Friday, February 06, 2015


This last week hasn’t been a good one for me in the big ass 3D CGI-ed fantasy film dept. I had the displeasure of donning the annoying plastic glasses for screenings of two duds: The Wachowskis’ newest sci-fi flick JUPITER ASCENDING, and Sergei Bodrov’s medieval adventure SEVENTH SON, both opening today at a multiplex near you.

Despite admiring the first MATRIX movie, and enjoying segments of CLOUD ATLAS (co-directed by Tom Tykwer), I can’t say I’m a big fan of The Wachowskis’ canon. Yet I appreciate that they do have a distinct, undeniable vision, and the fact that their latest isn’t based on a book, graphic novel, video game, or any pre-existing entity of any kind did appeal to me.

But the story, involving Mila Kunis as Jupiter, a lowly maid scrubbing toilets in Chicago who learns that she’s alien royalty, never came together amid its strained set-pieces and overly talky passages.

Channing Tatum, sporting pointy ears and eyeliner as he’s a “splice” of wolf and man, plays Kunis’ protector/love interest. Tatum, whose appearance reminds me of John Candy’s half man, half dog SPACEBALLS character, seems to not have completely shaken off his stoical Marc Shultz persona from FOXCATCHER, which leads to some charisma-less exchanges with Kunis.

Eddie Redmayne, Oscar nominee for his role as Stephen Hawking in THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (itself nominated for Best Picture), plays the villain, Balem Abrasax, who wants to kill Kunis and harvest the earth – what else? The Wachowskis have surely taken a queue from STAR TREK in making their villain all Shakespearian, and Redmayne, whose every line of dialogue is either whispered or screamed, left no piece of scenery unchewed.

A centerpiece action sequence over the skyline of Chicago – Tatum has these anti-gravity boots you see – was one of the most cluttered and unexciting chases I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve seen a lot of cluttered and unexciting chases in the last several years.

Sadly, The Wachowskis’ effort here recalls the worst of sci-fi fantasy in film; the intergalactic cities, landscapes, and costumes are nearly identical to the imagery and aesthetics of the lame ass STAR WARS prequels, and the cosmically convoluted scenarios are straight out of the notorious king of sci-fi flops, BATTLEFIELD EARTH.

JUPITER ASCENDING is a generic looking space opera that is without gusto or invested invention. Worse of all, Kunis looks really bored. That might be me just projecting, because I know I sure was.

Now quick, before it leaves my brain, let me see what I remember of Bodrov’s SEVENTH SON, which I just saw last night but is evaporating rapidly. Based on Joseph Delaney’s young adult novel “The Spook’s Apprentice” (I can see why they changed that), the film stars newcomer (well, new to me) Ben Barnes as the seventh son of a seventh son who joins the grizzled Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges in another very “undude” later day role) in hunting down a witch queen played by an energetic but not entirely convincing Julianne Moore. Here’s hoping this misappropriation of her talents doesn’t overshadow her vastly more essential, and Oscar nominated work in STILL ALICE (opening in my area on Feb. 13th).

Now I love Bridges, and seeing him reunited with his BIG LEBOWSKI co-star Moore did give me a little bit of a charge, but his character, a crochety blend of Gandalf and Rooster Cogburn, isn’t very imaginatively written or acted. The old coot even mumbles “fuckin’ witches” when exiting the room at one point. Maybe after winning the Oscar for TRUE GRIT, the guy decided he doesn't need to try anymore. Hence crap like R.I.P.D. and this.

Barnes, with his bedhead and spare stubble that makes him look like an indie rocker or a boyfriend on Girls, has little or zero presence. He blends into the background of battles with witches that turn into dragons, and is even upstaged by Bridges’ ogre servant (John DeSantis).

Awful special effects, the badness of which is enhanced by the fiercely unnecessary 3D conversion; atrocious dialogue, sloppily edited swordplay, and incompetent pacing make SEVENTH SON a dreadful, dreary slog. Even their attempts to scare with random monsters, dragons, ghosts, and even a bear screaming right 
in-your-face didn’t keep me from almost nodding off.

So, that’s two genre pictures that really didn’t gel for me, getting released in the cinematic off season of February. As that’s roughly four hours of bloated CGI-saturated fantasy blather that I’m so glad is over, here’s hoping neither will be successful enough to spawn a sequel.

More later...

1 comment:

A Selenator's View said...

planning to watch Jupiter Ascending this weekend, hopefully I'll enjoy it more than you did