crosses, betrayals, and sabotage attempts ensue, but none of them mean anything because the character relationships don't really mean anything.

Jupiter is yet another standard sci-fi "chosen one" -- like Paul in Dune or Ender in Ender's Game -- except that she needs constant rescuing, sometimes from annoyingly repetitive situations.

As for the performances, Mila Kunis at least attempts to inject some spunk into the spunkless Jupiter. Channing Tatum had only recently escaped playing boring, stoic warriors in favor of roles laced with more life and humor. He's back at it here, except now he looks bummed out, like he suddenly found himself working at Burger King.

Oscar-nominee Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) was somehow allowed to read his villainous lines with a barely audible murmur, punctuated by occasional shrieks that seem more unintentionally funny than menacing.

Slick digital action sequences, filled with random movement, color, and sound, go on and on. They only interrupt the scenes in which the characters monotonously explain the rules of the plot to each other. Not one image hasn't been borrowed or stolen from some sci-fi classic. Fans will notice a sequence, echoing Terry Gilliam's Brazil, that doesn't seem to fit here.

All of this is thanks to the writer/director siblings, Andy and Lana Wachowski. It's hard to believe that they made their debut with a terrific, low-budget crime film, Bound, that featured strong writing and great characters. After that came their groundbreaking, mind-blowing The Matrix. But unlike Neo, who chose the red pill, they have settled back with the blue pill, spinning soulless creations out into the void. "Jupiter Ascending" is a planet-sized dud.

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