I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

Jupiter Ascending

tn_jupiterascendingFirst of all, I’d like to thank the Wachowskis for their unprecedented run of crazy, idiosyncratic big budget studio genre movies, and wish them luck in whatever their new vocation is.

I love the Wachowskis without reservation. BOUND is alot of fun and THE MATRIX is a brilliant sci-fi action classic and then everything they’ve made since then has been messier and crazier. But for them to make sane movies would be a waste of their talent. They can keep pushing the envelopes of special effects technology and storytelling technique as long as they also keep challenging the limits of what a studio can sink hundreds of millions of dollars into. And while I understand some of the disappointment in the MATRIX sequels, I also think that most of it comes from people wanting them to just do the same exact shit again. To me those movies are brimming with excitement about which unexpected turn they can make while also continuing to top themselves in action spectacle.

And then they got to make SPEED RACER. And they must’ve suspected that wasn’t gonna light the world on fire. They are heroes.

Unfortunately I didn’t enjoy their new sci-fi-fantasy joint JUPITER ASCENDING like I did the MATRIXes or SPEED RACER, and didn’t intellectually admire it as much as CLOUD ATLAS. It has way less ambition than that one and a little more boredom. I can respect that it’s something that nobody else would ever make, or want to make, or want to have made. It’s ballsy in how shamelessly corny it is. But it’s a shame that their worst one by far will be their last. (I’m assuming. After this many big budget flops in a row you gotta figure they’ll be washing dishes at Warner Brothers until they’ve worked off their debt.)

The story is kind of like the basics of THE MATRIX redone as a sort of fairy tale romantic comedy. Instead of Neo it’s Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) and instead of Trinity it’s Caine Wise (Channing Tatum as a pointy eared half-man, half-“like a wolf” bounty hunter from another planet who roller blades on air using rocket boots) who flies in and introduces her to a whole new world. (The world she lives in is just a sugar-coated topping, and there’s another world out there, the real world, in my opinion. Just my two cents.) Instead of programs there are people spliced with animal DNA and if you thought, like I did, that Tatum looked stupid in the ads I’m sorry to report that he’s easily one of the coolest animal people in the movie. Probly #2 after the guy who has a mohawk and goatee made out of feathers. I was debating whether the stupidest one was the elephant guy (who occasionally makes noises out of his trunk nose) or the owl guy until I remembered the guy who has a turtle shell forehead. I mean, for chrissakes you Wachowskis.

And there’s non-animal guys that are just as corny. There’s a groaner of a comedy sequence about intergalactic red tape. I was sad when I realized that the bureaucrat with the wacky hairdo and monocle was Terry Gilliam. Pretty damn disrespectful in my opinion to recast John Glover’s beloved character from BATMAN AND ROBIN.

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What I’m getting at is that it felt like kind of a random hodge-podge of sci-fi tones and styles, things that reminded me of JOHN CARTER, THE FIFTH ELEMENT, ATTACK OF THE CLONES, THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK and, I’m sorry to say, SUPER MARIO BROTHERS. It doesn’t seem as much like a real movie as a 2-hour extended cut of one of the incomplete stories in CLOUD ATLAS.

Like Neo in THE MATRIX, Jupiter is an unhappy working schlub (she cleans toilets) who is suddenly targeted by agents of a secret other world (ghostly grey aliens disguised as humans) in a bizarre medical procedure but is rescued by a warrior who recruits her for a war she doesn’t understand because she’s special (royalty instead of a chosen one) and also she has to stop the bad guys from harvesting humans like cattle. Unlike THE MATRIX she doesn’t learn to fight and have powers, she just keeps falling off of things and getting caught by old flying space wolf.

(There’s even a little MATRIX RELOADED reload: we’re told that our myths of vampires are based on the ageless people who control the universe, instead of on the programs like those albino twins from the freeway chase scene.)

Part of why the story works so well in THE MATRIX is because it has a truth behind it. We relate to the message that Neo can do better than sit in a cubicle all day, that he can see beyond the surface level designed to pacify drones and use his unique talents to fight against a system of oppression. JUPITER ASCENDING is more of a cliche because it’s just that fairy tale idea, you think you’re a maid but you’re actually a princess. I know it’s trying to play around with that kind of myth, but it doesn’t exactly turn it on its head or anything. It feels pretty tired.

mp_jupiterascendingI do like what I think it’s trying to do with gender. Jupiter is more like a romantic comedy heroine than a normal genre one. She gets to be awkward and embarrassed. She’s not a female given a few traditionally masculine qualities to be “strong,” she doesn’t start out as or even turn into a warrior. She’s just a young woman. The reason she gets mixed up in all this is because she looks like the royal space family’s mother, and the reason she looks like her is that once every billion years or something genes just happen to line up in the same order they did before and re-create the same person. I like that idea.

