There are, no doubt, people who sneer at the idea of a movie in which Mila Kunis plays a Russian cleaning lady whose DNA makes her fated to save the universe and Channing Tatum plays a flying man-dog. One can only pity them. As expected, the reviews for Andy and Lana Wachowski’s “Jupiter Ascending” range between goggle-eyed and gobsmacked, with critics either charmed by its over-the-top antics or bemoaning its nonsensical gibberish — either of which, frankly, sounds pretty good in the doldrums of February, to which the movie was pushed after being originally scheduled to open in summer 2014. That’s not usually a good sign, but where the Wachowskis are concerned, being considered too weird for blockbusters season can only be considered a compliment. (The only people unhappy with the movie might be Eddie Redmayne’s team, who are busy swatting down the notion that his campy turn as “Jupiter’s” villain might put a dent in his Oscar hopes for “The Theory of Everything.”) The only truly worrying notices are those that accuse it of pulling its punches, of being not an “epic folly” but a rote sci-fi action movie with a few highly unusual touches. It’s still hard to believe that a movie whose central character is named Jupiter Jones could be accused of being dull, but we’ll know more once the second round of reviews breaks after tonight’s screenings.
Reviews of “Jupiter Ascending”
Alonso Duralde, the Wrap
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There is no “up” in space, and there is no “the top” over which The Wachowskis will not go in “Jupiter Ascending,” a sci-fi saga that’s convoluted and silly, yes, but also exciting and enthralling over the course of its two-hours-and-change running time. Inducing gasps and giggles in equal quantities, it’s a film better enjoyed not as “from the makers of ‘The Matrix’ and ‘Cloud Atlas'” but rather as “the most expensive movie Roger Corman never made.”
Tom Huddleston, Time Out
“Jupiter Ascending” weaves in the messianic elements of “The Matrix,” the punch-in-the-eye visual intensity of “Speed Racer” and the fruity performances of “Cloud Atlas” — not to mention random splashes of “Dune,” “Foundation,” “Flash Gordon,” “Barbarella” and “Brazil” — into one breathtaking, mindscrambling, what-the-hell-am-I-watching intergalactic fantasy. It could very well end their careers, but they’ll be going out with one hell of a bang.
Drew McWeeny, HitFix
“Jupiter Ascending” plays like someone hired Lana and Andy Wachowski to adapt a particularly crazy YA novel and they took the bones of the thing and ran with it. Fast, frequently teetering on the cusp of the ridiculous, and eye-poppingly pretty, “Jupiter Ascending” is a wicked slice of entertainment, and a heck of an antidote to the typical February box-office blahs.
Robbie Collin, Telegraph
One sequence hints at what we’re missing. When Jupiter leaves Earth to lay claim to the bloodline of Abrasax, she and Caine spend what could be days in a Kafka-esque bureaucracy, taking forms from one arcane-looking booth to the next. There are overtones of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, underlined by a Gilliam cameo as a wizened form-filler, and for once the film’s air tastes breathable. But elsewhere, the film bears the scars of studio nervousness: awkwardly truncated scenes, garbled plot transitions, and a heroine who spends far too long playing the damsel in distress. Cinema-goers desperately need a fresh, unusual and franchise-free blockbuster to rally behind, but “Jupiter Ascending” isn’t it.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
Unlike “The Matrix,” certainly, there is nothing conceptual here that catches the viewer’s fancy, only the spectacle of an ordinary young lady being swept up into extraordinary circumstances. The slowly percolating romance between Jupiter and her guardian may sweep young fans of Kunis and Tatum along up to a point but, while the characters swing through the air with the greatest of ease, thanks to Caine’s late-model boots, the love story never becomes something to swoon over; there’s something about the strapping man’s little blond goatee and elfin ears that’s a bit weird.
Peter Debruge, Variety
From their lesbian-themed thriller “Bound” to the race-blind karma inquiry “Cloud Atlas,” the Wachowskis have always been heavily politicized in their filmmaking. Here, this elaborate concept of a virtually immortal human elite seeding other civilizations throughout the galaxy functions as a fairly lazy critique of capitalism. In this alternate universe, even genocide runs on the pursuit of profit, and apparently there’s nothing more profitable to be done with entire worlds full of humans than to drain their collective life force — the aftermath of which we see on a deserted world (essentially the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao surrounded by blue sand) where the three siblings survey their most recent harvest. This, too, is a recurring motif in the Wachowskis’ work, recycling “The Matrix’s” massive system of predatory incubators in which the human race lies dormant. But that movie had a terrific villain, whereas neither pretty-boy Booth nor the physically unimposing Redmayne (who sucks in his words like some kind of space vampire) can muster much menace.
Tim Grierson, Screen Daily
Unquestionably the singular work of the Wachowskis, “Jupiter Ascending” displays all the filmmakers’ worst tendencies without nearly enough of the visionary gusto they brought so long ago to “The Matrix.” Striving for a jaw-dropping sci-fi spectacle, the writer-director siblings end up with something painfully silly and overblown, burying a solid cast in a lot of makeup, costumes and needlessly convoluted plotting. Without a doubt, “Jupiter Ascending” can be powerfully intriguing because it’s such an unfiltered, ill-advised misfire, but this long-delayed project is an epic folly that will inspire plenty of snark.
Devin Faraci, Badass Digest
Nothing in “Jupiter Ascending” works, beyond the production design. The space ships and the Jovian refinery and the bizarre creatures and baroque costumes are incredible, the stuff that makes a “The Art of…” book mandatory. But everything else… The script is dead, a series of scenes of expository dialogue where Mila Kunis, grotesquely miscast, parades through various quadrants of the galaxy while everybody tells her who she is, what she means and what they want. She has almost no chemistry with Channing Tatum, trapped in a humorless role as the dog man Caine Wise. Their love, which must be the engine for the plot (such as it is) generates less heat than your phone. Tatum often seems to be tolerating his leading lady. And the action – how many sequences where the CGI camera weaves through CGI action until Channing can save Mila at the last minute can you stomach? I hope it’s more than five. Many more than five.
Loïc Valceschini, Twitch
By contextualizing the archetypal structure of fairy tales within the codes of science fiction, the siblings took an ambitious and fascinating bet. Sadly, the result doesn’t quite convince because of narrative arcs that seemed to have been imposed to meet the expectations of the widest audience possible. The clumsy comical attempts and some of the less elaborate narratives are quite unusual for the Wachowskis, notably when one thinks of the successful experimentations they undertook in “Speed Racer” and especially in “Cloud Atlas.”