Better late than never, I always say. Having told myself that I should give ‘Jupiter Ascending’ a pass due to all the negative reviews as well as my disappointment in the Wachowskis’ post-Matrix credits, I went against my better judgment and decided to give it a look. “It can’t be that bad,” I thought. At the very least, the visual FX should be worthwhile.
My verdict on JA is similar to most critics’. The Wachowskis’ latest offering is a grand space opera that’s visually stylish even as it suffers from weak storytelling and a hackneyed plot. The movie’s basic premise is interesting enough; earth is one of many planets hosting intelligent life unwittingly exploited by effete alien demigods who harvest them when “ripe,” meaning the population reaches a tipping point when the planets’ natural resources and environment can no longer sustain them. The people are harvested not for “soylent green” but liquefied for the elixir of life (the ‘fountain of youth’) in order to keep these royal demigods immortal and forever young. When the humble and unassuming earth girl Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) takes possession of earth (and by extension the right to determine its fate), the quibbling demigods plot and scheme against her and each other like spoiled Roman brats of noble families to take back their “birthright.” The length to which the three siblings would go for their ultimate prize knows no bounds.
So how can poor Jupiter survive her fate as a mere pawn in this cruel Machiavellian power play of the gods? A guyliner-wearing Channing Tatum comes to the rescue, of course. As Caine Wise, a genetically-engineered hybrid human/wolf supersoldier/bounty hunter with his own force-field shield and cool rocket boots, Tatum cuts a figure that’s macho yet oddly effeminate. And along with Sean Bean as grizzled veteran Stinger Apini, Jupiter can rest assured that whenever she falls (and she does that quite a bit in this movie), someone will be there to catch her like Christopher Reeve caught Margot Kidder in ‘Superman.’ While JA isn’t a great sci-fi epic that we’ll remember fondly in time, it isn’t exactly the disaster many are making it out to be either.