Dear Diary…err I mean movie blog. Do you ever look up at the sky? Do you look at the billions of twinkling little lights dotting the night’s canvas and wonder if we are really alone in the universe? I mean we live around an ordinary star, in an unremarkable section of the galaxy, spinning day after day through the void. Surely there’s nothing to disrupt our blissful singularity in the universe. That is…
…except the fucking Drake Equation which makes it a mathematical improbability that we’re alone.
What this now famous equation does NOT do is explain why my otherwise surreal trip to the Alamo Drafthouse was so marred by a disappointing conclusion when I decided to go see Jupiter Ascending. Make a mental note Dear Reader; when a cute girl at the bar with impeccable movie taste warns you AGAINST seeing something, never ever second guess her. Especially after you’ve asked her out to dinner…”Uhh waiter, I’d like your foot-in-mouth special please. I’m on a strict diet that only allows me to make a drunken ass of myself in front of women.”
At any rate, I was shocked at the Wachowski Brother’s sibling’s latest creation not simply because it was the dullest space-opera I’ve ever seen, but because it had the potential to turn the tide of the once celebrated filmmakers’ declining career and it was squandered. They have created a sprawling and stylistic universe with limitless opportunity for story expansion and they wasted the introductory chapter on Mila Kunis and an air-ice-skating Channing Tatum.
Sigh…let’s get this over with. So Jupiter Jones (Kunis), is your average maid that wears entirely too much make-up to scrub toilets day after day. She lacks a social life, she hates her job, and more than likely will never break free of her seemingly dull and dreary routine. Sound familiar? Yeah it’s the opening chapter in any other archetypal narrative that is subsequently followed by a ‘call to action’.
Remember Star Wars? Of course you do. Luke Skywalker went through this exact thing when he wanted to escape from his moisture-farming aunt and uncle. All it took was them getting turned into Bantha fodder and he was on his way to committing Imperial genocide and falling in love with a woman that wants to kill him. Oops! You’ll never meet Mara Jade Skywalker now that Disney is control. Anyways, in Jupiter Ascending we get this same call to action in the form of Channing Tatum rescuing Jupiter from the clutches of goblin creatures and bounty hunters after it is revealed that she is the reincarnation of the matriarch of one of the most powerful dynasties in the galaxy. Did you catch that? Nah it doesn’t matter to the story. She has to get dolled up and…stop the bad guy. That’s all you need to know.
So after all the exposition and action-packed laser battles, we learn that the oldest heir to this galactic dynasty is none other than Oscar-nominee Eddie Redmayne as Balem Abrasax, and he wants Jupiter dead because he’s a one-dimensional cartoon villain that wants to deprive her of an inheritance claim. I hope you don’t mind if I just reveal the entire plot as I imagine you either won’t see the film, or if you unfortunately do, you won’t be the least bit upset as there is little to no plot to be had.
In a nutshell, the Abrasax corportation systematically seeds and then harvests planets (such as Earth) to produce a Soylent Green–like resource that prolongs youthfulness in more entitled and affluent galactic humans. Instead of introducing this external threat to the Earth at the beginning of the film – you know, to build tension and the like – Jupiter just takes to the stars on the testimony of some underdeveloped characters (Sean Bean and Channing Tatum) to reclaim a birthright that means what again exactly? She gets like a gym membership?
The entire movie is just a jumbled mess of half-developed ideas and breadcrumbs that lead you to an unsatisfying and inconsequential ending. Why are the villains hiding in the interior of Jupiter (The planet in case you were confused) if they have allies that can brainwash an entire species? Why do individuals factor in genetic improbabilities such as reincarnation into their wills? Is Reincarnation like a common occurence? Why does Eddie Redmayne have trouble talking through the entire movie? Why is the gentleman next to me in the theatre squealing with delight every time Channing Tatum skates around the air in circles?
I don’t even know where to begin in dismantling this shamble of a movie. To say I’m disappointed is an understatement. I’m simply baffled! About the only positive I could muster to say is that it looks kind of pretty? The ships are pretty cool looking? The CGI looks more polished and well-choreographed than all the other sci-fi schlock that is out there?
