Jupiter Jones is a seemingly hapless unfulfilled domestic housekeeper thrust into an interstellar power struggle between the three enduring rulers of the galactic dynasty, the House of Abrasax. Displaced before birth by the murder of her father, Jupiter (Mila Kunis) lives day-by-day with an apathetic sense of melancholy at her circumstance, ignorant of the fact that her unique genetic composition earmarks her for a higher fate.
Light-years away, following the death of their matriarch, three rival siblings are vying for control of Abrasax Industries and with it dominion over the cosmos itself. Each Abrasax sees Jupiter as a pawn with the potential to tip the balance of intergalactic power in their individual favour. Fortunately for Jupiter her potential is also realised by genetically enhanced celestial mercenary Caine Wise (Channing Tatum).
Written and directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski, Jupiter Ascending has at its core interesting questions surrounding the ethical obligations of advanced space-faring civilisations, the real cost of consumption to society, and furthermore what price we would be willing to pay for that most scarce of commodities – time. Unfortunately these profound questions are merely alluded to and not explored beyond their outermost surface.
Following the incomprehensible mess that was the Wachowski’s 2012 release Cloud Atlas, Jupiter Ascending plays out far more linearly, with the second and third act narrative centring around Jupiter travelling to meet each of the Abrasax triumvirate individually. Once laid out by the initial meeting with Kalique Abrasax this dogmatic format does begin to come across as prescriptive, constraining the story. At times it was reminiscent of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with Jupiter bound to encounter the Abrasaxs of Christmases Past, Present, and Future in diligent chronological order.
This unwavering story arc is punctuated with action set-pieces which are so devoid of any genuine sense of peril they become a tedious distraction. The 2 hour 7 minute duration is also totally bereft of any humour whatsoever, with the few heavily contrived attempts falling on deaf ears – the ‘bureaucracy eh’ skit serving as an especially tiresome low watermark. Humour itself is obviously by no means a prerequisite to such a film, however the failed attempts are no doubt indicative of the features overall lack of character development and depth in general.
This superficiality is difficult to see past; the lead protagonists Jupiter and Caine do not radiate any gravitas as individuals nor any chemistry in their interactions with one another. Whilst at the other end of the spectrum Eddie Redmayne’s exaggerated performance as the tyrannical Balem Abrasax is certainly memorable, if perhaps not entirely for the reasons intended. Despite this Balem Abrasax himself remains as similarly one-dimensional a character as the rest of the ensemble, albeit a galactic Norman Bates with a serious Oedipus complex.
Overall Jupiter Ascending is a worthy, enjoyable film propped up by the interesting notions at its heart. It is perhaps therefore all the more frustrating that these ideas are left unexplored, giving rise to the prevailing lack of depth and substance.