You need more than Spectacular Visuals to make a Great Movie
Directed and written by The Wachowskis (The Matrix Series), Jupiter Ascending stars Golden Globe nominee Mila Kunis (Black Swan), Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher), Oscar-Favourite Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything) and Sean Bean (The Lord of the Rings). The film tells the story of Jupiter Jones, who is targeted by a power-hungry son of a rich family from another planet. This leads her travelling with a genetically engineered hunter to the planet as an attempt to stop his reign. Described as 'Snow White in Space', can this film really take elements of a story I adore and modernise it into a futuristic fantasy?
So I have been looking forward to this film for a very long time! It was originally on my films to watch in 2014 list but it got pushed back (from July 2014) by The Wachowskis to edit the special effects and develop an effective marketing campaign. I have heard a lot of mixed things about this film and was very worried and sceptical about whether it would be a huge disappointment. To sum up my experience, I have created a diagram (Note - after seeing this for the second time, I found the start of the film much more tolerable and understood it a lot more):
As you can see, Jupiter Ascending never really hits the heights of being a great movie but does spend a lot of time being terrible. Now some explanation: I thought this movie was dreadful to begin with - it was so confusing and stressful to watch as there was so many things going on and the same time. It didn't help that a lot of the beginning of the film gave a lot of screen time to Eddie Redmayne (more on him later). I completely understand how some people believe that this was silly (because it was) but I also believe that they let the awful beginning ruin the rest of the film. However, there is a really good action-packed fight scene towards the beginning of the film that I enjoyed.
The film starts to get better when Jupiter is whisked away off of planet Earth. This is when we truly get to see special effects at their best. In my opinion, they may be as good as the ones in Gravity. This makes Jupiter Ascending's visuals very Oscar friendly for 2016. The movie is really spectacular to look at for the majority of the 2 hours which shows that the extra 6 months of work paid off. However, there are a few segments that are a little cartoony - the lizard type creatures look like they belong in a video game! The make up and hair team deserve credit as well as every actor and even the extras all looked fantastic and were all unique which is very unusual for this type of movie.
The actual plot of the film was quite confusing. It didn't really have a clear direction. If you were to ask me now what it was about, I wouldn't be able to give you a confident answer. There were many political elements to the story (which fellow critics despised) which I quite liked as it ironically made a very unrealistic fantasy film have realistic factors. There are many loose-ends that aren't tied up- this occurs because as soon as the main characters are finished in a particular location, they just leave so you do not find out what happens to characters they interacted with. However, I do believe that this was like Snow White (or even Cinderella) in space as a damsel in distress like character is whisked away into a life that is the polar opposite to hers - it works quite well! The ending was also very satisfying as it didn't leave doors open for sequels and the main characters didn't really have any loose ends. The film also gives a really nice message at not taking life for granted and always seeing the positive in every situation.
The acting is this is good (for the majority of the time). Channing Tatum is the most solid and holds the film very well. Tatum is really proving himself to audiences that they can trust him and the roles he picks. I also quite liked Mila Kunis in this, I already like her as an actress but I feel she was very likeable and kept the film 'grounded' in a way - she was one of the only actors who wasn't masked with a face of prosthetics. However, I do believe she works best in comedy films (see Friends with Benefits, Ted). Sean Bean was ok - I'm not that familiar with him but I get the feeling he is similar to Jason Statham and Liam Neeson - he just plays himself. However, lets talk about how AWFUL Eddie Redmayne was in this - he was completely miscast! I felt like telling him to cough or clear his throat because the voice he was putting on wasn't believable at all - he just sounded stupid. I said earlier on in this review that some of the film is Oscar friendly but Eddie Redmayne deserves a RAZZIE for his performance in this - dreadful. An older and more experienced actor just have took his place - it would have probably worked better if Redmayne and Bean swapped places.
I'd also like to mention a little bit about Jupiter Jones. She is no Katniss Everdeen or Elsa. but she is also not Bella Swan or a olden day Disney princess. She does stick up for herself when she needs to and shows she cares a lot about her family, however she also appreciates love. This is quite a realistic portrayal of a woman so I give this marks for that. Credit has to go to Mila Kunis for portraying a character quite realistically - not all females don't need a man but not all are boy-crazy: this character kind of meets a middle ground.
On the whole, Jupiter Ascending is a pretty fun movie. Don't expect it to be a masterpiece because it isn't but also don't let the painful beginning cloud you from enjoying the rest of the film. With spectacular visuals, good performances from Kunis and Tatum but an awful one from Redmayne and a muddled plot, Jupiter Ascending really proves that your film doesn't just have to look good, it has to be good to be a great movie. I'd watch it again and I think you should too but go in with an open mind.
Imagine going to Disney World: You go on the new Snow White roller coaster - it is slow to start with and has its ups and downs throughout and has amazing animatronics but afterwards you are satisfied - that is what this is (in a way)!
Note - I have actually moved this review from 3.25 to 3.5 - the reason for this is the more I think about it (it has been stuck in my mind for over 24 hours), the more I like it. The film was a really fun time even though it has many flaws. It has to be the most under appreciated film of 2015 so far. If you follow me on Twitter, you will see that I called this my guilty pleasure of 2015 so far - it really is! I saw it for the second time in the cinema and enjoyed it a lot more.