Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Microreview [film]: Jupiter Ascending, written and directed by the Wachowskis

It Sucks Less than Speed Racer!

Jupiter Ascending. Directed by Andy and Lana Wachowski. Warner Bros.: 2015.

On the other hand, Speed Racer really sucked hard. I'll just apologize in advance to its seven fans worldwide, but it must be said: instead of being a movie that had to be made (due to social relevance or whatever) it was a movie that cried out not to be made. And the blame is squarely with the Wachowskis, since as co-directors they're responsible for signing off on the visual look and feel of the film, and the cartoonish colors, etc., while interesting as a technical experiment, were pretty yucky on the eyes. Plus, Speed Racer? Really? Cause that's what the world wants to watch these days, a bunch of meatheads with magnificent hair dashing to and fro in cars? Speed Racer was super-lame when it first came out (that's right, I said it!), and it hasn't improved with age.

Circling back to Jupiter Ascending: I know everybody kind of hates it, apparently, and it's not like it's hard to find things to hate. The normally energetic Mila Kunis's leaden, all-too-damsel-y performance; the fact that Channing Tatum's character Caine (real clever, Wachowskis—I see what you did there with the part-wolf thing, but why not just call him Loopy?) has to swoop in despite tremendous danger and rescue her from Certain Death at least five hundred times; and plenty more. It's easy to hate, if you want to focus on the crappy parts. But why do that, when there's some interesting stuff there too? Unless we're going in a utilitarian direction, and you get more hedons from blasting a movie than from enjoying it, I suppose...

For my part, I actually thought Jupiter Ascending was quite fun to watch (that's right, haters—I said that too!). This is despite it having a weak plot, singularly unconvincing romance betwixt (I get bonus points for using betwixt!) Kunis and Tatum, way too long running length, and a cartoonishly sinister, ridiculously histrionic performance by the Main Bad Guy (I can't remember the name of either the character or the actor, and who cares, really? It's the guy who played Marius in the most recent movie version of Les Miserables, unless said guy donated his lips in the first-ever successful lip transplant!). With its many flaws, what on earth did I like about it, you might ask?

Well, for starters, kudos to the Wachowskis for coming up with something new, especially considering we're now living in a world of 90% sequels (I'm looking at you, every action movie this year!). It's hard to launch an entirely new mythology, and sooo seductive just to sink back into the sweet stupor of the Marvel Cinematic Universe or whatever. They created something new, and even though it's a bit crappy, it's an intriguing idea, involving some creepy genetic harvesting reminiscent (unsurprisingly!) of the "...turn human beings into one of these" idea from the Matrix. Plus, Channing Tatum and Sean Bean deliver some good stuff, and Mila Kunis in the first quarter or so, that make it entertaining to watch.

Secondly—and perhaps more tellingly—I watched it on a plane, and I'm always in a super-suggestive, overly emotional state on planes (I cry at just about every movie anyway, but on planes it gets so ridiculous I have to grab huge handfuls of kleenex just so I can soak up the heart-soaring emotions of cinematic gems like Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, etc. etc. Day!). Though come to think of it, I didn't actually cry at Jupiter Ascending, mostly because every time emotions threatened to spiral out of control, the Wachowskis killed the mood with another visually impressive but dull/repetitive Rescue the Damsel action sequence. Snore. What can I saw? Regularly spaced action sequences are an emotional boner killer.

The only question remaining to you, dear reader, is this: is Jupiter Ascending "worth" watching? The answer is a qualified "Not quite, unless you're on a plane, in which case, totally." And you can take that to the bank!

The Math:

Objective assessment: 5/10

Bonuses: +1 for creating something new, +1 for Sean Bean (and even Channing Tatum! Who knew?) being awesome

Penalties: -1 for the Plane Effect, -1 for choking the life out of Mila Kunis's performance, -1 for periodically jabbing the viewer with improbable rescue sequences every fifteen minutes or so

Nerd coefficient: 4/10 "Not very good"*

*Note that if on a plane, the score will rise to 5/10, "Equal Parts Good and Bad!"

[Think I'm being mean to the poor widdle Wachowskis? Not at all; a 4/10 is a perfectly respectable score, as you can see here.]

Zhaoyun has been crying at movies on planes since forever, and writing about it and other stuff here at Nerds of a Feather since 2013.