“Jupiter Ascending” is a popcorn spectacle worth watching if you like your sci-fi silly and your action well done. Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is a janitor who hates her life in Chicago, when her life irrevocably changes after she meets wolf-person-hybrid Cain (Channing Tatum) who has been paid to find her. Complications involving galactic politics interfere where they must seek the aide of space cop Stinger (Sean Bean). What follows is a quest to reveal Jupiter’s destiny, ultimately leading to a race to save millions.
The story is nonsensical to the point of confusion. Characters and concepts are thrown out at a fast pace. Sean Bean’s character particularly comes in-and-out when the plot seemingly needs him with the added disappointment that this is common for most of the side cast. Character motivations turn on a dime, only to be explained later with throwaway lines.
The acting is fine. Nothing to write home about, mostly actors dealing with cardboard cutout character roles and doing the best they can with them. Channing Tatum in particular is as stiff as a rod on screen, a far cry from his earlier work on last year’s “Foxcatcher.” The characters are tropes, cliches and stereotypes. The main antagonists are so over the top that they must have sore jaws from all the scenery they chewed on. There are three villains in the film, which does not help in forwarding the plot. Not to mention that the henchmen of said villains are just as ridiculously cliche and over the top. Whether it’s the literal mousy slime ball advisor, the deceitful bounty hunters or the sleazy robot-lawyer, all of the side characters seem like one-note jokes. Even the Terry Gilliam cameo that comes out of nowhere, in the “Brazil” homage, is funny but dumb.
If I were to make comparisons, I would say this is “Star Wars: the Phantom Menace” fused with “Matrix Reloaded.” Expect lavish set pieces, great chases, and of course, slow motion — not a huge amount, but the right balance that the Wachowskis usually hit. The fight choreography is over the top in a good way, and is fun to watch. Wachowski’s Hong Kong action influence is on full display. The colors are vibrant, the explosions huge and the dialogue dumb. Very dumb. But much like a St. Bernard, it’s hard to hate something this dumb that wants to be your friend. Unlike a St. Bernard, it accomplishes this task in a stylish way, but severely lacks in substance.
In several ways, I could see this film work more as a TV show than a full-length feature. The plot, as nonsensical as it is, is hard to follow sometimes, with certain parts seeming like the bookends to TV shows.
This movie is the definition of style over substance. If you’re looking for a good date movie, or really, any movie where you just don’t want to think, “Jupiter Ascending” is the perfect choice.