Jupiter's Moon Review
Religion, immigration and terrorism are thrown together in Kornél Mundruczó’s follow-up to 2014's equally as ridiculous, White God. His latest sci-fi/fantasy blend, Jupiter’s Moon, tells us in the title card that out of Jupiter’s 67 moons only Europa is capable of sustaining life. It sets the scene for what you hope may be an intriguing connection with the real world events portrayed by the director in his native Hungary. What we are treated to instead is a shallow and self-indulgent metaphor about the refugee crisis in Europe for two slow hours, although in a fraction of that time you can probably figure out why it appeared in competition for the Palme d’Or.
Mundruczó throws us straight into the story following Syrian refugee Aryan (Zsombor Jéger) while attempting to cross the border into Hungary. The high-energy opening wields the camera to his side pitching us underwater and back onto land as he runs for his life once the authorities arrive to swoop up dozens of refugees. Taking three bullets to the chest from refugee camp Director Lazlo (György Cserhalmi) appears to wipe out any chance Aryan has of starting again in a new country. Then, suddenly, he somehow comes back to life and begins to bizarrely drift up to the sky above the forest before crashing back down through the trees to the ground.
Meanwhile, Dr. Gabor Stern (played by Georgian actor Merab Ninidze and terribly dubbed using the Hungarian voice of András Bálint), works in the nearby refugee camp helping the injured whilst also collecting bribes from new arrivals searching for a way out. He hopes to use the money to run away with his nurse girlfriend while avoiding a pending negligence trial he is sure will end his career in medicine. Stern is at first gobsmacked by Aryan’s floating abilities before quitting his job, pursuing the boy, and using him as a performing monkey to rake in money from rich patients who believe he has the power to cure them. The duo disappear on the run, with Lazlo hot on their tail determined to find out who the boy really is and to bring them both under the control of the authorities.
Aside from a stream of blunt metaphors being painfully smashed over our heads, the narrative remains a mess and wastes two hours endlessly going in circles. Both Aryan and Stern remain hollows shells for the themes Mundruczó continues to pile on-top of what is essentially a puffed-up chase movie. Even Marcell Rév’s cinematography, as stunning as it is at times, begins to grate once we are subjected to another aimless sequence of Aryan floating into the sky, his arms waving through the air. There is no denying the technical accomplishment of these sequences which appear to take inspiration from Iñárritu, but despite their seamless fluidity, they add nothing to the story, leaving us as bemused as Aryan dangling 100 feet up in the air.
For a film with so much on its mind Jupiter’s Moon somehow manages to say very little of note at all. It becomes lost in a haze of its own ponderous navel-gazing and totally forgets to do anything with the two characters as they amble from one set-piece to another. Mundruczó’s film plays like a clichéd music video full of stunning visuals shamelessly patting itself on the back for addressing such important real-world problems. The director's next project – Deeper – will see him head over to Hollywood and oversee a big-budget sci-fi led by Bradley Cooper and Gal Gadot. Without any obvious politically thematic distractions you can only hope that Mundruczó can put his strong visual eye to good use with a story that can finally match it.