JUPITER ASCENDING. Grabs attention… from a distance

This time, the Wachowskis went overboard.

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

10 December 2023

JUPITER ASCENDING. Grabs attention... from a distance

They had a plethora of ideas and couldn’t let go of any of them. They wanted to fill their film with everything they saw in the New Adventure Cinema, in Star Treks, in Star Wars, in Marvel productions, in Divergent. The whole film is flooded with very obvious references to Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast. I don’t mind the fact that the Wachowskis directly reference various cultural works: that they reach for proven stories, from fragments of which they create their own piece. I don’t accuse them of any degree of replication; I don’t mind their screenwriting manner. After all, the famous The Matrix was a compilation and an experiment. What mattered then was that the Wachowskis could balance expressive effectiveness (even “showiness”) with engaging substantive content. One served the other; one was necessary for the other.

Perhaps I reach too far back into history, as the Wachowskis have changed a lot since 1999. They will probably remain creators of one outstanding film forever. I haven’t been waiting for their productions for a long time, I don’t expect anything from them. The Wachowskis are now purely formalists—no longer narrators, graphic artists—no longer fabulists. They seem more concerned with the texture of Channing Tatum’s pointed ears. Who this character is becomes secondary. In Jupiter Ascending, we learn more about his flying boots than his character.

Jupiter Ascending Channing Tatum Mila Kunis Eddie Redmayne

I also warn that if someone has seen the trailer, they have also seen the movie. It’s challenging to extract anything more from the two-hour screening. This is a superficial and empty film, reminiscent of the experience of watching fireworks. At the beginning, they are somewhat exciting because they provide attractive views, but unexpectedly, they quickly become tedious. Eventually, I start waiting for the accompanying noise to quiet down. I also don’t know if I could summarize the plot of Jupiter Ascending. The first fifteen minutes are supposed to introduce the main character—played by Mila Kunis. The Wachowskis want us to get to know this good, innocent soul. She is a poor cleaner leading a tedious and monotonous life. Without prospects, without a chance for advancement, without means to live, without happy days.

We always see her with full makeup, perfect hair, and wrinkle-free skin. Kunis’s silhouette and presence come from the wonderful world of commercials. Let it be—Kunis has something to boast about. However, it bothers me that everywhere around, we see marsh and dirt. She doesn’t belong to this place. It wasn’t a deliberate decision by the directors, but their negligence because they didn’t control either the whole or the details. Therefore, the presented world of Jupiter Ascending seems artificial and alien. The Wachowskis are not creating another Baudrillardian simulation questioning the authenticity of reality, but only multiplying questions that we won’t get answers to.

Jupiter Ascending Channing Tatum Mila Kunis

Aliens quickly land on Earth. From this point on, I can’t extract the cohesive idea of Jupiter Ascending—its meaning. I sometimes deviated in thought from the screening itself, imagining how the script could have been created. I pondered several variants, but the most probable one seemed to me as follows. Lana is sitting at the computer, waiting for ideas from contemplative Lilly, who utters laconic sentences: “Add lizards,” “Lana, do we already have humanoid little creatures similar to Dobby in Harry Potter?”, “We don’t have! So add them somewhere,” “What do you think about flying lizards, probably they will be even better?”, “What ears does our main character have? Let them be pointed and make him a werewolf,” “Additionally, let’s make two guys with strange faces, and finally, a human-elephant,” “With a short trunk,” “I also miss bees that will do something magical, come up with something, Lana, and write it down,” “There should also be some weird ships and explosions—important to keep it happening!”, “Remember the girl with purple hair.”

Jupiter Ascending Mila Kunis

I have nothing against space opera—it’s a noble genre with a rich tradition. In the case of the Wachowskis’ film, I completely don’t believe in this world. It consists of elements that I can’t fit together. They were used not because they were needed but to fill the full runtime with something. Jupiter Ascending is a serious film, the unfolding story is not in quotation marks, as in Guardians of the Galaxy. The directorial duo has no distance to the story being told. The Wachowskis want their film to fulfill a mission, to discover something in front of us.

In such a situation, I expect a clear exposition, an introduction to the presented world. Explanations of why this universe functions this way, why all these characters exist. Unfortunately, we are immediately thrown into the deep end. When everything happens in a movie all at once, I know that its creators have nothing to tell me. The plot is only a pretext for spending millions on visually appealing images. There is nothing behind them—only a gimmick.

Jupiter Ascending Eddie Redmayne

In Jupiter Ascending, you can expect anything and everything. Two concepts worth developing, but intertwined rather randomly, are flooded with a sea of tacky ornaments and tedious rhetoric. Jupiter Ascending is a cheap flashy trinket—from a distance, it grabs attention. However, it instantly falls apart as soon as you take it in your hands.

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

Maciej Niedźwiedzki

Cinema took a long time to give us its greatest masterpiece, which is Brokeback Mountain. However, I would take the Toy Story series with me to a deserted island. I pay the most attention to animations and the festival in Cannes. There is only one art that can match cinema: football.

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