Jupiter Ascending is a bloated mishmash of ideas which range all along the spectrum of what we’ve come to expect from the Watchowskis. With the film pushed back from its original slot in summer of last year, many worried this was a sign of no confidence from the studio. Setting the film against little competition in the February slot and giving their turd an extra polish before it dropped.
Bad news first: it is a turd, but boy does it shine.
If you’re seeing Jupiter Ascending of your own volition it’s likely for the shiny, towering space cathedrals in the trailers. These colossal structures are the respective homes of three cosmic capitalists of near Greek deity stature: the nice one that probably shouldn’t be trusted (Tuppence Middleton), the sleazy one that probably shouldn’t be trusted (Douglas Booth) and the pouty, shouty one that probably shouldn’t be trusted (Eddie Redmayne). The most striking performance of this trio comes from Redmayne as Balam Abrasax, delivered in a tone reminiscent of Disney’s Winnie the Pooh in the various stages of completion. Mila Kunis’ Jupiter Jones is propelled between the three, responding to the whims of each with a “well I guess” attitude and giving us a heroine even more submissive to her circumstances than, say, one Miss Anastasia Steele.
The sad thing about Jupiter Ascending is that underneath the sleek visuals and sheer direlogue -“my bowels are anything but royal”- there is a complete and original concept struggling against the uncomfortable confines of the Watchowski’s pacing and direction. It’s not as though the Watchowskis can’t balance both scale and character effectively, as in their valiant crack at the supposedly unfilmable Cloud Atlas, it’s just that it’s seen so sparsely here.
The sequence which gives us the clearest, but sadly the most fleeting glimpse of the world the Wachowski brothers had envisioned for us takes place in a administrative maze of nonsensical, Gilliam-esqe proportions. A quick, almost wordless cameo from Mr Gilliam himself makes evident his influence here, injects humour, and leaves us questioning how better served the Wachowskis’ script would have been in his hands.