Responses to Jupiter Ascending have spanned the reaches between awful and amazing. Critics abhorred it while Tumblr users deemed it bad, but somehow good. Some people even went as far to say they worship it. One friend was overheard to have said, “It was bad and I just didn’t care.”
I was going to see the movie regardless of the reviews. Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum starring in a Sci-Fi movie? There was never any doubt I would see it. So when I finally sat down to watch this one, in a nearly empty theater, I was hoping for the best but preparing for the worst. I remained conflicted for the entirety of the movie. In awe, but conflicted. I kept leaning forward, nudging to the edge of my seat, to be as close to the movie as possible. In the end, I sat while the credits rolled in absolute silence before turning to my friend, tears threatening to escape my eyes, and said, “That was amazing. It was terrible, but it was amazing.”
Thinking it through, I realized the movie succeeded in almost every way. The cast, costumes, cinematography where all amazing. Where it failed was in its story-telling. My reasoning is as follows.
What the movie did right:
This movie reached Avatar levels of beauty and other have compared it to the style of The Fifth Elements. Every new scene, new world, blew my mind away. The $176 million that went into this production was well worth it. My eyes flitted from corner to corner of the screen trying to take everything in. From the costumes and make-up to the worlds themselves, everything was gorgeous. There was a house filled inside and out with bees and honeycombs, an earth-like planet whose surface looked red from space because of all the flowers growing there, the center of Jupiter’s storm, it goes on and on. And there was an amazing contract between everything mundane and earth and everything space. Even Mila Kunis transforms from a drab, skinny house cleaner to a goddess.
Cast and Acting
Upon first glance you may think the names Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, and Eddie Redmayne do not belong in a Science Fiction film. The darling of That 70s Show, Nicholas Spark’s favorite actor, and the guy from Les Mis? It sounds like a bad joke. Only Sean Bean rounding off the cast made any sense. But then you watch it and you wonder why you ever doubted them. Tatum’s awkward delivery and fierce protectiveness were spot on, Kunis perfected the confused-earth girl look and had some stinging one-liners, and Redmayne’s performance was all-consuming. I think he may have stolen the show playing the physically weak, soft-spoken, but powerful and quick to anger royal. His voice rarely raised above a whisper and somehow this eerie sickliness captured the character perfectly. And then you throw in the raw sexual chemistry between Tatum and Kunis and you couldn’t ask for a better cast.
The producers used their budget wisely to have some stunning CGI creations. From the cyborgs with humanoid faces to the half-dragon/half-Godzilla warriors, these characters were done excellently. There is really no excuse for bad CGI these days, but yet we still see it all the time. (The werewolf in HP3 still makes me shudder.) I didn’t question the existence or reality of these creatures for even a minute, rather I wanted to know more about their backgrounds, their planets and lives.
I am guilty of being a fight-scene ignorer. I often zone out when watching them in the theaters (The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies was basically a nap) and if I’m watching them alone I pull out my phone and play 2048 or check Facebook until it’s done. I just have never really enjoyed fight scenes and the exceptions are few and far between. But I enjoyed every fight scene in this movie. I don’t know if it was Cain’s (Tatum) holographic, colorful shield or the fact that he wore Jupiter (Kunis) as an “adorable backpack” for a good portion of them. These, along with the rest of the movie, where stunning and also imaginative. We get to see Jupiter evolving in these scenes, from the beginning where she is clinging to Cain like a baby gorilla to the end where she fights Balem Abrasax (Redmayne) alone. We get to see the character’s use space technology to their advantage – In one scene Cain uses a device meant to open a portal between floors to hang his assailant when he removes the device with perfect timing and the floor closes around the pursuer’s throat. I could watch these scenes over and over again and not get bored as I discover more and more happening in them.
Costumes: Let’s all say it together… 1, 2, 3 … COSTUME PORN. Every single outfit was stunning and intricate, all the way down to Cain’s tattoo. But, of course, the real winners here were Jupiter’s gowns, make-up, and hair style. I actually said, “Oh my god, wow,” when she walked out in the black number and couldn’t take my eyes off her in the red and white wedding dress. And can we talk about the flawless makeup? Kunis’ lips are only second to Taylor Swift.
One Liners: I will admit that this movie was funnier than it was probably intended to be. I don’t think the writers meant some of these lines to breed hilarity in the audience. Balem at one point screams, “I CREATE LIFE! And I destroy it.” I almost fell out of my chair. Clearly it was supposed to show the insanity behind Balem’s actions but really it was just hilarious. And Jupiter’s awkward forwardness awarded even more humor, the best of them being, “I love dogs. I’ve always loved dogs,” when Cain explains that he is closer in status to a dog than to royalty.
What the movie did wrong:
Concept: This is not the first piece of science fiction to wrangle with the concept that earth is simple a seed planet for another race. It may be one of the worst, however. In this story, humans are being farmed and turned into an elixir than will keep the rich young forever. 100 humans to each bottle of elixir means a lot of seed planets. And the three royals all inherited a large number of planets and have large stock in their elixirs. Earth is one of the most populate planets, owned by Balem and worth all his brother’s planets combined. Basically, everyone wants earth because an earth harvest will yield a whopping ton of elixir.
Along comes Jupiter, your average immigrant earth girl, cleaning homes and living with no less than 10 people. Only for it to be discovered that her genes are an exact replica of the three royal’s mother, she is a “reoccurance.” And it turns out their mother put an addendum in her will, just in case a reoccurance surfaced, that this person would become a royal and inherit earth. See the problem here? So suddenly everyone wants her, either out of the way or dead, so that they can claim earth in her name. Balem is the most zealous of the three because he already holds earth, until Jupiter accepts her position.
All in all, a very weak, very odd concept. Why would you leave anything in your will for some nobody just because she has the same gene sequence as you? It is not as if she has your soul or anything special or different about her. In fact, one of the refreshing parts of the film was how very normal Jupiter was. She did not have special powers or abilities, she had to be a good person and makes friends to get by (Including the hunk sent to kidnap her, Cain Wise), she was awkward but good. The three royals however were very one-dimensional. The brothers wanted the same thing, to inherit earth. It is unclear what exactly the sister wanted which leads me to the next point…
Plot Holes: Kalique Abrasax, played by Tuppence Middleton, played a very small and odd role in this movie. She helps Jupiter get off earth, half-heartedly explains what’s going on, and then sends her on her way. Nothing about this scene was clear. Why did she help Jupiter? Did she want Kunis to succeed because it would screw over her brothers? Did she want Jupiter to succeed for her own reasons? Did she want to help deliver Jupiter to the murderous hands of her brothers? And why did she tell Jupiter only half the story? And if the elixir made her young, how long had she refrained from partaking to look old enough for the dramatic affect of her transformation? What the hell was Kalique Abrasax’s role in all this? Cain could have found a way to get her off earth if his original intention was to deliver her to Titus Abrasax. And Titus later explains everything that Kalique does not, making her roll somewhat ambiguous and unnecessary. Part of me suspects they needed another female face to round out the cast while her role was not entirely defined.
But what happens to Titus Abrasax is still not all clear. He wants to marry Jupiter and then kill her to get earth, but what of Balem? How does he intend to hold earth when Balem is as likely to kill him as anyone else. And what happens to him after Cain arrives with the space police and rescues Jupiter? The police leave with Cain and Jupiter, so who remains to make sure Titus doesn’t cause more trouble? And if no one is left behind, why doesn’t Titus follow Jupiter to … well, Jupiter?
And why did Jupiter’s father have to die? I mean, it adds depth to her character that her widowed mother needed to illegally immigrate to America from Russia and then live a life of virtual poverty but… once Jupiter was conceived, what was done was done. Her father dying, her mother immigrating, none of this has anything to do with Jupiter’s genetic pattern. She would have been a reoccurance regardless if she’d had two parents instead of one. The only thing having one parent gives her is the freedom to move about a bit more freely. Some may argue that his death leads Jupiter to become passionate about space and her namesake, which makes her want to buy a telescope, which makes her go to fertility clinic where her genes are put on file and she is discovered. And while it is true, I find it generally weak. It is a forced motivation.
And do the royals have any obligation to the people who don’t live on the seed planets, who are actually part of their population? Their only concern seems to be who inherits earth. And after the movie when Jupiter returns to earth to protect it… she is a royal now. Does she have any responsibilities to the court that will force her to return to space? It is not as if her royalty is unknown, she is officially registered as an “entitled” and I want to know more about what that means.
A Mile Long and An Inch Deep: This was my biggest sadness when it comes to this movie. So much information is scratched but so little is elaborated on. What else do these people do except try to make more money, to buy more elixir, to stay young forever? What goes on in the city they visit to get Jupiter officially registered? What of the humans and non-humans that inhabit that place? Where do the dragon/godzilla creatures come from? Where do the Keepers come from? Where do the weird cyborgs with human heads come from? Who is running the government if not the royal family? Why is Cain’s friend Stinger (Sean Bean) living in a house covered with honeycombs? We are literally dragged all over the map from earth, to a random harvested planet, to Stinger’s house, to Kalique’s planet, to the space police ship, to the planet where Jupiter becomes an official “entitled,” to Titus’s ship, to The Great Red Spot on Jupiter. And at none of these places do we take a moment to stop and rest. We never get a chance to feel attached to these places or these characters. While I cared if Jupiter or Cain died, I had little regard for the rest of them. There is so much more content and context that could have been given to make the characters more relatable and the story richer.
What I want to come from this:
I want Josh Whedon and James Cameron to immediately stop everything they are doing and collaborate to make a Jupiter Ascending TV Show brain child. That is what I would like to see. In the end, I really liked this movie, I will watch it again, I will probably buy it on dvd. While so much of it wasn’t good, so much of it was and I choose to align myself to those parts.
What I think will actually come of this:
Fan art. Fan art galore. And not just paintings and doodles, but fan fictions and comic books, otps, cosplays, clothing, thinkgeek.com accessories, and everything that cult fans do. Already some of this has been surfacing, and only more is yet to come, like this piece by Deviant Art user Darey-Dawn: