Silvia Moreno-Garcia | Jupiter Ascending just flops around
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Jupiter Ascending just flops around

In brief: Jupiter is bad, but not mad and dangerous to know. And there lies its issue.

At length

The line snaking around the movie theater was the one for Kingsman. Such a fall from grace for the duo that once created The Matrix, though that was a long, long time ago. Not that I ever thought much of the Ws. I liked The Matrix well enough. It was not terribly smart, but it got the job done and it had a lot of visual flair. In subsequent attempts the Ws showed an affectation for everything-and-the-kitchen sink storytelling which rather than adding to the proceedings seemed to doom them.

And now we have Jupiter Rising.  Essentially a fairy tale, the kind of shitty fanfic you might have clobbered together at 15, it might actually rise to greatness if it just dipped fully into the campy waters it skims. If it wasn’t coy about this shit and pulled a Flash Gordon minus The Queen soundtrack for a new generation. I suspect, however, that the Ws take themselves to seriously and believe they are creating a Shakesperian masterpiece which is why things don’t gel. Here are the sins Jupiter commits.

The bad

When you spend $200 million on a movie you might want to hire a scriptwriter with some chops. I won’t explain the narrative lapses this movie makes, if you wish to ponder that I’m sure someone has dissected this, I don’t have the time to do a blow-by-blow. So…bad script.

But, hey, turds like Transformers have made money. In the absence of a good script, however, you might want to try a decent casting. The cast here is just not good at all. Channing Tatum looks uncomfortable and frankly quite unattractive in the makeup he’s wearing. Mila Kunis and Tatum have zero chemistry. Sean Bean is there for his paycheck. The only person who manages to give the right kind of performance, either whispering or yelling for the entirety of the film, is Eddie Redmayne, bless his heart.

The horrid “romance” between Tatum and Kunis probably sounded like a brilliant idea. On paper. This ain’t Leia and Han, people. It’s unconvincing and squint-worthy.

The movie just seems to drag. It’s not good when shit is exploding on screen and you are wondering if you can make it out in time to have a banana split at the diner down the street.

It’s not so bad it’s good and it just seems…unexciting. I really didn’t give one fuck if Mila and her family were killed by Eddie Redmayne. Contrast that with Guardians of the Galaxy which was actually a jolly good time.

This is not going to become a beloved camp classic. That makes me sad. Really sad.

The good. Sort of.

The special effects are good enough. It shows where the money went. On the other hand, in these days of digital wizardry doesn’t every big-budget fantastic film boast similar quality effects? Ten years ago this would have been amazing but Thor, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Hobbit, the rebooted Star Trek and more films have come around and allowed the visualization of very elaborate worlds. It’s just not that awe inspiring or truly different from the stuff that, say, John Carter of Mars did (another film that flopped).

The best part of the whole shebang is the costuming. Kudos for that. Mila gets some amazing dresses.

The conclusion

Bad. Not mad or dangerous to know.

“But it’s eye candy” you’ll say. Yeah, but as I said before there’s a lot of eye candy these days what with all the movies I mentioned and those do a better job of pulling the audience in.

“But not everything needs to be…uhm…smart sci fi.” Yeah, but it must be well executed within the genre it inhabits. Jupiter does not achieve a good execution. Of course, a movie is allowed to be mediocre. I’m just not going to praise it for that.

“But it’s original, non-franchise sci fi. We must support it!” If you didn’t go to see The Edge of Tomorrow and you hold on to this position I want to slap you. That was a good non-franchise movie.

If you are interested in seeing this go see it now. It won’t last long, plus it’s better experienced on the big screen since its merits are the sheer attractiveness of the visuals.

As far as its competition right now, I think it’s a serviceable date movie and a better choice than 50 Shades. My first choice is the Sponge Bob flick, but hey, if you don’t like cartoons nobody has died yet from a mediocre sci fi movie.

Spoilery feminist criticism

It is perhaps telling that although we are told Jupiter is destined for greatness she ends the movie cleaning toilet bowls, but now with a boyfriend. While Neo concludes the first Matrix movie becoming god-like, Jupiter ends the movie not having to deal with the pesky issue of ruling over the universe and dealing with dynastic concerns. This is terribly frustrating. Imagine if King Arthur pulled the sword from the stone only to end a film stacking hay. And yes, I think there is plenty of feminist criticism that we might apply to Jupiter Ascending‘s finale and proceedings.