Jupiter Ascending: The next big thing ... or not

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Jupiter Ascending, in theaters now, is a film that has nice visuals but lacks depth. It builds itself up as epic. You could say it is epic in a sense — an epic failure.

When the first trailer was released, people got excited about what seemed like the next big space opera. Eye-catching graphics, rich story-worlds and intriguing characters. But you’re only as good as your word. And Jupiter Ascending failed to follow through, being rife with problems. Not everything about Jupiter Ascending is terrible. It's bursting with potential. Yet it manages to miss the marks of a great or even good film.

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Jupiter Ascending
follows housemaid Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) who discovers she’s royalty but that her life’s on the line. She’s “rescued” by a trained hunter (Channing Tatum) who whisks her away to safety. She must fight to protect herself and Earth as she knows it.

This goes downhill. The characters are mere puppets. They travel from place to place without much explanation, making it a struggle for the audience to keep up.

The villains’ goal is to kill the heroine so they can rule Earth. The heroine has some motivation, initially just to get home, since she’s whiny and weak, but she decides to save the world as an afterthought.

It gets worse. Being subtle about what someone wants is one matter. Sometimes it’s more powerful when hinted at, allowing people to think it through. However, characters go from undeveloped to disappearing from the film after introductions that make them seem important, so there are bigger flaws in the story.

The whole film, in an attempt to be complex yet engaging, ends up convoluted. It’s not that it has too many characters but too many major ones. None are done justice within adequate screen time. Despite many directions Jupiter Ascending could take, just when it gets interesting, it goes on a tangent. It’s almost as if the filmmakers had multiple budding ideas. Somewhere along the way they grew bored before the ideas had a chance to blossom. Instead of cutting out these fillers to replace them with better, or just different, concepts, they sloppily left them with no place or purpose. The stuff of writers’ nightmares: a plant without a payoff.

One would think that given the pushed-back release date to handle special effects, the filmmakers would have noticed and fixed more pressing issues like everything wrong with the plot line and character development. But apparently, appealing films is all that matters to Hollywood these days.

One positive element about Jupiter Ascending is eye candy, from graphics to costumes to pretty faces that fans love to see. That at least it got right. What it got wrong was everything else. If the most that can be said about a film is how it looks, that’s saying very little. In this technological age, graphics are not challenging. Long gone are the days when big filmmakers valued lovable characters and a good story.

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