JUPITER ASCENDING may as well have been titled Uranus Steaming, considering the dump-it shellacking critics unloaded in 2015, followed with a cost vs. return imbalance that turned an intended hit into a bomb. Wacky sci-fi epic is overcooked, but sensory-soaking fun. The reviewers were too harsh. There’s room in the galaxy for its followers, slowly but steadily piping up with “Hey, what’s the big idea? I thought it was kinda cool.” Certainly, given the visual dazzle on view, a case where “the eyes have it.”
‘Jupiter Jones’ (Mila Kunis) toils as a housekeeper with her family in Chicago, unhappy with life as a drudge. Things look up, literally, when ‘Caine Wise’ (Channing Tatum) a genetically engineered, part-canine, interplanetary warrior, swoops in to rescue her from teams of aliens attempting to abduct and/or murder her. She’s wanted/targeted by an all-powerful space dynasty: the venal ‘Abrasax’ siblings—‘Balem’ (Eddie Redmayne), ‘Titus’ (Douglas Booth) and ‘Kalique’ (Tuppence Middleton). And we’re off….
…..into 127 minutes of wildly imaginative, confusing, action-crammed, inventive, derivative, exciting, cosmos opera escapism, written & directed by earth-raised space cadet siblings,The Wachowskis. Though their preceding fantasy epic, Cloud Atlas, had polarized critics and lost money, they had enough banked clout (and coin) from dispensing the pills of The Matrix trilogy to see this bonkers extravaganza launched.
The convoluted plot and light-speed action can be challenging (or off-putting, if you’re sour), but the set design, special effects, costuming, makeup and cinematography are stunning, and there’s a marvelous score from Michael Giacchino. Redmayne’s bizarre performance drew a lot of flak, but it’s campily amusing.
Limping into 56th place in the States, the planetary harvest came to a considerable $183,888,000, yet that was still woefully insufficient. Astronomical over-indulgence had nearly doubled the price tag to $200,000,000, with half that much again invested into marketing: barring galactic intervention there was no way this would break even.
With Sean Bean (as ‘Stinger Apini’, in his ‘sage warrior advisor’ mode from The Lord Of The Rings and Troy), Edward Hogg, Kick Gurry, Gugu Mbatha-Raw (hot stuff even with attached rabbit ears), Tim Pigott-Smith, Doona Bae (cool bounty huntress on a space-cycle), Maria Doyle Kennedy, Vanessa Kirby (barely clothed for reasons we can deal with), and Terry Gilliam (a nod to imagination and a wink at excess).