Arthur C. Clarke famously wrote that “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic”.
By the same token, any sufficiently misconceived work of science fiction is apparently indistinguishable from utter bollocks. Case in point: the Wachowski’s latest bloated epic, Jupiter Ascending; a film that substitutes the interconnectedness of the flawed but ambitious Cloud Atlas for a story with just as much scope and infinitely less point.
An absurdist space opera that’s more Dallas than Star Wars, Jupiter Ascending follows the dubiously named Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis, alternately slack-jawed and tenacious, mostly bored) on her journey from second-generation cleaner with a family of comedy Russians immigrants to heir of a vast, ill-defined galactic empire.
On the way we’ll encounter Channing Tatum as a po-faced albino werewolf, winged dinosaur henchmen, Roswell-style aliens, and enough extraterrestrial palaces to fill a series of MTV’s Cribs. In short, the same lazy mythologizing that polluted the Matrix sequels.
Despite the occasional majestic shot – roiling clouds over Jupiter – this is Stanley Kubrick by way of Michael Bay, with a script written by a pair of twelve-year olds, and not a particularly disciplined duo at that.
Substituting an abundance of ideas for anything resembling focus, it’s perhaps appropriate that Jupiter Ascending features a cameo from Terry Gilliam as a mumbling bureaucratic functionary; though the film lacks anything resembling his wit or vision.
Even Oscar-nominated person Eddie Redmayne can’t relieve the boredom as a soft-spoken, flamboyantly psychotic alien royal.
Jupiter Ascending is silly, self-serious schlock; an ornate travesty that generates less awe at the glittering expanses of imagination it summons up than frustration at the infinity of questions it leaves unanswered.
Why in the universe are bees genetically modified? Why did Sean Bean agree to lend his gravitas to this bloated two-plus hour mess? Why, given the Wachowskis’ recent track record, would anyone commit $175 million to this? When your most convincing performance comes in the opening two minutes, courtesy of the ever-reliable James D’Arcy, you know you’re in trouble.
We could give you many reasons not to see this decadently tedious mess of cinema. We could say that a story about life choices leads you only to question the career choices of all involved; that when Redmayne lets out an anguished scream, seemingly at random, you’ll know how he feels; that Jupiter Ascending is the sort of escapism you’ll wish you could escape from. Instead, lets’ just say the 3D will give you a headache and leave it at that.