I could go on and, frankly, next time I’m in the pub with Team Screenjabber, I probably will. Sadly though, the job has fallen to me to review this incoherent piece of “science fiction action adventure”, the latest disappointment from The Wachowskis.
Originally slated for release last year, cynics suggested the postponement was because, well, it’s terrible. Others cited that Warner Bros didn’t want to compete with its own Edge of Tomorrow, that the effects work was so complex they needed more time or that the lead actress was pregnant and therefore unable to fly and publicise the film internationally. There’s the distinct possibility that they were cannily waiting for Redmayne to get an Oscar nomination and hoping to ride that wave of positive publicity. All are possible, for sure but, yes, frankly, it’s terrible.
First up, the plot. Er, right, yeah, that’s going to be tricky. Basically, Jupiter (Kunis, who deserves soooo much better) is a cleaner living in Chicago with her mum (the massively underused Doyle Kennedy) and assorted Russian cousins. However, that’s not all Jupiter turns out to be. Her genetic profile is identical to the late matriarch of the Abrasax family, a powerful dynasty that, it transpires, owns most of the universe including Earth. Our planet, you see, is merely a farm for humans, who are the source of a cosmetic product popular in universal dynasties and we're about ready for harvesting. And, according to universal law – or something, it’s very hard to fathom – as the coincidental genetic throwback to said matriarch, Jupiter is a “Recurrence” and is thus entitled to all the same privileges so, effectively, Jupiter owns Earth. Accordingly, the three heirs to the Abrasax dynasty – Balem (Redmayne), Kalique (Middleton) and Titus (Booth) – see her as either a target who must be destroyed or a pawn to be toyed with in their quest for power.
Jupiter is blissfully unaware of this until the day she attempts to sell her eggs (ha, farming, see what they did there?) and is attacked by tiny aliens in human form, and saved by Caine (Tatum), a leather-clad animal / human mutation who looks like the answer to the question “what would happen if Mr Tumnus was into bondage?”
Cue fight scenes that are incoherent, double- and triple-crossing plot devices that are incoherent, the wrath of a million special effects technicians, 3D that goes out of focus if you move your head even a tiny bit, Bean trying to deliver lines such as “bees are genetically designed to recognise royalty” and sound convincing, and far too many lines that provide people like me with the chance to make comments like this. “I just want to know what the hell is going on,” pleads Jupiter at one point. Really, Mina? You had the script. How do you think we feel?
The real bad guy – because there has to be one – is Balem. Well, we’re assuming. It’s more implied than proven, mostly because you can’t hear a thing he says, as Redmayne plays the part as an effete public school boy impersonating Marlon Brando. “Mumble mumble mumble Jupiter mumble mumble whisper Earth mumble mumble find her…” The Wachowskis seem to think it implies menace when all it actually resembles is a gazelle with tonsillitis.
Is there anything positive? Well, there is a fine in-joke, where Terry Gilliam pops up during a scene that’s a tribute to Brazil. And then, er, no. There’s nothing. Apart from the fact that it ends. Eventually.
The clearest explanation of the film comes from Titus, who informs Jupiter that the rejuvenating product derived from human cells is so important because “time is the single most precious commodity in the universe”. That’s a very good point to remember, because Jupiter Ascending is 127 minutes of your life that you will never get back.