After moving from Russia to the United States with her mother and extended family, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) hates her life. She spends her days cleaning rich people’s houses. It is far from the life she wants.
Meanwhile, on another planet, Balem (Eddie Redmayne), Titus (Douglas Booth), and Kalique Abrasax (Tuppence Middleton) argue over who should own Earth as part of their dead mother’s estate. The planet is an especially valuable property, rife with the resources needed to keep their empire intact. Their dynasty supplies a substance that allows the people who use it to remain young for millenia.
Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) is a former Legionnaire, known for his ability to find people. His somewhat wild nature as a splice between a wolf and a human caused him to be dishonorably discharged. Caine was hired to find the next incarnation of the matriarch of the Abrasax family. Unbeknownst to Jupiter, she is the next incarnation.
With help from his former Legionnaire commander, Stinger (Sean Bean), Caine must find Jupiter and deliver her safely to claim her ownership, before those who have more nefarious plans can get to her, so she can save the Earth.
Jupiter Ascending takes it cues from a number of iconic sci-fi films. Directed by the Wachowski’s, it is no surprise that it seems to borrow heavily from some of their other films, namely The Matrix. The story also seems to be heavily influenced by Star Wars.
The film gives us glimpses of technology we have never seen before. Most notably, Caine has boots which allow him to rollerblade through the sky and a shield that emerges from a bracelet that doubles as a control panel for his technology. While the image of Channing Tatum skating through the sky looks almost as crazy as it sounds, it works for the film.
Visually, the film is impressive. The landscapes are beautifully created. The action is intense and fast-paced. In all, the graphic effects are excellently done. I only wish the screening had been in 3D. This would have made all the work the crew did even more remarkable.
Sadly, however, that is where my praise of the film ends. The story is a bit messy and all over the place. We are given no reason Jupiter would long for such a deep connection to her father, aside from stories her aunt told her. There is no real back story for Caine and Stinger, aside from small mentions, mostly from other characters. No explanation for why Caine and Stinger had wings, or what purpose they would serve, given their skyblading boots. The love story between Jupiter and Caine seems to develop very quickly and out of nowhere. It comes across as awkward and out of place.
The cast performs at the level I would expect from the quality of the story. Channing is fine as an action hero type character. However, it is far from what he is capable of doing. He lacks the level of charm and comedy he displays in the 21 Jump Street films. And while he spends a fair amount of time with his shirt missing, he lacks the chisel and sexiness you may be used to from Magic Mike. (Although, part of that may be due to his pointy ears and odd facial hair.)
Most surprising among the cast is Eddie Redmayne. Hot on the heels of his Best Actor Oscar nomination for The Theory of Everything, his performance here is a far cry from his potential. His attempts at angered intensity materialize as oddly timed screams. It comes across as comical rather than fierce. It drew more laughs than was probably intended.
Jupiter Ascending is a beautiful film, if you can ignore what exactly is going on with the characters. My first thought at the end of the film was that my teenage boys will love it. If you are going to see it, I would recommend seeing it in 3D. It may take the movie from mediocre to slightly less mediocre.