She’s a genetic match but she has to keep telling them “I’m not your mother!” They put all their baggage on her and she has nothing to do with it. I think this is kind of a joke about both men and women whose experiences growing up permanently shape the way they treat women.

Because of all this she literally inherits the earth. And she has no nationality. She’s born in international waters and is not a citizen. That’s a cool way to set her up as a mythological heroine. But I don’t think she quite clicks as a character. I like Kunis, I thought she was charming in FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL, and you should really check out her brave performance in AMERICAN PSYCHO 2. Just kidding about that second one, I think I turned that off after like 10 minutes. But I think she has a real charisma that doesn’t come across as much in this one, so I gotta blame the character more than the actor.

I think probly her best moment is when she tries to hit on Caine. She never once acts like it’s weird that he’s an animal man or space elf or whatever, and she makes a really funny suggestive comment that he doesn’t pick up on, and then she’s embarrassed. In some movies I might find it too ludicrous that a human lady would want to fuck a wolfman or whatever, but the Wachowskis have always been kinda fetishy and I think it’s part of their non-judgmental world view. I guess this would be the difference from that scene I think is funny in NIGHTBREED where the porcupine lady seduces the redneck cops: in NIGHTBREED the implication is “Sorry dude, but you know you wanna fuck a porcupine lady,” and in JUPITER it’s more like “You know what? She wants to fuck a wolfman from space. So what?”

If only the villains were as freaky. Unfortunately they’re a fuckin snooze, especially Academy Award frontrunner Eddie Redmayne as “Balem Abrasax” (the names in this one give HUNGER GAMES a run for the money) who mostly speaks in a quiet voice and only gets to go mega and seem like he’s having fun for a couple brief incidents. I know it’s space opera tradition, but for God’s sake don’t ever make me sit through another long boring monologue by an effeminate, aristocratic British guy in a robe. This is by far the most boring villainous archetype. You gotta mix it up, man. THE FIFTH ELEMENT let their guy talk like Andy Griffith. Man, anything would’ve been better for the bad guys than the snooty English royalty cliche. A giant crocodile or snake. A ghost wearing a tie. A super-intelligent frog. Anything.

I guess the Wachowskis showed their weakness for jibber-jabber when they had all those long scenes of “The Architect” spewing philosophical and conceptual mumbo jumbo. I enjoy those scenes but they were a warning sign. Here’s a movie where most of the cool ideas are just explained in long, dull conversations like that. There’s one scene where Jupiter and Queen Villain Lady are walking down a hall talking and jesus man they are walking so god damn slow I couldn’t figure out if they just couldn’t walk in those dresses or if they knew how many pages the scene was and were worried they’d run out of green screen hallway.

At least the bad guys have some bat-winged lizard guys in trenchcoats as henchmen, but you don’t see them that much. Also I wouldn’t mind them doing something more with the bounty hunter guys, or whatever they are. There’s the feather mohawk guy I mentioned (David Ajala from FURIOUS 6) and there’s Doona Bae from CLOUD ATLAS riding a speeder bike and sporting Lana Wachowski’s hairdo.

Of course there’s a bunch of stuff to look at, futuristic buildings and spaceships and shit. Some of the imagery is beautiful. Not all. Some of the people are beautiful, if you can avert your eyes from their ears.

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And of course I appreciate some of the crazy shit in here. There’s the lizard guys and some okay robots, and there’s some guard guys that look inspired by Jodorowsky’s DUNE designs. I gotta respect shots with a random collection of dudes like this:

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It’s shot in actual 3D, and the stereoscopics are decent, for example it works well in a weird scene with lots of bees flying around. And the many scenes of Tatum zipping around in the air leaving light trails are pretty cool and different. But without the martial arts beauty of THE MATRIX action it just looks like a cartoon guy flipping around. It doesn’t have the same impact. I guess you could say that defying gravity even more makes it have less gravity.

