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"Jupiter Ascending": A Sweatshop-Factory Assembly of Tidbits From the Last 40 Years of Fantasy, Adventure, and Sci-Fi 

Wednesday, Feb 4 2015
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You know the story: Modest, young human lady (Mila Kunis) lives with family of shrill Russian-immigrant caricatures, cleans toilets, hates life — but, with help from air-surfing hunky intergalactic wolf-man (Channing Tatum), discovers genetic inheritance of grander destiny. "Your Earth," she's told, "is a very small part of a very large industry." An industry, needless to say, of evil. Andy and Lana Wachowski do have a grasp on industrialization, and their Jupiter Ascending feels like some sweatshop-factory assembly of tidbits vaguely recalled from the last 40 years of fantasy, adventure, and sci-fi movies, and hoarded into a forcible orgy of mostly joyless cosplay. It seems generally to be aimed at undiscerning, attention-deficient 13-year-olds; who else could tolerate such a high ratio of cringe-worthy to cool? Kunis and Tatum are as down to earth as Eddie Redmayne, playing the main villain of the piece, is celestially campy. They're all tucked semi-gently in among plot holes that aren't really even worth worrying over, minor characters who randomly disappear but were shallow and annoying anyway, and lots and lots of that thing where, in the middle of a hectic smashy-smashy-pew-pew action sequence, the action momentarily and fetishistically slows down. The Wachowskis deserve some leeway with that trick, having originated it in The Matrix, where it had arguable story value; now it's exhausting and counterproductive, adding tedium in lieu of comprehensibility. But surely they've achieved the bloated, sometimes photogenic turbulence you'd expect from a movie named for a gas giant. It's all too much, yet not enough.

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Jonathan Kiefer

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SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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