Sense8 – A Few Thoughts

A while back I vowed to watch everything the Wachowskis released.  While I love the Wachowskis’ vision and cinematography, their stories and dialogue are often challenged.  I hoped with a twelve episode series like Sense8, and with the help of writer J. Michael Straczynski, they would have enough time to really let their story unfold.

Sense8 is the epic adventure of eight people from around the globe who suddenly and unexpectedly become telepathically linked.  Sometimes they can purposefully link up with another, but more often than not it happens without warning or during moments of great duress.  The rules are a little fuzzy.  Sometimes they are simply there for only their fellow member to see, but other times they can actually take over the body of their partner.

Most of this first season delves into each characters’ personal story line and each one of the eight characters is very charismatic.  I never got bored with a single one of them.  They span the planet, and they are all dealing with complex story lines that are interesting to follow.  The series shines when it focuses on the personal stories, and it is very cool when they pop into another’s life in order to lend a hand.  Unfortunately, the overarching story, the plot somehow binding them all together, is less clear.  I assume that much will be revealed in subsequent seasons, but things felt a bit forced when the clandestine evil entity intent upon imprisoning them all came into play.

The Wachowskis excel at the visual.  They claim that each character’s story was shot in that character’s home environment, so we have beautiful locations such as Kenya, Iceland, India, Germany, South Korea, Mexico, Chicago, London, and San Francisco.  The scenery is breathtaking.  Frankly, this is a beautiful series to watch.

However, be aware that the Wachowskis strive to include characters that represent our real world.  Therefore we have heterosexual characters, homosexual characters, and transgender characters.  As a result, we have sometimes explicit sex scenes of all orientations.  You want to make sure the kids are in bed for this one.

And while each character’s plight is interesting, the old Wachowski issue of dialogue arises.  At times each character seems to have majored in philosophy.  Every single one of them delivers a lengthy speech at some point, and there were many, many moments when I expected each speech to end with “and that’s one to grow on.”

Sense8 is a beautiful, interesting first season with exquisite locations, likable characters, plenty of action, and a fascinating premise.  Though not perfect due to unnatural dialogue and far too many “deep” speeches, I am excited to see where the second season takes our cast of eight.

Jupiter Ascending – A Movie Review

I made a promise to myself after seeing Cloud Atlas that I would go to the theater for any Wachowski film ever released.  I am, after all, a huge The Matrix fan and I even think highly of their Speed Racer iteration.  Cloud Atlas put them over the top, though.  I felt it a masterful interpretation of the novel, and they balanced character with spectacle very well.

Of course, I couldn’t keep my promise to myself when Jupiter Ascending released.  If you know me that will come as no surprise.  I finally watched it on DVD last night, and, well … I may have to rethink my stance on the Wachowskis.

No one can argue the beauty of Jupiter Ascending.  I dare any of you to find fault with its special effects, costumes, or general cinematography.  Unfortunately, there is little else to appreciate about the film.  Despite having solid actors and even a destined Oscar winner in Eddie Redmayne and a bona fide movie star in Channing Tatum, the acting faltered.  Of course, it’s difficult to entirely blame the actors, for their dialogue proved atrocious.  Sadly, the general plot also failed to make any sort of sense at all.

I love the idea of having Mila Kunis star as the title character.  I love the whole idea of building a franchise around a woman.  Unfortunately, Jupiter Jones spent most of her movie either asking questions to help clarify plot points for the audience or being rescued by Caine Wise.  Kunis’ character, though powerful according to the plot, never evolved beyond the typical damsel in distress.  Tatum played Caine Wise, a hybrid human/wolf/bird/thing.  I don’t know—I never quite caught on to that whole deal.  I don’t ask much from Channing.  He’s a great action star and can be a very good actor if dealing with the right material (Foxcatcher).  I just couldn’t care about Caine—maybe it was the English accent that would come and go throughout the movie.  Even poor Eddie Redmaye couldn’t find his mojo with this one.  For some reason, Eddie didn’t speak above a raspy whisper during the movie.  This became very distracting as well.

I credit the Wachowskis for going big.  This is a big movie.  And they didn’t shy away from making things look very, very good.  At one point Caine is jet boot roller-skating through the Chicago skyline, and it looks seamlessly real.  No more Agent Smith hurly burly fight fiascos.  Furthermore, the space ships were breathtakingly original and the dog fights were exhilarating.

But then the movie became too big.  We weren’t given the opportunity to bond with any of the characters because so, so much happened all the time, most of it nonsensical.  They attempted a love story, but honestly, Mila and Channing had no chemistry and I cringed at those scenes.  Before too long, the Wachowskis clearly lost track of their own story and that, along with stiff, unnatural dialogue, killed the film.

It pains me to say this, but you should pass on Jupiter Ascending.  I’m not giving up on the Wachowskis, though.  They’ve had far more hits with me than misses, and I’m sure they’re next endeavor will strike a chord.