Review: 'Jupiter Ascending' plummets into a baffling mishmash

Patrick Dunn
Special to The Detroit News

Directors Andy and Lana Wachowski wowed the world with "The Matrix's" genre mash-up, but their latest, "Jupiter Ascending," opts instead for a baffling mishmash of narrative tones.

And that's only if you can stay awake long enough to figure out just what's going on in the first place. Our heroine is Earthling Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a kind of sci-fi Cinderella who works as a maid until hunky intergalactic hunter Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) arrives to spirit her away into space. There, she's spirited away yet again by the Abrasax, a trio of preening sibling monarchs squabbling about her "inheritance."

The Wachowskis let the exposition trickle in over an hour of dull chitchat interspersed with perfunctory action scenes, and by the time a full explanation arrives, it's too dumb to be worth the wait. Jupiter, coincidentally, has the same genetic makeup as the Abrasax's recently deceased mother, making her heir to the family's most prized possession: Earth, where the Abrasax "harvest" human beings to create an elixir of immortality.

The ludicrous plot could have actually worked if the Wachowskis and their cast gave us any clue as to how seriously we should take it. Kunis smirks her way through her performance like she's in a winking sci-fi rom-com. Tatum, making his first career misstep in a while, plays Caine completely straight. And Oscar nominee Eddie Redmayne plays the eldest Abrasax in a whispery performance of gloriously over-the-top camp — perhaps the tone that would have suited the film best.

But the Wachowskis' worst crime is creating an ostensibly female-driven movie with a mostly inept heroine, lazily relying on Caine to rescue Jupiter from peril again and again. Jupiter barely gets to make a smart decision of her own, let alone ascend.

'Jupiter Ascending'

GRADE: D

Rated PG-13 for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content and partial nudity

Running time: 127 minutes