Jupiter Ascending

jupiter

DIR: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski • WRI: Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski • PRO: Bruce Berman, Grant Hill, Roberto Malerba, Andy Wachowski, Lana Wachowski • DOP: John Toll • ED: Alexander Berner • MUS: Michael Giacchino • DES: Hugh Bateup • CAST: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean

 

The Wachowski siblings have arguably struggled to reignite the commercial success of The Matrix, which altered the parameters of the science-fiction blockbuster in the late 1990s. Whilst their ambitious visual style marks them as visionary masters of their craft, critical opprobrium generated by films such as Speed Racer (2008) and Cloud Atlas (2012) points to an inability to reconcile an intense and elaborate visual technique with that of nonsensical and awkward plots. Such criticism has become the norm in the Wachowskis’ oeuvre and Jupiter Ascending does not appear to deviate from this career trajectory. Originally scheduled for release in July 2014, the film was delayed by seven months owing to an intricate editing process, casting a grim foreboding air over its future.

Written and directed by the Wachowskis (with more than a nod to Dune), Jupiter Ascending is a science fiction space opera starring Mila Kunis as Jupiter, a dissatisfied cleaner who discovers via genetically engineered ex-military hunter Caine (Channing Tatum) that she is the genetic reincarnation of the murdered matriarch of the intergalactic royal Abrasax family and rightful owner of Earth, the most profitable planet. The three Abrasax heirs are one of the ruling dynasties of the universe who harvest the planets once overpopulated to create a youth elixir that will see them live for millennia. When the Abrasax siblings discover Earth and their vast galactic inheritance rightfully belong to Jupiter, the duo embark on a frenetic galactic odyssey, intercepting the Abrasaxes attempts to kill her and reclaim ownership of Earth.

Adapting the classic big guy versus smaller guy narrative and attempting to elevate it to another level fails miserably in Jupiter Ascending and this is largely owing to the film’s egregious script. Whilst the reported $175 million budget for the film is clearly evident through its ambitious production design, resplendent costumes and intricately choreographed combat sequences, once the enterprising if not rather turgid spectacle has been stripped away, the audience is left with not much else. In an attempt to compensate for an over-investment into the film’s elaborate special effects, the Wachowskis infuse the narrative with a romance between the protagonists but this proves to be regressive, misplaced and underwhelming in a film containing convoluted sub-plots and involving too many archetypal characters delivering hackneyed and disjointed dialogue. All that is achieved is a chaotic core narrative with the film’s players evidently overwhelmed by the deluge of the CGI stunts involved and having very little else to do.

Kunis is undoubtedly miscast as the hapless toilet cleaner turned kick-ass action heroine and Tatum, as the hypermasculinised, saturnine, elf-eared hero, is just redundant throughout. Kunis struggles to connect with the oppressive characteristics of Jupiter and can only muster enthusiasm for the role once involved in combat. Only Eddie Redmayne as the dastardly, camp Balem Abrasax and Sean Bean as poker-faced Stinger appear to inject any sort of emotional depth into their characters, although Redmayne does border on the comical at times.

Unlike The Matrix or Cloud Atlas, which provided texts rich in philosophical musings and religious symbolism, Jupiter Ascending fails to offer its audiences anything other than a one-dimensional and disappointingly regressive visual saga of sci-fi fantasy and 1950s pulp. As craftspeople, the Wachowskis cannot be faulted for the dazzling spectacle they have created in Jupiter Ascending. Alas, this has come at a cost to both the film’s actors and audiences, who have just been deposited into a glaring void of ennui and confusion.

 

               Dee O’Donoghue

 

12A (See IFCO for details)

127 minutes
Jupiter Ascending is released 6th February 2015

Jupiter Ascending –  Official Website

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Cinema Review: Cleanskin

 

Sean Bean at Tesco

DIR/WRI/PRO: Hadi Hajaig • DOP: Ian Howes • ED: Hadi Hajaig • DES: Humphrey Jaeger • Cast: Sean Bean, Abhin Galeya, Charlotte Rampling, Peter Polycarpou

Hadi Hajaig follows his low-budget, noir thriller Puritan with Cleanskin, a tense tale of terrorism set in London, which pits two individuals from either side of the terror war divide against each other.

Ewan (Sean Bean), a crack ex-SAS soldier, works undercover for the British Security Service and, after a particular mission ends in a bloodied hotel lobby and grandmothers cowering from gunshots, is sent on one of those top hush-hush missions to find the men behind the masks who stole the Semtex that was being carried in the bag by the man he was supposed to be protecting – please don’t read that back – basically he’s got the OK to go and kill himself some of them there no-good terrorists.

This leads him to Ash (Abhin Galeya), whose fledgling radical opinions we see expressed in a university lecture room. He soon falls under the wing of Nabil (Peter Polycarpou), an extreme Muslim preacher, who grooms Ash for undertaking a shortcut to Paradise – as a suicide bomber. Nabil quotes Clint Eastwood rabbiting on about killing all your family, and makes Ash shack up with a psychotic killing machine. Oh Ash, what would your mother say – you used to be such a lovely boy.

What follows is a gritty, often gratuitous, but always predictable, action drama of bloody violence, hunting and dodgy dialogue. The twists and turns of the plot never come as a surprise and the film’s conspiracy shenanigans are feebly handled.

Sean Bean’s brooding gruffalo is underdeveloped and his restrained, loner madman with a licence-to-kill mentality and dark past is glossed over with a simple throwaway line halfway through the film. The supporting players could have been used to more effect. Charlote Rampling’s divine sadness is always a thing of beauty but her character here is very suspect, although the scenes between herself and Bean do work well. Tom Burke is fine as Ewan’s partner, but you can’t shake the feeling that he is like a new character who suddenly appears in Star Trek. Enough said.

Abhin Galeya is in good form playing Ash and winning the audiences empathy despite his circumstances. His journey is really the underlying theme of the film: that there’s more complexity to people than being merely good or bad– blah, blah, blah. His journey involves leaving behind his relationship with girlfriend Kate (Tuppence Middleton), a storyline that falls flat and serves little more than its obvious nod to Ash’s struggle and pursuits in life.

The flashback structure of the film to tell Ash’s story is far too labored and clumsily belittles the tension the film attempts to set up. There’s enough set-up action scenes to keep things ticking over and there is a decent story here –  unfortunately it’s not told well.

But hey – it’s got Sean Bean in it.

Steven Galvin

 Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Cleanskin is released on 9th March 2012

 

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