Jupiter Ascending Review
I was figitting in the back of the theater while watching the Matrix Reloaded. A woman sitting in front of me tried to shush me. I must have been figitting too loudly and disturbing her concentration on what was plainly a cinematic bed-wetting. I was angry that success had ruined what could have been a great sequel to an obviously great beginning in the original Matrix.
The Wachowskis have been given several opportunities to tell their stories on the big screen and the budgets to match their reach. Trouble is the story got left on the coffee table. What is happening in the translation of their ideas to the big screen? They get all the pageantry and fanciness right, but it hasn’t been in service of the story. The fundamental job of a director in a narrative fiction is to tell a compelling story while arguing some thematic idea.
Making a big budget picture is not an easy thing to do. Making a no budget video is not an easy thing to do either. Filmmaking is like going to war. The fog of getting it done can cloud the clearest vision. The logistics are colossal and the pressures monstrous. No one takes on those kinds of difficulties with the intention of making a bad movie. You want your work to turn out great. Sometimes it doesn’t. The creative forces must be focused to a fine point like a laser light. All the wavelengths and frequencies of the art must converge to burn like the brilliance of the sun. This hasn’t been happening lately with the Wachowski films to merit the big budgets and epic stories.
Maybe the Wachowskis need to make smaller pictures where the distraction of all those toys they get to play with won’t cloud their cinematic vision. I’d like to see how they handle a picture with a $20 million dollar budget. They’d have nothing much to do then but tell a great story and let that carry the film. They did it before with Bound, why not make some more of those smaller pictures? Get their story telling chops back and then go for another big concept epic.
You’ve no doubt noticed that I haven’t mentioned the elephant in the room, namely Jupiter Ascending. I tried to watch it 5 times and would wake up at different parts and then try to start over. I had to give up. It did not hold my interest. There was nothing of interest to keep that curious part of my mind active. Jupiter Ascending for me was a kaleidoscope of color and computer graphics trickery not unlike the wallpaper that is a Michael Bay Transformers film.
The fact that after sixteen years the Wachowskis film marketing still has the tag line “From the Creators of The Matrix Trilogy” plastered on the ads tells you how long it’s been since they’ve had a hit as substantial as The Matrix. Four Oscars is great and all, but awards don’t entertain the movie going public. By now their ads shouldn’t have to reference The Matrix. You don’t see Tarrantino movies referencing his past hits. Maybe that’s because he’s had a few hits and his name is enough to get the job done.
So having not really seen the film because I kept slipping into darkness at the “eyelid theater” I can’t recommended Jupiter Ascending except as a cure for insomnia. Maybe you can find something about it to keep your interest. I found it exhausting. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!
Ira Harmon/ Film reviewer for Pop Machine