February 05, 2015

Jupiter Ascending

Black Swan Reloaded

Grade: D +
Directors: Andy and Lana Wachowski
Starring: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth and Tuppence Middleton
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hr. 7 min.

Every time I heard the character name Jupiter Jones in Jupiter Ascending, all I thought about was the youth detective of the same name from “The Three Investigators” detective book series I used read as a teenager.

Don’t fret if that reference is too obscure for you. Directors Andy and Lana Wachowski are still dining out on The Matrix, and the filmmakers brazenly ape their seminal sci-fi thriller for their latest bit of sci-fi silliness. There’s a would-be chosen one—the aforementioned Jupiter (Mila Kunis)—plucked from obscurity to save the human race. There’s an acrobatic protector/love interest in Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a space lycan who I’m convinced is cast with half-wolf, half-human DNA in order to reel in the Twilight crowd.

And of course the human race is being unwittingly farmed for nefarious purposes. In The Matrix, we’re organic batteries. In Jupiter Ascending, people are some really potent and lucrative Soylent-style Oil of Olay for the intergalactic jetset.

Jupiter’s randomly replicated genetic structure marks her as the reincarnated matriarch to the House of Abrasax and a possible heir to Earth. It also marks her as a threat to the three Abrasax brats: vain sister Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), playboy brother Titus (Douglas Booth) and fey eldest sibling Balem, played by Eddie Redmayne in a high-camp performance that’s the most mistimed Oscar-season turn since Paramount released Norbit after Eddie Murphy was nominated for Dreamgirls.

In essence, Jupiter finds herself thrust into an estate squabble over who gets to inherit land and the family business. She almost marries one “son,” while Kalique mysteriously disappears from the story altogether. But Jupiter mostly spends the entire film getting rescued from one jam after another by Caine, whose anti-gravity boots appear to be the real power in the universe.

The Wachowskis are never short on eye-candy, and they blow their entire budget on bloated 3D special effects. Some are eye-popping, but there’s an artificiality to the CGI that renders it the visual equivalent of background noise.

There’s a clever interlude when Jupiter and Caine are escorted through the interminable galactic bureaucracy in order to certify her royal bona fides. The steampunk set design of this sequence evokes the best of Terry Gilliam—indeed, Gilliam has a cameo as a grizzled record keeper.

Otherwise, Jupiter Ascending manages to meld facile, inane dialogue—”bees are genetically engineered to recognize royalty”—with a confusing, disjointed storyline. It’s like a Disney World amusement ride stretched over two hours. It’s MoonQuake Lake, the fake movie briefly seen during the recent Annie remake. It’s a 5-dollar DVD bin knockoff of Star Wars.

One would be inclined to recommend coupling joints with the 3D glasses distributed to moviegoers braving Jupiter Ascending. But an acquaintance with some expertise in such matters informs me that would only exaggerate the already overlong running time.

So, will somebody just pass me the blue pill?

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