(Our friend Rohan Morbey took in much of the body of work of the Wachowski siblings in the run-up to writing his review of their latest, the flashy space opera Jupiter Ascending. His review, which he's generously let us cross-post here, appeared in its original form as always over at Rohan's site Closing Credits - do follow him on Twitter!)
If I subscribed to the adage of ‘so bad it’s good’ then Jupiter Ascending might have be one heck of a fun time at the cinema. However, I will never succumb to that way of thinking, so this latest film from the Wachowskis was an unmitigated disaster of galactic proportions. A film so bad, and in every aspect so poorly handled, that no one walks away unscathed – the most afflicted being the paying audience.
The film had a troubled production, with Warner Brothers pulling it from its original summer 2014 release schedule and dumping it in February, claiming post production was not yet finished. Yet I suspect the powers that be knew this was a $150 million bomb as soon as the dailies were in. The blame is fully on filmmakers Andy and Lana Wachowski, with all the hallmarks of a team totally void of any creativity yet given carte blanche because the memories of The Matrix are still engrained on everyone’s minds – or at least the cumulative $1.5 billion that series made worldwide still keeps the naysayers at arm’s length at Warner. But after this failure I wonder how much faith that Matrix success can still hold.
I’m all for nonsense stories if the tone of the film is served up to match it but this one just hurtles along at 100 miles an hour without ever stopping to wink at the audience. It’s like an exceptionally awful version of The Fifth Element minus the much needed self-awareness of Luc Besson’s movie.
Just thinking about two other Wachowski movies in comparison to Jupiter Ascending makes you appreciate just how engaging and thoughtful a complex, unconventional story can be. Both The Matrix and Cloud Atlas are mind-bending on first (and subsequent) viewing but no one can deny the filmmakers’ intentions to give you an experience like you’ve never had before. They changed the landscape of action cinema in 1999 and to their credit their post-Matrix work has been anything but ‘safe’, but there is nothing to suggest this latest film is from the same creative minds. Regardless of what you like about their previous four movies (yes, those sequels to The Matrix were a huge disappointment), no one can say any of those movies failed to serve up several stand-out, even 'eye-popping' sequences. Too often directors are labelled ‘visionary’ because they get to spend huge sums of money on their movies (Zack Snyder, Peter Jackson, Alex Proyas) without producing the goods at the other end. The Wachowskis truly deserve to be called 'visionary', but their work here certainly damages that reputation.
The performances do not help either. Mila Kunis might look great in various costumes but she hasn’t anything near the screen presence to take a lead role in a film of this size and scope, whereas Channing Tatum is visibly bored in every scene, and could’ve been replaced by Vin Diesel for the lack of range he shows. The star prize, however, must go to Eddie Redmayne for his turn in the villain role; his acting choices are so unfathomable I can only call them Sharlto Copley-bad. Let that sink in.
It’s quite rare for a major release to be quite the proverbial ‘train wreck’ as Jupiter Ascending ended up being. With awesome original sci-fi blockbusters like Edge Of Tomorrow struggling to find the audience they deserve, the future for such releases is dealt another blow by this latest complete waste of money, time, and effort.