Even as I kept seeing bad reviews I suspected I was gonna love this movie. It seems like the kind of thing where even if it doesn’t work it’s so ridiculous that I would get a kick out of it. And I would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t so deadly boring. It’s not half as engaging as other Wachowski movies and then on top of that it’s just not cool. It’s like they took THE MATRIX and swapped out everything cool for something kinda embarrassing. There’s alot of the ol’ “worldbuilding” here, but this is just not a world that I want to pore over. It’s too random and too often cheesy to get excited about the details. Get me away from these fucking animal people.

Seriously guys, he had a turtle shell forehead.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 9th, 2015 at 12:49 pm and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

37 Responses to “Jupiter Ascending”

  1. I agree with you about the Wachowskis (BOUND still might be my favorite of their films), but I have been very apprehensive about checking this one out. I actually kind of hope this film failing at the box office forces the Wachowskis to go back to making smaller budget more streamlined pictures like BOUND.

  2. Good review. I didn’t find the movie at all boring, but it may have just been the mood I was in. I also didn’t find it particularly successful.

  3. I actually kind of enjoyed this one. Maybe it was because of the terrible reviews, so I went in with no expectations. There were groan-worthy moments (bees recognize royalty?) and Redmayne’s whispery delivery made me want to smack him repeatedly, but I still had fun.

    I wish there had been more fight scenes and less falling, running, chasing scenes, but I thought those were pretty good. My favorite was the first one with Kunis and Tatum skating all throughout Chicago while it got destroyed.

    I had read that Tatum and Kunis had no chemistry, but I thought they had okay chemistry. Not great, but it was fine.

    Like Vern mentions, she doesn’t become a badass hero, but I still liked that she rolled with everything. She didn’t scream incessantly and didn’t stand around waiting to be rescued, which can be its own kind of heroic.

  4. Well, that’s a shame. After hating Matrix Reloaded so much that I never even saw the third movie, I completely fell for Speed Race and Cloud Atlas. Those were really wonderful, weird and affecting films that were surprisingly heartfelt. The preview for Jupiter Ascending made the film look pretty bad, and I don’t think I would have had any interest if it weren’t for the Wachowski’s involvement. I still plan on seeing the film if I can dig out from underneath all of this snow before the movie leaves the theaters. And I hate to see what this film’s box office flop does for the production of new, original sci-fi films. (One thing that I can never understand about these movies is how in the world can they costs this much money. Supposedly Jupiter Ascending cost $175 million dollars to make. But I remember thinking the special effects for Riddick were pretty good, and that film cost something like $30 million. Whatever happened to the genre films made in the $20-30 million dollar range?)

  5. I didn’t mind the animal people. When I saw the elephant guy, I sincerely laughed out loud. Not in a derisive way. I thought he was amusing.

  6. Re: the enormous cost. Drew McWeeny has a huge two-part interview with the Wachowski’s on HitFix. They talk about how they invented some of the stunt rigs, and did things like build ramps so they could film professionals skating up and down them so they could duplicate their movements for the gravity boots sequences. I imagine that kind of thing added up quickly. David Twohy probably wasn’t going to those kind of lengths on Riddick.

  7. It’s not a great or even good film (Too many many script and performance flaws for that). But i liked it. The Costume and Art Designs are simply gorgeous. The film reminds me of CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK in a way. Ambitious world building. Flawed execution.

  8. Seriously Vern. How often did you watch BATMAN & ROBIN to see Gilliam in that movie and instantly think: “Shit, he looks like Glover in BATMAN & ROBIN!”

    BTW, I can imagine that if the Wachowskis won’t be allowed to make a nother mega budget movie again, they will probably revive their found footage drama about gay soldiers, who fall in love during the Iraq War. (Or they retreat to the world of high profile TV shows. At the moment they are already shooting a Netflix show, I think.)

  9. For all the shit Redmayne is getting for this, he was at least the only memorable thing (good or bad) about this film. All that money, CGI and….none of it really memorable.

    Its not quite the bad movie classic like say BATTLEFIELD EARTH that some people are trying to make it out to be. It’s just shockingly tone deaf. Most if not all of the intended laughs don’t work, which is sad because Channing Tatum can be quite a funny mother fucker as the JUMP STREET films have shown us. Kunis can be funy too. None of the action scenes are engaging, in fact I was kinda reminded of being quite detached from the visceral experience, similar of sorts to me checking out of MOS during the final fight. Except I checked out of JA at the first action scene. And this from THE MATRIX and SPEED RACER filmmakers who can do good action?!? I mean what the fuck happened?

    Nevermind another problem for me: Spoonfeeding so-called “world building” with exposition upon exposition and none of it sticks. I mean think of STAR WARS, think of hell GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY last year, two other space operas in how they did “world building”.

