Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending ★★

"Cleaning toilets.....in 3-D!!!"

That's probably a little unfair, but it sort of highlights the weird incongruity that's bouncing around somewhere inside JUPITER ASCENDING. I should preface my remarks here by saying I like the Wachowskis, and want them to do well. I like movies made based on original ideas, and want them to do well. Jupiter Ascending, however, is probably not going to do well. There are a lot of negative reviews flying around out there, and while JA probably doesn't deserve some of them, it's not quite good enough to muster enthusiasm for defending, either.

(In fact, the 3-D in this thing gave me a bit of a headache, so I'm probably a bit crankier than usual as I type this).

a few points, though:

Space Opera is kind of an inherently unrealistic genre, obviously. It is possible to overcome it in a number of ways. If you're skilled and polished enough, you can tell plausible, dramatic stories on a big sweeping canvas. Or you can dial up the escapism and aim for pulp. OR you can dial up the ridiculousness and aim for camp.

Jupiter Ascending KIND of aims for the middle--possibly because this was seemingly envisioned as some kind of origin-story for a studio epic (It's easy to envision JUPITER TRIUMPHANT and JUPITER FALLS posters somewhere), and the result creates an unwieldy melding of tones. There's some satirical stuff, but not enough to really give the film an edge. There's some campy stuff (Eddie Redmayne and Mila's immigrant Russian family, one consonant away from Yakoff Smirnoffing it up), but by and large, it's straightforward, sincere, character-based pulp, in a universe that's sort of a capitalist inversion of Iain Banks' culture novels. There are scenes that don't work, there are scenes that do, and they're welded together in an awkwardly edited presentation that's handsome, but often inert.

I'm not sure if the problems with the editing are related to the release date change---there's the possibility that this theatrical cut is not the intended one. It certainly feels abridged in some portions (there's a subplot with bounty hunters, and a series of shifting loyalties that doesn't really go anywhere, and mostly comes out of nowhere) but also problematic is the direction of action scenes---

there's a chase sequence in Chicago that I THINK was supposed to leave me breathless, for instance, and I got my hopes up when it started that it would be something like a SPEED RACER sequence, or the highway chase in THE MATRIX: RELOADED, but something (possibly the 3D, possibly my attention span) couldn't handle the geography of it, and the combination of swooping ships and flashing laserblasts. The action got sorted out LATE in the film (The third act climactic showdowns are fairly well done) but by then, I had the aforementioned headache.

That said, there's a lot of things I DID like--like JOHN CARTER, there's an old-fashioned feel to aspects of this that is kind of endearing, there's a strong cast and some entertaining performances, there's some scenes of great beauty that I'm glad I caught on the big screen, even if they'll look pretty good on tumblr in six months, and I'm a sucker for cool spaceships zipping around the galaxy. I suspect if I revisited a longer cut of this in 2, rather than 3-D, i'd like it more, but according to IMDB it was originally a 600-page script, so perhaps a lot of the connective tissue that would have made this thing stronger was removed out of necessity--perhaps it would have made a better TV (mini)series? I'm not sure, but while it's not really as offensive as some of the reviews make out, it's not really strong enough to embrace.

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