a critiQal film review Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Plot: Jupiter Jones (Kunis) was born under a night sky, with signs predicting that she was destined for great things. Now grown, Jupiter dreams of the stars but wakes up to the cold reality of a job cleaning other people’s houses and an endless run of bad breaks. Only when Caine (Tatum), a genetically engineered ex-military hunter, arrives on Earth to track her down does Jupiter begin to glimpse the fate that has been waiting for her all along—her genetic signature marks her as next in line for an extraordinary inheritance that could alter the balance of the cosmos.

554 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 46s)

Channing Tatum, who seems to be popping up all over the place recently (G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013), Magic Mike XXL, White House Down (2013), 22 Jump Street), shows up with pointed ears for The Wachowskis’ latest, Jupiter Ascending. This time he’s starring alongside Mila Kunis (That 70’s Show (TV), The Book of Eli (2010)) in a space opera that, from the trailer, looked like it was going to be as over-the-top (if not more) than The Wachowskis’ smash hit, The Matrix (1999).

But, after a myriad of delays and a dismal showing at the box office, my hopes were lowered a bit. Would Jupiter Ascending be worth my time after all?

Channing Tatum seems to be the over-hyped actor right now (replacing Justin Timberlake of a few years ago). His roles can be decent, but he’s never really able to involve the viewer as much as his liberal sprinkling of movies would suggest. Instead, he always tends toward the dumb strong tough, aka Vin Diesel, but with a bit more a caring side to him. His characters are somewhat entertaining, and that’s about it.

This rings true again in Jupiter Ascending, with his big, dumb, tough guy role amped up a bit by his character’s mutant-like characteristics. While most picked on his elf ears, his character is, once again, largely forgettable otherwise.

Mila Kunis, on the other hand, is likable almost immediately, as is typical of the characters she plays. She’s pretty good at playing the fish-out-of-water scenario, and her character lets her play that out to the best of her ability.

Sean Bean also pops up in a bit of a mentor role for Tatum’s character, and plays the tough but caring elder well. Unfortunately, his interactions with Tatum seem a bit forced, as it seems like Bean is doing all of the acting in those scenes, while Tatum mumbles his way along.

The storyline seems solid enough in the beginning, with a mysterious foe trying to kill of a normal, everyday gal, and Kunis manages to entice the viewers into caring about her well-being almost from the start. Sadly, however, the storyline seems to run out of steam halfway through the film, and the Wachowskis run through most every tired old plot twist to fill up the rest of the screen time.

Unlike their previous efforts in The Matrix (1999), the Wachowskis seem content to let the special effects take the lead in Jupiter Ascending, tossing the viewer through one gigantic special effects-laden battle after another. Unfortunately, by the time the big climax rolls around, the effects are largely wasted on the viewer, since they have long ago stopped caring about what happens – making Jupiter Ascending all flash, and very little substance.

With Tatum once again not quite living up to his hype, and Mila Kunis’ likability lost amongst it’s ever-increasing special effects battle sequences, Jupiter Ascending may have viewers feeling a bit bored by the end. While The Matrix (1999) was a brainy masterpiece, Jupiter Ascending – like it’s star, Channing Tatum – is all about the looks, not the smarts.

While the special effects are top-notch, the viewer probably won’t see Jupiter Ascending as anything more than typical middle-of-the-road fare. Hopefully, the Wachowskis will learn from their mistakes and come back stronger the next time. Even if they don’t, at least we always have The Matrix (1999) to fall back on.

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