    Except its unfair to compare JA with something like GOTG. If GOTG was clearly inspired by SW, JA to me was more retro in being a throwback to Flash Gordon in terms of aesthetics.* Hell like the 1980 movie, JA has a setpiece where the hero must rescue the Earth girl who’s being forced to marry an evil space tyrant, crashing the wedding and everything. Only thing missing here was Brian Blessed and a Queen soundtrack. That space port which has statues and chandaliers (an awesome WTF touch) gave me David Lynch/DUNE vibes. Sadly like DUNE, this was also pretty damn dull.

    I think its sad because JA has some interesting ideas. As a fantasy (in daydreaming, not the genre) you have the girl who’s literally an alien (immigration, not outer space) who is the family’s top draft pick and is expected to drag them upwards in social mobility. Yeah the idea of being an insignificant toilet cleaner and then next day you’re the Queen of the Galaxy and a good looking guy like Channing Tatum is your Kyle Reese? That’s good wish fulfillment material right there. Hell I even liked the idea of her poor family buyig her that expensive telescope at the end.

    Another nice touch: the royal family excusing away that “harvesting” (extinction) with how supposedly “painless” that genocide was. But boy, this movie is a misfire plain and simple.

    But that’s the thing: I just don’t think the movie works on a visceral or technical level. You have people online claiming it was too weird or bonkers, that’s why it sucks. “Kunis has bees at her command?” “Channing Tatum is part wolf?” And so forth. But how is that shit any stranger than say a talking space raccoon who’s a walking NRA ad? People had no trouble accepting that absurdity.

    *=Which the THOR films have been playing with, at least on Asgard with Viking rowboat spaceships and shit.

  10. P.S.: I think now might be the right time to finally write your defense of the Matrix sequels! (I watched them again yesterday. I have RELOADED even more than ever, but on the other hand like REVOLUTIONS now even more than I already did!)

  11. Just saw this – in an entirely empty screening – and it’s such a shame to see The Wachowskis take one step forward and two steps back.

    All the problems with the Matrix sequels are present and correct in JA, as if they’ve been preserved in carbonite for the past 12 years, waiting to be unleashed the moment the Wachowskius make anothget sci-fi flick: namely, the exposition via endless portentous dialogue scenes, the meandering story, the overwroughtness that threatens to kill any real sense of fun.

    It doesn’t help that the theatrical cut of JA still feels truncated and almost glitchy, like its been edited and then edited some more to speed boring shit up – like the umpteenth time ol’ Jupiter Jones falls and gets caught).

    The good stuff is, as said above, the glorious look of it all and the action, which is mostly well staged and fun enough. The cast were fine, too. I even dug Stephen Hawking in Space, even though most of the internet seems to despise him.

    And speaking of the net, the reviews for this seem to go far beyond negative. There’s been an almost hateful, braying for its head, hooray its bombed vibe that really seems over the top to me.

    I’ll check it out again on blu, for sure. But in the meantime, holy shit, internet, show some decorum, OK?

  12. POOPITER ASS ENDING. But the world rejected SPEED RACER so they don’t deserve nice things.

  13. Thoughts on Jupiter Ascending.

    1. The film is overloaded with different types of alien species and foreign planets but, in spite of the overlong running time, we never get a sense of characterization for any of them. There’s just a lizard guy: an elephant man; little green men; Starship Enterprise stand-ins. They’re just there with no sense of a shared universe or cross-cultural overlap.

    Consider this in comparison the similarly-themed, but decided more lowbrow The Chronicles of Riddick. In that film, the ice and fire planets have personalities and distinct rules. In Jupiter Ascending, all planets and spacecraft appear to have gravity, physics, temperatures, and living conditions that are identical to Earth. Even when we are in a location where science *knows* the specific differences in the climate/gravity/ect – such as the red spot on Jupiter – the filmmakers make no effort to make it feel different. This undercuts the impact of the variety of creatures we see and makes everything feel small. In spite of all the detail there is no verisimilitude.

    2. The film is all people walking in straight lines in front of CGI backdrops. Very rarely do any of the characters interact with their surroundings. Instead, we get awkward, stagey, and overlong discussions in faux-Shakespearean accents. We have GREAT. BIG. DIGITAL SETS. But the action all happen sin an itsy-bitsy corner.

