Three-and-a-half out of five stars
From the Wachowskis comes Jupiter Ascending -- a completely original space epic, if you overlook all of the obvious influences from other films.
We start with the title character, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a young woman who’s not living the dream. She lives in Chicago, where she wakes every day at 4:45 a.m. to begin a long day of cleaning toilets alongside her mother and aunt. She lives with her extended family, including her cousin, who’s convinced her to harvest her eggs so the two of them can split 15 grand.
While Jupiter toils on Earth, something else is at play in other parts of the universe. In this world the Wachowskis have created, not only are we not alone, we hardly matter: Earth is just one of many planets inhabited by humans, a species viewed as a commodity by the powerful Abrasax family. The family matriarch has died, and her estate -- essentially, most of the universe -- has been divided among her three children: Balem (Oscar-nominee Eddie Redmayne), Titus (Douglas Boot), and their sister, Kalique (Tuppence Middleton). Balem, being the eldest, inherited both his mother’s power, and her most valuable property, and guess which planet that is?
Just before Jupiter is about to get her eggs harvested, Caine (Channing Tatum), a bounty hunter of sorts who’s mostly human and part wolf, comes crashing in to rescue her. Turns out Balem’s minions were about to murder Jupiter during the procedure. That’s because she’s a Recurrence -- a once-in-a-millennium event when somebody’s DNA is perfectly and naturally replicated in the universe. And because Jupiter is a Recurrence of Balem, Titus and Kalique’s deceased mother, universal law allows Jupiter to reclaim everything that belonged to her.
This all understandably comes as quite a shock to Jupiter, but Caine will help guide her through her transition to intergalactic royalty -- and when I say “guide,” I mean fight a lot of alien creatures while defying the laws of physics and looking great while doing it, because Caine’s played by Channing Tatum.
Redmayne’s performance as the evil Balem is over-the-top in the best possible way. Think Max von Sydow as Ming the Merciless in the 1980 camp classic "Flash Gordon" meets Steve Carell’s John du Pont in "Foxcatcher." In fact, if you’re a fan of "Flash Gordon," you’ll be reminded of it every five minutes or so while watching "Jupiter Ascending." You’ll also be reminded of "Dune," "Star Wars," "Star Trek," "Alien," "Blade Runner," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "Game of Thrones" and "The Wizard of Oz" -- and that’s just in the first 20 minutes.
With "Jupiter Ascending," the Wachowskis have given us a gift, but not because it’s a great movie. It’s not. It is, however, a great attempt at making an epic space adventure. It may fall well short of being a meaningful sci-fi classic, but "Jupiter Ascending" is a campy visual sci-fi spectacle that could very well become a cult classic.