Jupiter Ascending (Warner Bros., PG-13)

Jupiter Ascending_75Jupiter Ascending is amusingly bad, not infuriatingly bad, so you can look for it to become a staple of Mystery Science Theatre 3000-type events in the years to come. Think of it as a cross between The Matrix and The Princess Diaries, but with a whole lot of Battlefield Earth thrown in.

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My first reaction after leaving the press screening of Jupiter Ascending, the new film from Lana and Andy Wachowski (the siblings behind the Matrix trilogy) was that it was a career-ender and reputation-ruiner. In the couple of days since that screening, I’ve seen nearly those exact phrases—“career-ender” and “reputation-ruiner”—in the headlines of more than one early review of the film. So while my original observation has since been scooped by other writers, at least there’s a consensus: Jupiter Ascending is a big problem for everyone involved.

Seriously, it’s bad to the point that I’m surprised Warner Bros. is releasing it at all—it seems like everyone (and their respective careers) would be better served by just sitting on this for all eternity. But then, the reported budget for the film was $175 million, which is higher than the gross domestic product of some smaller countries, so I guess they have to try to get some of that back if at all possible.

On the upside, Jupiter Ascending is amusingly bad, not infuriatingly bad, so you can look for it to become a staple of Mystery Science Theatre 3000-type events in the years to come. Think of it as a cross between The Matrix and The Princess Diaries, but with a whole lot of Battlefield Earth thrown in.

To further confuse matters, I can actually see how this project came to get the green light—of course I don’t have to remind you of the success or the Matrix movies, and Jupiter has a great cast in place and a potentially interesting, if generic, plot.

Our main character is Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis, and I couldn’t help but observe the similarity of her character’s name to her real-life baby-daddy’s ex’s name, January Jones), whose job is to clean toilets, though to watch Kunis do it you get the impression that she, nor anyone involved in the production, has ever cleaned a toilet in their life. (Her method seems to be to gingerly trace the brush around the rim. Done!) As countless works of fiction, such as the Harry Potter books or original Star Wars trilogy (or, ahem, The Matrix), are so good at bringing you through, regular old put-upon Jupiter comes to find out that she’s of great significance in some parallel universe that she was heretofore unaware of. She’s brought into this world with the aid of guardian Caine (Channing Tatum), and soon is dressed like an extra from The Hunger Games and doing battle with the evil Balem (Eddie Redmayne).

Speaking of Redmayne, he’s one of the few actors whose performance here is salvageable (he makes an effectively Tom Hiddleston-esque bad guy), and yet Jupiter Ascending timed to be released right now as it is stands to do for his Oscar chances what Norbit did for Eddie Murphy’s back in 2007. That is, it throws them out the window.

127 minutes worth of 3-D headache, half-hearted cultural commentary, and effects that are somehow much worse than the 16-year-old The Matrix’s, and you’ll start to feel embarrassed for anyone who worked on this picture. (Among others, bit players in the cast include Belle and Beyond the Lights’ Gugu Mbatha-Raw, the great South Korean actress Doona Bae, and Game of Thrones’ Sean Bean, all of whom are probably hoping you don’t recognize them and don’t stay through the credits and spot their names.) As I write this, already in 2015 Blackhat has grossed $8 million against a $70 million budget and Mortdecai $7 million against a $60 million budget; I wouldn’t be surprised if Jupiter Ascending winds up in approximately the same league, and if it does, so much the better for everyone involved; the fewer people who see this, the better. | Pete Timmermann

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