The best way to sum-up the latest sci-fi misfire from the makers of The Matrix is that it ‘isn’t as bad as many had feared’.
It was never a good sign when this expensive blockbuster was pulled from its summer 2014 slot – in fear of ‘bombing’ against the likes of Guardians of the Galaxy – and the producers obviously hoped a February bow with much less fanfare would have increased its box office success.
Sadly it hasn’t, despite a popular cast that includes hearth-throb Channing Tatum, Ted and Family Guy’s Mila Kunis, the always amiable Sean Bean, and The Theory of Everything’s Golden Globe – and now BAFTA – winning Eddie Redmayne.
But it’s far from awful, particularly inspired by the Wachowskis’ visually stunning universe – which makes great use of the planet Jupiter, especially in 3D – and a few nice action set-pieces.
The elaborate story isn’t quite as messy as expected, but its confusing and perplexing plot stream will still leave some cinema-goers scratching their heads due to its unnecessary trademark Wachowskis curveball ‘wackiness’.
Ascending tells the tale of Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a Chicago-based Russian immigrant with a bog-standard toilet-cleaning job, who just happens to have the same genetic DNA as the universe’s ruling Abrasax family in the outer reaches of the cosmos – which in a nutshell means she’s in line to own ‘Earth’.
But head-sibling Balem, played by Redmayne’s softly-spoken but darkly-brooding villain, wants her out of the picture, and has sent his minions to take her out.
Enter Tatum’s genetically-engineered ex-military hunter Caine – spliced together from human and wolf DNA – to protect her from danger.
And for the most part this just about remains watchable throughout – without ever offering anything new – but the cast (bar the stand-out Redmayne) never look like they’re doing anything more than going through the motions, and this fantasy action-adventure never gets close to igniting.
There’s a few nice ideas thrown into this kind of The Fifth Element-esque world, but the special effects alone can’t save this from being a wasted opportunity that ends up being surprisingly uninspirational fare.
Sadly Jupiter descends more than it ascends.
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Cast: Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean, Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Maria Doyle Kennedy, David Ajala, Gugu Mbatha-Raw & James D’arcy
Running Time: 2 Hrs 7 Mins
Directors: The Wachowskis [youtube id=”YM79kFE8g0I” width=”600″ height=”350″]