    This is even more problematic because, while the Wachowski’s are great at using the show-don’t-tell principal with the incidental SciFi tech, the main thrust of the story is told to us very directly through long, expository speeches. Each of the three evil descendents tells Jupiter a piece of the alien world story. This should have been one big reveal. It also should have been revealed in a way that hurts for Jupiter. Like, she should use one of those youth bottles and then find out that it was made of her family. Instead, she’s just told…very slowly. And it feels even longer than it is because the audience knows this vital information long before Jupiter. Why? I don’t know. It doesn’t raise the stakes. It doesn’t establish a threat. It just… hangs there.

    3. The three evil descendants serve identical functions within the plot and should have been combined into one, maybe two characters. There is no functional difference between the bad guy who wants to marry Jupiter and the bad guy who wants to have her declared mentally incompetent. If we only had *one* of these subplots it could have been expanded into something more meaningful.

    Consider the following story arrangement: Jupiter lives a lowly existence on Earth until an intergalactic prince shows up and sweeps her off her feet and tells her he wants to make her the queen of the Milky Way. At first, Jupiter is elated to escape her boring work-a-day life. But eventually, she discovers that Prince Charming doesn’t want to marry her because she is the reincarnation of his lost love, but rather, she is the reincarnation of his mother and he wants to marry her so that he can take away her birth right and harvest the earth. While this is a very loose sketch, it would have a more coherent raising of the stakes. And about those stakes…

    4. The stakes are poorly established and/or non-existent. We need to see a harvest. We hear about them and see some of the aftermath, but we don’t really understand what is at stake for Earth because we never learn what a Harvest looks like. Further, we never see exactly what the aliens are planning for Jupiter, should she be captured. Her blonde friend is clearly set upas a red shirt who will die in a way that establishes Jupiter’s peril, but then… the friend never dies. She just gets put to sleep and then returned to her normal life.

    As a subsection of this problem, the logical climax of this story is one that takes place during the first stages of Earth’s harvest. Why is the climax set in an entirely new location that we have never even seen before? Further, why is there an old, outdated Total Recall-esque facility on Jupiter (located in the least hospitable part of said planet, no less) when the story clearly establishes that the Earth has never been harvested before. We know that the aliens can rebuild a city in a single day, so why would they build a refinery on Jupiter hundreds of years in advance? AND, why does the refinery explode? This movie had my full attention because I really, really wanted to love it, but I’m about 90% sure that the refinery explodes because the plot requires the refinery to explode.

    5. The movie includes a preponderance of set ups that lack any kind of payoff. We’re told that Tatum is part of a spliced race that increases his pack animal instincts. But then, he never acts like a loyal puppy. He certainly never acts like a rabid dog who would bite a royal at random. And then he never even bites a royal during the climax. There is nothing whatsoever doglike about Tatum’s character, other than his shoddy makeup and ugly fake teeth. Similarly, there is nothing beelike about Sean Bean’s character. I didn’t even realize he was part bee until I read this fact afterward. And, if the one thing we know about bees is that they are fiercely loyal to royalty… then how come he is a double-crossing Judas type?

    I could go a lot further, but I have work to do. If you care to respond to any of these points, I would be happy to elaborate later.

  14. This movie is the death knell for blockbuster movies that aren’t remakes, based on a Superhero or based on a toy/breakfast cereal, this is it folks, last one out turn off the lights…

    Or at the very least this is the end of the Wachowskis career as blockbuster filmmakers, without a doubt, which is a shame because THE MATRIX blew me away when I saw it in theaters as a 9 year old and SPEED RACER* was a ton of fun, but even I couldn’t be arsed to see JA in theaters.

    It’s so disappointing that the people who brought us THE MATRIX didn’t turn out to have better careers, but at least there’s BOUND, which I still haven’t seen yet (which is weird because you’d think that’d be right up my alley), so there’s at least one good movie of their’s for me to watch.

    *remember when Harry Knowles said SPEED RACER was like “chocolate covered pussy juices”?

  15. Is the female Royal descendent really evil? I mean doubtless she has an ulterior motive. But she doesn’t really do anything nefarious to Jupiter besides giving her some exposition. She even willingly gives Jupiter to Sean Bean and Tatum when they arrive.

  16. Does Sean Bean die?

    Is that a rhetorical question?

  17. *SPOILERS*

    Sean Bean does NOT dies. That’s how fucked up this movie is with audience expectations. They don’t even undestand that you’re supposed to kill Sean Bean. That’s why you cast him!