I guess that’s about the only reason I’d even remotely recommend this movie is if you want to see some mildly original space tech and starships. The universe the Wachowskis have created is absolutely beautiful, but that means jack shit if you’re supposed to be invested as an audience. God forbid I have to rant about the detriments of the Avatar movies again…
I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but the theatrical release of Jupiter Ascending was actually pushed back to the bleak movie month of February because it would have faced stiff competition from all the big summer blockbusters. COUGH* GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY*. It’s no wonder either as this film literally falls flat on nearly every level but visuals.
The difference between Jupiter Ascending and the latest Marvel triumph, is that – in Guardian’s – we actually care about our leads. We care about the story, we care about Rocket Fucking Racoon and a talking tree named Groot, and each and every character is an integral and unique part of their cinematic universe. It has humor, breathtaking visuals, a cohesive, albeit nonsensical and fantastical plot, and we as the audience are left wanting more once the credits start rolling.
With Jupiter Ascending, there is a blank page entitled ‘character development’ in the production notes and there’s a doodle of Redmayne’s character in a dark trench coat laughing maniacally – or at least that’s what I’d suspect. I’ll concede that he has the most potential as a character, but he literally comes across as the product of a 12 year-old’s screenplay. When I can’t even be bothered to remember a character’s name or why they are important, you know you have a problem as a storyteller. Yeah that’s right I just IMDB‘d the shit out of this movie.
And then there’s Mila Kunis. Really? She’s going to be your protagonist? Name me one movie where she played a lead character that was remotely memorable and Black Swan doesn’t count. Sure she’s gorgeous and has that ditzy humor to her, but queen of the fucking galaxy? Really?
Get it together Wachowski siblings! First you stun the world with a technical and iconic masterpiece like The Matrix (which came AFTER Dark City I might add). Then you disappoint with the sequels. Then you reclaim your glory with V for Vendetta (another personal favorite). Then another debacle with Speed Racer. What’s this? A breath of fresh air in Cloud Atlas? Oh and now you fucked up your streak again with this travesty? Maybe it’s better this one fizzled. I’ll at least have the good sense to not go see any sequels you crank out in the future.
Now I want to be clear with the real reason I am disappointed with this film. It isn’t because of underused characters or the lack of creative storytelling. I’m not going to lose sleep at night because there weren’t enough of the same exact fight scenes (Channing Tatum air-skating and fighting off stuff and things with his invincible shield). I am disappointed because I honestly wanted to see a modern sci-fi flick with a strong female protagonist. I wanted a Ripley for the 21st century that kicks some ass and cruises around an exotic and tantalizing universe. I took the liberty of searching the best female sci-fi protagonists and you know who was listed? FUCKING EVE FROM WALL-E! THAT GOLD-DIGGER! Also, you know, she’s an animated robot that is inherently genderless.
Uhura? A badass? All she does is whine throughout the whole goddamn movie (the new one of course). Katniss? Fuck that. Where is Rose Tyler and why is she eclipsed by every other Doctor Who companion? Fucking Marta? Really? It’s lists like this that call attention to a severe lack of readily identifiable heroines. Where is Milla Johovich? Need a younger actress? Why not Mia Wasikowska? She would have made a far more believable Jupiter Jones than Meg Griffin.
The Bottom Line:
Save yourself the hassle and just take the blue pill. You’ll live a blissful life completely ignorant that Jupiter Ascending was ever created. Learn from my mistake and listen to that cute girl at the bar that warned against seeing the latest Wachowski flop. The only redeemable part for me was seeing Terry Gilliam make a cameo as an old crazy bureaucrat of sorts because I wasn’t expecting it.
There’s a lack of memorable or even mildly interesting characters, the story is underdeveloped and frankly boring, and you’ll get this weird sense of Déjà vu with every passing scene. No, you’re not crazy. You saw this level of awful when you watched the Star Wars prequels.
Never fret, there are always other movies to see in the theatre like…uhh…err…The Spongebob movie?
Fuck it’s been a long month…
Who are your favorite female badasses and what makes them so memorable? I think we could all use some personal enrichment so please share below!