2 Stars — Shallow

When Richard Dawkins suggested in the documentary film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed that aliens “seeded” the Earth with the first human beings, Andy and Lana Wachowski were listening. As directors and writers of Jupiter Ascending, they posit a universe in which humanity has planted our DNA throughout the universe on the inhabitable planets. However, the reason is not for our survival but for the harvesting of these humans by a privileged few who use their DNA to restore their youth so that they can live for millennia.

Claiming that humanity forms a pyramid where the many die so the few at the top can go on forever, Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne) has discovered that his mother has returned in a biologically identical woman on one of the planets whose humans are being raised for harvest. The planet is Earth, and the biological “reincarnation” is Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis).

Jupiter’s English father is killed before she is born and her Russian mother gives birth to her during the astrological sign of Jupiter’s ascension. Having left Earth to herself in her will, the Abrasax family now realizes that Earth belongs to Jupiter.

It is this fact that starts an all-out war between the three Abrasax siblings. After millennia living as privileged children, they are morally bankrupt, consumed with greed, obsessed with sibling rivalry and have lost any sense of love. Balem lives as the industrialist who is motivated by the accumulation of wealth and power. Titus (Douglas Booth) lives for sexual pleasure and self-promotion by using charm and lies to best his brother. Their sister, Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), is invested in her position of privilege and use of others to maintain her youth and immortality, as well as preventing either of her brothers from succeeding in this war of sibling rivalry and competition.

Along with this mix of self-absorbed and power-hungry characters is a uniquely engineered human/wolf warrior named Caine Wise (Channing Tatum). His character turns this science fiction tale into a somewhat romantic, though over-the-top action film. With elaborate cities and a variety of aliens, the story is imaginatively told for those who love the genre, though it quickly becomes cartoon-like in its lack of believability.

We won’t spoil the story by telling how all of this weaves together, except to note that there are few redeeming aspects. This strange mix of astrology, reincarnation, powerful leaders living off of harvested humans and brutal violence to further one sibling’s power over another is troubling. To think that humans control the universe and yet have no compassion, faith or morality is a dark portrayal of our humanity.

Different from their Matrix trilogy, the Wachowskis weave a darker tale that is heavy on action and imaginative alien characters but inadequate in any lasting value.


» The absence of any spirituality in this film is very different from the Matrix, which plays with the Christian language of Trinity, The One, prophecy and self-sacrifice. However, the symbol of the flying dragons in this film uses the Christian symbol of the demonic. Do you find the biblical symbols helpful in your enjoyment of the films? Why or why not?

» The premise that human beings would evolve into greedy capitalists and self-serving cannibals assumes there is no deeper sense of morality within us. What do you think best describes the deepest definitions of our shared humanity?

» The decision of Jupiter to return to her family and “date” Caine was an interesting conclusion to the tale. How would you have ended the story?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of Free Methodist Church, 1435 Cliff Drive. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.