Jupiter Ascending is either far too long or way too short. The latest sci-fi film from the Wachowskis (that's Lana and Andy to you, sir) is a decent bit of fun, but also an enormous tease -- a tantalizingly incomplete reminder of these co-directors at their best.
Jupiter is a planet, a key setting for this film and also the name of its titular character. Mila Kunis is said heroine, a Russian immigrant and Chicago resident who just so happens to also be the reincarnated form of a fabulously wealthy alien-cum-human that possesses many entire planets by birthright. If you're already wrinkling your brow in confusion, you (a.) share the facial expression Kunis wears for much of this film and (b.) might want to find another movie to rent.
The mythology of Jupiter Ascending is a bit too rich -- like cheesecake covered with chocolate mousse. That is to say that it is appetizing, but perhaps not best consumed in the serving size that the Wachowskis ultimately made available to viewers. Kunis is a humble Earth-based human with, unbeknownst to her, royal blood, and she is meant to understand, among many other things, that humans are not native to her home planet, that reincarnation is possible, that her children are devious and greedy, that entire planets are harvested to keep these OG humans young and healthy.
She is meant to understand what a splice is -- a quasi-human that has been augmented with the DNA of other creatures, in the case of her presumptive love interest Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) with that of a canine. She must wrap her head around all of this -- around her scheming children, the Abrasaxes, around the threat to her Earth family and her home planet, around the immense power she possesses despite spending most of her adult life cleaning toilets.
She is understandably bewildered. And so are the people watching her attempt to take all of this in.
Usually, I have a better idea of what bothered me most about a film that just doesn’t work. But it’s hard to be precise with Jupiter Ascending. I respect the rich mythology of the universe being weaved by the Wachowskis here. There is depth and nuance and interest. I loved every moment Kunis shared with her on-screen children, Titus (Douglas Booth), Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), and most especially the menacing, gravelly voiced, alien-emo Balem (Eddie Redmayne). Other than a few spotty moments early, the CGI is outstanding and the action sequences exhilarating.
I can say that the romance between Kunis and Tatum just didn’t come off at all, despite the talents of both. And I can add that I loathed the scene where Kunis’ Jupiter tries to navigate the peculiar bureaucracy of this world. Space post office jokes fit better in a story like A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
But beyond that, there is nothing overtly and clearly negative I can say about this film. Jupiter Ascending is a very nice try that doesn’t exactly come together. It either should have been shorn down in to an easily comprehensible form or expanded upon further in some place like HBO or Netflix. If you can figure out which it should have been, well, you’re a better person than I.