jupiter riAfter seeing their cinematic adaptations of the anime Speed Racer and David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas, fans of The Wachowskis were probably hoping that the duo would go back to writing their own movies, as they had with Bound and The Matrix trilogy. Well, as they say, “Be careful what you wish for,” because the Wachowski-penned space opera Jupiter Ascending — which is now available as a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, a 3D Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, and on DVD — is not the comeback their fans were hoping for.
In Jupiter Ascending, Mila Kunis (Ted) plays Jupiter Jones, a housecleaner in Chicago. That is, until a blonde Channing Tatum (Magic Mike) rescues her from a surgery about to go bad, and tells her that she’s being hunted by Balem Abrasax (The Theory Of Everything’s Eddie Redmayne), a royal overlord who owns the Earth.
This, of course, sounds like it could be the beginning of an epic space opera. And it would’ve been, if it wasn’t so damn cheesy. Be it Tatum’s bad dye job and obviously rubber ears, his character’s goofy floating shoes (which make him look like he’s roller blading in mid-air), or Redman’s pointlessly soft voice, Jupiter Ascending is cheesier than a four cheese pizza with extra cheese.
Though it doesn’t help that the excitement and tension of the action scenes is undercut by an overuse of slo-mo. Or that some of the scenes on spaceships and other planets look like sets or bad green screen, especially compared to how cool those same ships and alien worlds look from orbit. Or that Tatum’s not the only goofy-looking half-man/half-animal character. Or that the score sometimes tries to add an air of importance by using a chorus, but this makes these scenes seem overblown instead. Or that Balem’s brother Titus flirts with their mom at one point. Shall I go on?
As cheesy as Jupiter Ascending may be, it’s clear that de-cheese-ifiying these bits would’ve only helped so much. In part because the movie also commits the crime of not being terribly original. Without spoiling anything, the truths that Jupiter learns about herself, our world, and what Balem wants to do with it all things she would’ve seen coming if she had ever watched the Star Wars movies, or read Dune, or even seen The Matrix.
And let’s not forget Brazil, which clearly informed the movie’s quirkiest, most visually-stimulating, though also most incongruous scene (which I also won’t spoil, except to say trust me, you’ll know it when you see it). But all this part really does is make you wonder how much more interesting this movie would’ve been had it been scripted and directed by Brazil writer/director Terry Gilliam.
It also doesn’t help that Jupiter Ascending is terribly miscast. While Kunis is fun and even kind of funny, Tatum is unconvincing as both the film’s heroic and romantic lead, while Redmayne’s over acting is so terrible that he comes across as more of a bitchy putz than a heartless leader.
But perhaps the biggest artistic sin that Jupiter Ascending commits is that it’s, well, boring. It’s brief moments of action are bookended by lengthy exposition, and neither are terribly engaging. Which is why, if I wasn’t watching it to write this review, I would’ve stopped after twenty minutes because of the cheesiness, and then again twenty minutes later because I’d lost interest.
Hopefully, you’ve now decided not to buy the Jupiter Ascending Blu-rays or DVD, and to maybe only borrow it to watch as a goof. But if you are someone who enjoyed this movie — and believe me, as a fan of The Matrix movies and space operas, I so wish I was one of you — you’ll find the Blu-rays have some pedestrian extras, while the DVD is a bit lacking.
Along with the movie, the Jupiter Ascending Blu-rays and DVD all include a pair of featurettes: “Jupiter Jones: Destiny Is Within Us,” which spends seven minutes talking about the titular character; and “Jupiter Ascending: Genetically Spliced,” a ten minute look at the movie’s genetically modified characters.
But if you get either of the Jupiter Ascending Blu-rays, you get five more featurettes: “Caine Wise: Interplanetary Warrior,” a five minute look at Tatum’s character; a ten minute discussion of the story called “From Earth To Jupiter (And Everywhere In Between)”; “Worlds Within Worlds Within Worlds,” which spends almost ten minutes on the movie’s universe; a nearly ten-minute-look at the action scenes and special effects called “Bullet Time Evolved”; and “The Wachowskis: Mind Over Matter,” a seven-minute-long discussion of the directors and their career. All of these featurettes boast a mix of cast and crew interviews, as well as shooting footage, and are thus rather predictable making-of featurettes. In fact, they’re only notable for having interviews with the usually press shy Wachowskis, who haven’t done interviews since the first Matrix came out in 1999. Still, it seems like they could’ve edited all these featurettes into one, and then included it on both versions.
The version of Jupiter Ascending on the Blu-rays and DVD also suffers from a rather common issue. Rather than reconfigure the sound mix for home theaters, the Blu-rays and DVDs just have the one that was done for theaters. As a result, the music is way too loud relative to the sound effects and dialog, and vice versa. Which means you have to watch Jupiter Ascending with one finger on the volume button so you can crank it up when people are talking — especially if one of those people is Redmayne — and turn it down when the music swells during the action scenes.
I’d also complain about the fact that they didn’t include the original trailers on the Jupiter Ascending Blu-rays and DVD, except that they were even worse than the movie. Similarly, there are also no deleted scenes, nor a running commentary, but this is to be expected given that the Wachowskis never include cut scenes, and haven’t done a commentary since the Laserdisc of Bound.
In the end, the Jupiter Ascending Blu-rays and DVDs aren’t anything special, but they’re still more than this disappointing film deserves. Which should teach fans of the Wachowskis to be careful what they wish for, they just might get something that’s not exactly what they wanted.