Word was out that Jupiter Ascending was not going to be anywhere near the Matrix in terms of iconic status, but for the Wachowski’s to come up with such a disappointing script and some tedious acting from the support staff is a huge blow to Andy and Lana Wachowski’s credibility.
The 3-D film is actually superb 3-D, the special effects exquisite – some drawn directly from the world of the Matrix – yet very good acting from Channing Tatum reduces him to a space-aged Dustin Hoffman crashing into the church to get the girl, the daughter of Mrs. Robinson, the older woman he was having an affair with. In this sci-fi remake of The Graduate, Tatum actually has to do the Hoffman thing with a woman who is the reincarnation of her mother, Jupiter, while fighting off rejects (or clones) that appear to have been swiped from the very first CGI space movie, The Last Starfighter.
The Last Starfighter, which was a low-budget Star Wars making about 28 million on a 15 million or so budget, had the cheesy bad acting from Norman Snow as the villain Xur. For some odd reason, the Wachowski’s decided to find three actors worse than Norman Snow with Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth and Tuppence Middleton aspiring , but failing in dismal fashion, to reach the heights of mediocrity. As Balem Abrasax (what, a convoluted anagram of an old Santana lp?,) Titus Abrasax and Kalique Abrasax respectively the trio of stiffs make Keanu Reeves first go at it in Matrix 1 look like Academy Award material.
Where Keanu got redemption in Matrix II and Matrix III, Redmayne, Booth and Middleton won’t likely get the chance, it would be career suicide for the Wachowski’s to plan for a sequel to this mess.
The scenes of the quirky aliens invading planet Earth to go after Jupiter are so difficult to follow they make similar moments in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (and II and III) look appealing by comparison. And the swiping of Star Wars imagery is so obvious that it is downright vulgar. Where writer/director George Lucas can at least be forgiven for his dazzling cinematography and outer space worlds, sixteen years later Andy and Lana Wachowski create a shell based on the work of Lucas, but poor writing and worse acting make this disappointing money pit more about the failure of Hollywood than the in-your-face poke at capitalism.
Somehow Alice Cooper and Aerosmith emerged unscathed – and actually triumphant – from the debacle that was the Bee Gees/Peter Frampton movie fiasco Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band. Channing Tatum, despite his ever improving acting skills, is caught in the whirlpool of unintentional parody that is provided by his supporting cast. His serious approach, aided by Sean Bean (“Alec” in James Bond’s Goldeneye,) is not enough to pull the weaker actors through this morass of a script.
That 70’s Show/Family Guy actress Mila Kunis was no Margaret Hamilton in Oz the Great and Powerful (with – perhaps – the most uneven and poor performance by James Franco as Oz on record to date.) Kunis most appealing moment only when the image made famous by Hamilton as the original Wicked Witch of the West was cast as a shadow on the wall in that 2013 remake.
Books and books and internet sites popped up in wonderment about the captivating, and sustained, philosophical possibilities of the Matrix. The Wachowski’s are going to have to go back to that world to regain the trust of audiences, and Hollywood. Tom Cruise can always rely on his Mission Impossible series, Arnold is drawing from the Terminator well again this summer, as we saw with the trailer on the 2015 Superbowl, and James Bond is James Bond, a formidable template that broke the billion dollar barrier – Skyfall the #9 movie of all-time according to boxofficemojo.com – with over 1.1 billion in revenues. Daniel Craig may or may not be your favorite Bond (I’ll take George Lazenby, Roger Moore or Timothy Dalton, thank you…and maybe Pierce Brosnan) but the heritage of the series, that James Bond was the original that spawned the success of the Marvel superheroes on film today, is still attracting audiences to the cinemas.
Jupiter Ascending fails on so many levels, and the tragedy of it all is what a superb outing it could have been. Even Interstellar, an uneven ride with a peculiar conclusion, is in the Top 80 of All-time worldwide blockbuster films ($671.6 million and counting,) making the path for Jupiter Ascending so much easier.
The misfire by the Wachowski’s is huge. A better script, better actors around Channing Tatum and Sean Bean (think Gloria Foster, Monica Bellucci, Anthony Zerbe, Mary Alice, Nona Gaye, etc. etc. from the Matrix series) and this could have been a science fiction classic.
But it isn’t.
Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at TMRZoo.com. He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for AllMovie.com, Allmusic.com, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.