Regardless of the quality of the result, Jupiter Ascending demands appreciation based simply on the audacity of the Wachowskis to undertake bringing an original science fiction concept and debuting it on screen.
The title character, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), the daughter of Eastern European immigrants, cleans toilets all over Chicago, but she is secretly the reincarnation of a space princess. Wanted by other members of the Abrasax family, she is discovered and protected by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) as she reclaims her birthright. Standing in the way is the intergalactic business tyrant Balem (Eddie Redmayne), and his brother Titus (Douglas Booth).
From an auteur perspective, it is undeniable that Jupiter Ascending encapsulates themes that the Wachowski siblings have visited across their career. From human beings used as a kind of natural resource (like The Matrix) to megacorporations and petty executives controlling the fates of young people (like Speed Racer), to genetic memory and reincarnation (like Cloud Atlas), and others. This is a movie only the Wachowskis could make, and in that sense I am glad the film exists.
The world of Jupiter Ascending may be well thought out, but it is hard to know based on the film. The equivalent of an entire novel is stuffed into this two hour film, and as a result, the film feels entirely like exposition. Story and characters take a backseat, which makes it hard to care about the machinations of Balem Abraxas when the personal stakes of the characters are indistinguishable from anything else in the film.
While the film strives to be a contemporary mix of fairy tales, superheroes, and space opera, it never coheres in a satisfying way. Gorgeously lush visuals and energetic action are great assets for a film, but without a meaningful story, the sum total is hollow.
Jupiter Ascending opens today in Philly area theaters.