Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Let's Review: Jupiter Ascending

The Wachowskis are producers that I always love to see pop up. While I don’t believe they have had a film as successful or memorable as The Matrix, I always believe their films are worth the watch. If nothing else their films are always a technical and visual marvel to behold. That said I am always hopeful that their next movie will take me on an imaginative thrill ride the way The Matrix did. So was I astounded by their latest exploit? Let’s review Jupiter Ascending.

The Negative

This guy is quite literally the personification of the male romantic interest trope. He is a bad boy, who has a bad history with authority, who also happens to be genetically spliced with a wolf but bred without a pack to look after meaning he is literally a “lone wolf” character, who also happens to be a fallen angel who had his wings removed, who also happens to need to be taught how to love someone else, who also happens to be a daring swashbuckler who fights using rollerblade like hover boots, who also likes to brood about his past without going into great detail, and so on. The more details I learned about his character the more I wondered just how many more tropes they could pile on top of him. The romantic storyline in this film was incredibly cheesy and poorly written. Mila Kunis tries her best with what she has been given, but whenever the film wants to suddenly drive forward the romance plot it always feels incredibly forced and clunky.

This film suffers from a damsel in CONSTANT distress plot line. While the story has a constantly moving plot with continuous action sequences, the majority of the film is spent with Kunis’ character being in some sort of peril and Tatum’s character having to rescue her out of it. Some scenes literally play out exactly the same way. At times I felt like I was re-watching the exact same action sequence just in a different setting. It almost becomes cliché by the end of the film where Kunis’ character is being held prisoner once more and only manages to get out of her jam with the bizarrely resourcefulness of Tatum’s character.

The Positive

If I were to describe this film, I would call it the modernization of classic sci-fi. This movie feels like Flash Gordon, Jack Kirby’s New Gods, or Silver Surfer but having the benefit of being produced with modern technological spectacle. There is a level of fantastic epic that is achieved by sci-fi stories like these. They don’t fully care to explain themselves nor should they have to. We don’t need to know what keeps the Silver Surfer’s power cosmic constantly flowing, we don’t need to know what technologies allow Ming the Merciless to terrorize the planet Earth, explicitly explaining those elements would remove the fantastic nature of them. This film is shamelessly sci-fi fantasy and it loves to be it. This is exactly where the sci-fi genre thrives. When it has fantastic elements and never feels the need to sit you down for a lecture about its overall concepts.

As stated before, this is a film by the Wachowskis, thus it is a beautiful rendered visual splendor. Every action sequence is a marvel to watch thanks in no small part to the imaginative and fluid design of the technology as well as the cast of characters that inhabit this universe. Many of the ships have this beautiful look about them that feels reminiscent of a mansion fusing with a regal sail barge. Combined with the fact that these ships move like mesmerizing fish in water, and they are just a spectacle to behold. Many of the character designs are also praiseworthy, particularly the design of the human faced robots that seem to populate most corners of this galaxy. These androids were just awesome to look at in every scene they were featured in.

In Conclusion

I love classic sci-fi, but I understand that it’s not for everyone. Jupiter Ascending is a perfect example of what made classic sci-fi so wonderful to watch, yet at the same time it also suffers from the same tropes that make classic sci-fi so easy to mock by the average viewer. The cheesy sci-fi elements that make me truly love this film, stop it from being enjoyed by the populace at large. I think this film really could have been something fantastic if a little more caution was put into which classic tropes to bring into this story. 3.8 out of 5.