Jupiter Ascending review: A tedious, underwhelming remake of The Matrix

It’s frustrating that the filmmakers who so effortlessly adapted the complex Cloud Atlas to the big screen managed to render such a derivative, noisy and forgettable action film.

Mihir Fadnavis February 06, 2015 12:38:24 IST
Jupiter Ascending review: A tedious, underwhelming remake of The Matrix

The Matrix was a film about how the artificial the reality surrounding humans actually is. It was a film about humans being a small part of a big cosmological equation and explored the concept of reality versus illusion. It presented a God that is a superior race who uses humans almost like a battery that powers propagation and life. The film was about the journey of The One who rises against tyranny and leads his people to victory. The Matrix was one of the most impressive science fiction films of contemporary Hollywood, and the Wachokwski siblings created a whole new geek culture for the new generation.

Jupiter Ascending review A tedious underwhelming remake of The Matrix

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Fast forward 15 years. Their new film Jupiter Ascending is a film about the artificiality of the reality surrounding humans. It is a film about humans being a small part of a big cosmological equation. It explores the concept of reality versus illusion and brings us a God from a superior race, who uses humans as a battery to propagate. And it tells the journey of The One who rises against the tyranny and leads people to victory. Jupiter Ascending is also one of the most disappointing science fiction films from contemporary Hollywood. It’s a retread of the Wachowskis’ classic work, executed in a shockingly terrible Young Adult style, where the heroine tries to smooch the hero because of his hot body, after knowing him for precisely three minutes. Jupiter Ascending is the Wachokwski siblings’ attempt to passionately destroy the fandom built around them.

Pretty much everything in Jupiter Ascending is a clunker. The acting from protagonist, as a simpleton who discovers she’s the queen of the universe, is a cringe-inducingly stilted Mila Kunis. From the heroic dog-eared Channing Tatum to the villainous, laryngitis-afflicted Eddie Redmayne, all the characters are unintentionally hilarious at best.

The mythology itself is completely incoherent. The overlords of the universe speak some mumbo jumbo about various worlds between worlds and the fact that they “own” the planets because they create life. It’s never clear where they came from and what their purpose in the universe is – they just prance around theatrically in bizarre costumes. Dozens and dozens of quirky Space Opera Terminologies like Abrasax, Famulus and Chicanery Knight are tossed around and get lost in the mess of Star Trek wannabe-ness. Without any apparent redeeming quality to the film, it becomes hard to pinpoint what the target audience of Jupiter Ascending is. It’s neither for adults who grew up watching The Matrix nor for YA-obsessed kids.

Even the special effects, which are an integral part of the filmmakers’ trademark, are tedious and underwhelming. They’re also noisy as hell. Every five minutes there is a chase or a fight sequence featuring bullets, explosions and outer space kung fu karate. The problem is the loud action-ey stuff feels like it was shoehorned in to keep you from nodding off, not to propagate the story.

The only way to sustain interest in an action movie is when the action involves either an interesting (and preferably original) story or likable characters. Jupiter Ascending ticks none of the options and still tries to ram a boatload of whizbang stuff down your throat. Individually, there are a few interesting things like Tatum’s laser-guided, levitating roller skates, but they’re part of action scenes made for the sole purpose of creating incoherent light and noise; not to look cool.

There is a gigantic mid air action sequence where the heroic couple fight off laser gun-wielding aliens in tiny space ships. It goes on forever, in sweeping long takes and not once does it impress you. Jupiter Ascending makes you realise why Michael Bay’s movies make so much money: even with terrible characters, he has the ability to translate large scale battle sequences into well-staged sequences. The Wachowskis just don’t have that in them. They did manage to deconstruct such a genre beautifully in the underrated Speed Racer, but they can’t seem to get things going the other way round. To make matters worse, the action is rendered in shaky cam style, and also in 3D. It’s frustrating that the filmmakers who so effortlessly adapted the complex Cloud Atlas to the big screen managed to render such a derivative, noisy and forgettable action film.

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