Film Review: Jupiter Ascending

by Sam Robinson

Rated M. Starring Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum. Directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski.

I’m going to come right out and say it – as inventive and creative as Jupiter Ascending is, it’s a real dog’s breakfast.

The latest film from the Wachowski siblings – it’s insane to think what must go on in their heads – is no new franchise set to rival The Matrix. It’s a space opera that wants to be Star Wars so badly but struggles with its identity. Is it serious? Is it camp? Is it a multi-universe space comic book on film? Jupiter Ascending tries to be too much at once and together with a hard-to-follow script it just ends up messy.

The film centres on Judy Jetson – sorry – Jupiter Jones (Kunis), a broke young adult who scrubs toilets for a living, and dreams of purchasing a telescope (surely a metaphor for breaking free). She meets Caine (Tatum) and discovers there’s some crazy life beyond earth, and that she’s actually alien royalty. The Queen Bee, if you will. The plot from here gets rather complicated, and I’m not going to lie – I couldn’t follow it.

The disappointing thing about Jupiter Ascending is that it aims so high visually – and it does look really great – but the script is so complex that it’s a struggle to follow and almost demands a second viewing. The problem is that unlike films like The Matrix or Interstellar, I doubt anyone will want to watch this film a second time. Around forty minutes in the film Jupiter gasped to Caine, ‘I need to know what in the hell is going on here!’ and I was totally with her.

‘I love Dogs! I’ve always loved dogs!’

There’s plenty of cringe-worthy moments peppered throughout with some horrible gags, mostly as Jupiter goes ga-ga for shirtless Caine. For a film that pushes a heroine like Jupiter, it took some steps back every time she went weak at the knees for him. The acting isn’t great, especially (and surprisingly) Eddie Redmayne as the raspy Balem.

Jupiter Jones ascends (there you go) to royalty in a matter of moments. She goes from scrubbing toilets to a floral headdress. Serving others to being served. Much is made of the contrast in the film, but it got me thinking about Jesus.

Jupiter is alien royalty, but Jesus is the King of the Universe. And amazingly, when he became poor and entered into our fallen world, people didn’t recognise him. He was born in a feeding trough. He was the kid of a local couple. He grew up to be a carpenter.

In John 1, Jesus calls Philip to follow him, and Nathaniel is encouraged to join in too. Philip reckons Jesus is the royalty the prophets talked about. But Nathaniel is not so sure. John 1:46:

“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

Can a toilet-cleaning girl from Chicago be alien royalty? Can a poor local from Nazareth be the promised king of Israel? As we read on in John’s gospel, some recognised him as this, but others didn’t. They mocked him as ‘King of the Jews’ and killed him on a cross. But Jesus was and is true royalty – in fact the greatest royalty the world had ever seen, and will ever see.

Comic book fans will love this genre-hopping adventure, but if you’re after a film that you can follow and enjoy, I’d look elsewhere. I’m giving Jupiter Ascending two stars.

Jupiter Ascending will release in Australian cinemas this Thursday, 19th February. It is already screening in cinemas elsewhere.

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