Review: JUPITER ASCENDING (2015) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Wednesday, 4 February 2015


JUPITER ASCENDING is visually spectacular, but messy and tedious space opera.

Originally scheduled for release on June 2014 before Warner Bros. abruptly delayed their US$175 million big-budget summer tentpole to the quiet month of February due to extensive post-production work, the Wachowskis' (Andy and Lana Wachowski) highly-anticipated return to the Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster since THE MATRIX trilogy (1999-2003) seems potentially interesting on the surface. In fact, JUPITER ASCENDING is one of those rare big-budget blockbusters that isn't based on existing property (e.g. novel, comic book, remake or sequel). While I'm glad to see visionary filmmakers like the Wachowskis embrace originality within their sci-fi concept, those who are expecting them to replicate the same influential success of their groundbreaking MATRIX trilogy will be left disappointed.


Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is a young Russian immigrant who makes her living as a lowly cleaning lady in Chicago. Her uneventful life quickly changes when she almost finds herself being killed by otherworldly creatures sent by a ruthless overlord named Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne) from another space dimension. In the midst of the struggle is Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a Lycantant -- a splice of albino, human and wolf -- who is assigned to protect Jupiter at all cost. Soon, Jupiter discovers that she's more than just a mere cleaning lady, but actually a royalty and heir to planet Earth.

Visually speaking, JUPITER ASCENDING looks adequate enough for its colourful special effects as well as expansive production design and art direction, particularly the way the Wachowskis brought all the fancy spaceship designs and the alien planets vividly to life. One thing I really like about the Wachowskis' cool sci-fi concept is Caine's anti-gravity boots, which enable him to fly, spiral or even perform various acrobatic stunts in the mid air.

The elaborate gravity-defying, air-to-ground action sequence involving Caine and Jupiter while facing off the aliens across the Chicago skyline is particularly a showstopping moment in this movie.

For all the world-building attempt that the Wachowskis trying to achieve here in JUPITER ASCENDING, the screenplay is such convoluted and long-winded mess that any chance of coherent narrative is almost out of the question. Even the dialogue -- such as "Bees are genetically engineered to recognise royalty" -- feels corny and ridiculous. Adding further insult is the awkward blend of dramatic and jokey elements that misses the mark most of the time.

While the aforementioned Chicago-set chase scene is top notch, the rest of the action sequences lacks the certain "wow" factor and sloppily edited by too many fast-moving, yet blurry cameraworks. This begs me an all-important question: What happens to the Wachowskis who used to be so impressive in executing jaw-dropping action sequences found in THE MATRIX trilogy? Among other biggest flaw here is Michael Giacchino's deafening score that cranked up to eleven. It feels rousing at first, but grows increasingly annoying especially during the protracted action sequence in the climactic finale.

Even though it's good to see a female-led sci-fi blockbuster for a change, Mila Kunis is hardly engaging in her role as Jupiter. Her chemistry with Channing Tatum fails to provide much of a needed spark, while Tatum himself delivers a brawny but monotonous performance as Caine. But of all the actors here, the worst performance definitely goes to Eddie Redmayne with his awfully campy portrayal as the Lord Voldemort-like Balem.


In the end, JUPITER ASCENDING is all about showing off flashy style and glossy spectacle with little depth on the characters and plot development. No doubt a major disappointment which could have been a better effort if the Wachowskis invest more time on fine-tuning their script.

* This review is written courtesy from Warner Bros Malaysia IMAX 3D press screening *

No comments: