When you look at a movie that bombs, you need to separate whether it’s a bad movie versus just a movie that lost money. But let’s face it, Jupiter Ascending is in no way a good movie. It kind of makes movies like Valerian look like they make sense. And after years of proof, we can just finally admit that The Wachowskis did a decent movie in Bound and ran out of ideas after Grant Morrison spoke up about how much The Matrix took from The Invisibles. Well, that’s somewhat wrong because, if anything, this movie has too many ideas and bombards them into your eyes. Maybe ran out of good ideas is the right term to use.
I love that this movie was an attempt at whole new mythology and that it has some grandiose effects. But despite my incessant love for the very worst in cinema, it didn’t even move me. And trust me, I’m never a so bad it’s good fan. I want my bad movies entertaining works of missed-the-mark secret success oddball greatness. This misses even that mark.
If you told me that Jupiter Ascending was an adaption of an existing piece of media, it’d all make more sense. But I really feel like I got Leonard Part 6-ed here, being asked to care about something that has no reason to be cared about.
Lana Wachowski’s favorite book, The Odyssey, was one inspiration, with her saying “It was making me super-emotional. The whole concept of these almost spiritual journeys and you’re changed.” She also brought up The Wizard of Oz yet misrepresented the narrative by stating “Dorothy is pretty much the same at the end as she is at the beginning. Whereas Odysseus goes through such an epic shift in his identity.” I would argue that Dorothy, although she can go home at any time, needed to find the confidence, growth and friendship she’d need in Oz to succeed back in Kansas. Also, if all of these narratives seem to suggest that Jupiter Rising will have the same normal person is the messiah in a conflict they never knew about as The Matrix, you may have seen one of the Wachowskis’ films.
One of the statements the filmmakers made was “We were, like, “Can we bring a different kind of female character like Dorothy or Alice? Characters who negotiate conflict and complex situations with intelligence and empathy?'” Yes, Dorothy has a protector, Toto, who’s always barking at everyone. And that was sort of the origin of Caine.”
The problem is, they created a female character who seemingly only allows the world to carry them through the story instead of being a dynamic and fully-agented part of it.
This time, our would-be heroine is Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), who is a maid so poor that to get the telescope of her dreams, she must sell her eggs. And, of course, when she sells said eggs, that’s when aliens known as Keepers realize that she’s the heriditary Queen of Earth, named for her father’s favorite planet. But he wasn’t Russian, but you probably guessed that.
Yes, Earth is really just a petri dish, a place where elite aliens can harvesting the organs they need to produce a youth serum called ReGenX-E, which sounds like a Rob Liefeld character. There’s been a death in the House of Abrasax, the most powerful of elite alien houses — think Dune — and the rich kids are battling over their inheritence. Those kids would be Balem (Eddie Redmayne), who has inherited the refineries of — irony — Jupiter and is threatened by our heroine; Kalique (Tuppence Middleton), who has more mysterious motives and Titus (Douglas Booth), who has spent his inheritance on a spaceship that is a combination of a Gothic cathedral and the Playboy mansion and you know, why isn’t this movie just about that?
As the aliens go to harvest Jupiter’s eggs, they really want to kill her before she’s saved by Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a half-human, half-dog with a nose so good it can smell someone across the universe. No, really. He’s been hired by Titus to take Jupiter, who also controls the Keepers, so immediately he’s suspicious. There’s also another alien on Earth, Stinger Apini (Sean Bean), who is half-human and half-bee in case you didn’t catch on. At this point, this feels like the worst RPG I’ve ever had to play and everybody in the party would probably be rules lawyers and I’m getting bummed out. But hey — Jupiter suddenly rolls for intuiton and learns that she can control bees.
Just writing this next part makes me giggle. She’s soon captured by hunters working for Balem who have been bribed by Kalique to bring Jupiter to her palace where she explains that our heroine is Earth’s rightful owner. Then, Titus’s henchmen capture Jupiter — again — and send Caine into deep space but not before Titus becomes all Republic serial villain and revealing his plan to marry Jupiter, kill her and take Earth. Luckily, Caine cosplays Flash Gordon and saves her at the altar, but now she has to get home because Balem has taken her entire family hostage.
So anyways, everyone lives, Jupiter’s family is returned home with no memory of their disappearance — think Men In Black — and Jupiter owns the Earth. Her family then gives her a telescope and she’s like, “Oh you guys,” except you know, she literally is richer than anyone and could just go to any planet now. Such is the happy ending. Oh yeah, and she can now date the dog man, who already told her, ” I have more in common with a dog than I have with you.”
She replies, “I love dogs. I’ve always loved dogs.”
This line was in the ad campaign and that’s when I realized that someday I was going to write a few thousand words about this movie.
I love that someone on Reddit, while Tatum was promoting the movie, asked what it was about. He replied, “Good question. I have the same one myself.”
This is a movie with a dog man who has a gun that barks. Where Terry Gilliam shows up in a scene straight out of Brazil that grinds the movie to a halt. Where a chase scene through Chicago demanded the moment between day and night when the sky is a certain blue, which meant that they could only shoot for six minutes a day for six months to get that scene and man, that feels like some kind of occult practice more than moviemaking and were that true I’d love this movie instead of wondering why it’s over two hours long.
Much like many of the box office bombs I’ve written about, this made a lot of money. But even $184 million worldwide isn’t much when the movie cost $210 million to make, much less even more to market.
Conspiracy theorists went nuts on this, as it raises so many Illuminati and New Age — read that as Satanic to those folks — ideas, like how Earth isn’t the center of the universe, genetic manipulation, fallen angels, the repitlian character of Greeghan being disinformation, the ideas of Madame Blavatsky being spoonfed to audiences and even a title which inverts Lucifer Rising.
It’s also a movie where the lead asks 105 questions, which is way less questions than I have about what I just watched.