While Jupiter Ascending may be a screen original concocted by siblings Andy and Lana Wachowski, it feels no less a YA rip than Seventh Son. The heroine is Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a Russian immigrant who discovers she possesses the same DNA as an otherworldly (and deceased) queen and thus engages in a power struggle with the royal’s three bratty children (Eddie Redmayne, Douglas Booth and Tuppence Middleton) for control of our planet.
Helping Jupiter out is a wolfman named Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), who lost his wings (that would make him a birdman instead of a wolfman had Michael Keaton not patented the concept) but hopes to gain them back at the moment that George Bailey’s daughter Zuzu rings a bell in Bedford Falls. Or something.
There’s actually a seed of a good idea buried in Jupiter Ascending, particularly in its themes relating to class struggles, the weight of historical bloodlines, and the notion of Earth as a gambling chip (all also pondered in the Wachowskis’ woefully underrated Cloud Atlas).
But the entire project suffers from a severe case of overkill, with the Wachowskis offering too much arid exposition and too many artless explosions.
The film is packed with odd creatures, but few feel original: An elephant-like pilot seems to have been ported over from the Star Wars universe, while the dinosaurs serving as villainous henchmen bring to mind those ridiculous Goombas from that dreadful Super Mario Bros. movie.
As for Jupiter, she proves to be far too passive a heroine, relying on the able Caine to repeatedly come to her rescue.
The performances are all on the subtle side, with the notable exception of, yes, Eddie Redmayne. His turn as Balem Abrasax is risible, and it’s impossible to stifle giggles whenever he speaks, whether in hushed tones or loud declarations.
His performance as Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything is rightly admired, but in this misfire, he seems only capable of providing a brief history of ham.