I’ve been staring at a blank Word document for almost an hour, trying to come up with a coherent, structured and layered review for The Wachowski Sibling’s latest hackneyed, self-important and insanely incoherent cinematic new age sci-fi turd. That was, until I came to the conclusion that a film which showcases such a confounding lack of respect for its audience’s intelligence while sloppily executing one of the laziest space operas ever written deserves a review just as obtuse, random, pompous and self-aggrandizing. So without further ado, here are some unstructured and appropriately juvenile thoughts on Jupiter Ascending:
First of all, did PETA bankroll this abomination? Jupiter Ascending’s ham-fisted delivery of its "Meat is murder" message via a clunky space opera about aliens harvesting humans as cattle is about as subtle as a knee in the groin. Apparently not satisfied with ripping off the oh-so contemporary twist from 1973’s sci-fi camp classic Soylent Green once in the bloated and obnoxious Cloud Atlas, The Wachowskis dive in for a second helping in Jupiter Ascending, creating a "so bad it’s good" sequence that’s bound to be remembered at the Razzies next year.
Once the "twist" regarding the aliens’ evil plan is revealed halfway through the film, even though a mentally challenged amoeba could have seen it coming a mile away, and one of the alien royals (An 80s store front mannequin named Douglas Booth) declares in a nowhere near unnecessarily over-the-top delivery that the miracle rejuvenating formula the aliens use to live forever is made of “PEOPLE!”, one of the most entertaining parts of the press screening occurred as a row of critics loudly whispered back, “Soylent Green is people! It’s people!” while cackling like hyenas.
Remember those South Park episodes that take place in outer space or some fantasy land, where they throw in a bunch of intentionally lazily designed creatures in order to parody the ridiculousness of such unimaginative cash grab genre attempts, such as the crab people and talking tacos that crap ice cream? The design work on the alien characters, as well as the stereotypically shiny and operatic interiors of the space ships, make the whole venture look like an unintentional live action version of a South Park episode.
The overall creature design is wholly uninspired as all of the humanoid alien characters are based on rats and dogs, visualized with the simplistic implementation of mouse or dog ears on these poor actors. The main henchmen of the evil alien despot Balem (Eddie Redmayne doesn’t just chew the scenery in the role, he binge eats it) are generic talking dinosaurs that look like CGI versions of the creatures from the much-respected Super Mario Brothers movie. His other henchmen, I’m not joking, are obviously designed after S&M gimp suits, complete with zipper mouth holes. For reference, re-watch that infamous scene from Pulp Fiction.
Channing Tatum, as the sworn protector of a hotel toilet cleaner-turned-queen and owner of planet Earth (Again, not joking), basically turns in a variation of John Candy’s Mog character (“Half man, half dog. I’m my own best friend”) as he sniffs and snarls his way through a dumb as a bag of rocks part he must have known to be beneath his 21 Jump Street and Foxcatcher standards. The queen, on the other hand, has the unfortunate luck of being named Jupiter. She’s played by Mila Kunis, who must have taken some notes from James Franco while acting in that abysmal Oz movie, since she repeats Franco’s complete lack of surprise and awe upon being transported to a fantasy land full of supernatural events and creatures.
However, it’s hard to blame Kunis, since she’s firmly planted into the empty-headed damsel in distress prototype, waiting to be rescued by her trusty Mog while employing a blank expression through and through. Only during the finale does the “protagonist” of the piece actually decides to act like a carbon-based life form and does something. My guess is that the first eighty percent of the story was already shot by the time Kunis’ agents begged The Wachowskis to let her character affect the story for a change.
As someone with an unhealthy fetish for astoundingly bad movies, I could have had so much fun with Jupiter Ascending if I watched it at home, drunk or stoned, amongst equally drunk or stoned friends, loudly heckling the hell out of its many baffling and condescending choices. Unfortunately, in a social setting, yelling obscenities at the screen is fairly frowned upon, especially if you’re sitting at the bastion of high culture and unvarnished snobbery we call the critics’ row.
We get acting so awkward that it reaches The Room levels. When the Mog reminds Jupiter that he’s a half-dog after Jupiter embarrassingly throws herself at him, check out the depression in Mila Kunis’ line reading as she replies, “But, I like dogs”. I have a feeling that the raging bestiality porn sequence that was surely supposed to follow that scene was cut off in order to secure a PG-13 rating.
The action set pieces, where you can watch money burn on screen, are Star Wars prequels bad in design and execution while being Michael Bay bad in incoherent editing. Every single action scene revolves around Tatum’s Mog rescuing his damsel using his Gungan shield and Xanadu-inspired hover roller skates.
The absolute best part of the screening came at the very end, and not only because the cinematic torture was finally over. As the end credits rolled, my plus one and geek extraordinaire friend yelled out, “Thank you for watching Jodorowsky’s Riddick!!” Life doesn’t get any better than that.