Monday, March 2, 2015

Jupiter Ascending Review

Jupiter Ascending Review
I really dig the Wachowski siblings.
Yes its true, I am sure its weird to hear. Trust me, its pretty weird to say. I was drawn to them, like most of you, through "The Matrix." There is simply no movie out there like it. When a movie can mix bullets, action, kung-fu, killer robots and still manage to create a thought-provoking story about mythology and philosophy, that's damn near impossible and absolutely impressive. I seem to also be one of the very few people on the planet who actually liked the sequels to "The Matrix." I guess I make up for it by being extremely dumbfounded by the love "Speed Racer" got. Seriously, people crap on the Matrix sequels, yet love "Speed Racer." I just don't get it. "Cloud Atlas" may not have broken box office records in 2012, but it was certainly loved by me. It was wildly ambitious and engaging to watch.
"Jupiter Ascending" is also wildly ambitious and engaging to watch. I love that the Wachowski siblings are always pushing the envelope, they are never settling on total mainstream. They are not making movies based on books or comics or the common fad. These are ideas that they are coming up with themselves, and I give them credit for trying to sell their ideas in a world  that seems dominated by brands. Like all Wachowski movies (even "Speed Racer,") "Jupiter Ascending" is a visual treat. It is full of cool planets, cool aliens, cool technology, cool worlds and has a couple of very well-staged action sequences. This is stuff that the Wachowski's could do in their sleep. They have always been visually interesting directors, at least that is my opinion. There are moments of this movie that feel like they are taken straight from science fiction of the 1970's and 1960's, there is very remarkable and creative make-up design. The costumes are also very cool.
I have always thought that the Wachowski siblings had a gift of making dull actors shine. I never could wrap my head around the casting of Keanu Reeves for Neo in their Matrix trilogy. But somehow, the siblings managed to make Reeves believable in that role, for three straight movies. Remember, this is Keanu Reeves we are talking about, and that is credit unto itself. I have always liked Mila Kunis and I think Channing Tatum's career is beginning to take a huge turnaround for the better. Yet, they are both good as supporting stars, they would never be actors I'd choose to lead a movie. I can say with confidence and that the Wachowski's drew something important out of both these actors. Something primal. Something special. Something true. Kunis and Tatum are clearly having a blast doing this movie and it shows in their performances. They clearly came to work on set of this picture and the siblings were able to grab talent like nobody else has before.
Now, you are probably wondering where the plot is. Honestly, I have been dragging my feet. While I stand by my statement of the siblings at least trying for original. Their stories usually get contorted into big words and drawn-out explanation. While I like the Matrix sequels, I'll never bash anybody who didn't and I'd never think less of someone who didn't get them. There is so much big jargon in those sequels that it does get hard to follow. In "Jupiter Ascending," there is lots of talk about "hunters" and "harvesting" and "dynasties" and it gets a little weird if you are not paying attention. What should be a movie to go into brainless is never the product of a Wachowski movie. Without all the big mumbo-jumbo, "Jupiter Ascending" is about a girl (Kunis) who is the rightful owner of Earth, but an evil alien royal (Eddie Redmayne) wants to be next in line, so he attempts to have Jupiter (Kunis' character) killed. She is rescued by Caine (Tatum) who works for Redmayne's brother (Douglas Booth). She learns that there are several worlds inhabited by humans and that a royal family of alien-humans (haha) has been destroying other colonies on vast other planets to create a youth serum. Since Jupiter is the rightful owner of Earth, she should live and become who she was born to be. So, I guess much like the typical Wachowski movie, "Jupiter Ascending" is about a person learning that the world is much bigger than they realize.
The biggest misstep is the casting of Redmayne as Balem, the film's villain. Yes, he just won an Oscar, I get it. That doesn't mean I automatically buy him as a villain. While I sincerely enjoyed "The Theory of Everything," I don't think it was the best performance of last year and this shows that Redmayne can't do everything. He's a nice guy and we needed someone with an edgy side to make Balem shine as a character.
On the plus side, Sean Bean shows up and he doesn't die! I also loved that James D' Arcy, who I really enjoyed on ABC's "Agent Carter" makes an appearance in this movie. While "Jupiter Ascending" features a mediocre villain and lots of science fiction-ish fluff. It's still a decent piece of entertainment. It isn't the best thing the Wachowski's have ever done, but it is still far from boring.

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