  18. Actually, I think I’ve pinpointed *exactly* why this movie doesn’t work: We’re supposed to believe that this is a great, big, giant universe brimming with diverse species and spliced subspecies of every conceivable shape and (politically-minded) color. And yet so many little things are basically, functionally or literally the same as in modern, middle-class America. There is no veil of metaphor allowing for commentary. It’s just… the same. And like, it’s stupid things that are the same.

    For example, Jupiter Rising posits: trust funds; communal property rights amongst married couples; mental competency tests; and unclaimed property claims all function in EXACTLY the way that do on Earth. Hell, I think the marriage vows are almost exactly the same. They even use the symbolic tattooed ring motif that took off all over the world after The Fountain broke box office records and started a small cult*.

    And it’s not like the Aliens have social practices that echo historic Earth cultures in a way that could imply some type of previous first contact or anything interesting like that. All of these laws are identical to less-than-100-year-old American civil court stare decisis. What? Why is it *exactly* the same? The only way that works is if humanity is on the edge of singularity as evidenced by our marginal effective tax rate quickly approaching its’ Platonic Ideal, or something. I wouldn’t care with most filmmakers, but The Wachowskis of all people should really be up on the whole, ‘modern-romance-and-marriage-practices-are-in-no-way-in-keeping-with-historical-conceptions-of-these-same-terms’ thing.

    Like, having the crazy dragon guy say crazy shit like, ‘There was a problem at the clinic’ just doesn’t work. And if it was going to work, it doesn’t work in a movie where you make the crazy lizard guy act like he isn’t a crazy lizard guy for 95% of his screen time.

    Anyway. The more I think about this movie the more I hate it.

    Rant over. Nash out! In summary, go watch Blade II again.

    *Note: This event may not have actually occured.

  19. The Wachowski’s first two films (Bound, The Matrix) were good because there were budget restrictions. It seems very clear that when money is not an object (see Matrix sequels and beyond) there is nothing that keeps their weird imagination in check. I’m pretty sure if they had no budgetary limitations on the first Matrix it would not have been the film we know and (most of us) love/like. I found most of their stylistic choices in their later films of rather poor taste, and in terms of storytelling they haven’t actually progressed either.

    I have not seen Jupiter Ascending yet, not do I Plan to after what I have heard and seen of it. It seems to be the culmination of everything that’s wrong (in my opinion) with these filmmakers.

  20. Mathias, I’m not sure about the budget theory. They might have gotten a blank cheque for the Matrix sequels and SPEED RACER (Which was even their 2nd best movie IMO!), but they had to finance CLOUD ATLAS mostly out of their own pockets and convince everybody to work for much cheaper than usual (And that apparently only worked because Tom Hanks had their back.). That admittedly gave them a certain freedom about the content, but they still had to cut many corners. (A budget of 100 Million $ sounds a lot, but not for such a location-, star- and effect heavy 3 hour movie.) And from what I’ve heard so far, JUPITER ASCENDING was their try of making a “safe” studio movie and many of their craziest ideas had to be cut for budget reasons. (And we are talking about a movie with a 170 Million $ budget! Which is still 100 Million less than Raimi’s SPIDEY 3!)

  21. I read that two-part Wachowski interview over at McWeeny’s and one of the things that surprises me most is their strong belief that their visual concepts for this universe are somehow far-out and inspired in comparison to “ordinary” sci-fi films, which they (rightly) criticise as stuck in a rut of samey-ness.

    Well, I haven’t yet seen the movie, but simply looking at the trailer and the concept art that’s been popping up all over in the last couple of days, I can see that their film isn’t in any meaningful way more abstractly creative than something like CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, which was not, y’know, abstractly creative AT ALL . Sticking angel-wings on guys in Deus Ex-/Iron Man-style bodysuits is not as mind-blowing as they apparently believe. Neither are wolf-men. This stuff is about as creatively wild as Jim Cameron’s blue cat-people living in a big jungle populated by totally out-there critters like, er, horses, wolves, dinosaurs and little monkeys with wings.

  22. I liked Jupiter Ascending’s sci fi goofiness (CAINE WISE: half-albino runt of the litter ‘lycantant’ who was abandoned by his pack and became a military skyjacker hunter with flying boots & wings), but it’s really flawed.
    The biggest problems:

    -3 villains that want the same thing. Just pick one Abraxas brat.
    -Too many scenes where people explain the corporate consumption world to clueless Jupiter
    -Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis are pretty much wasted. For the most part, the movie fails to take advantage of their proven charisma.

  23. This movie was so boring that I’m not entirely sure if I missed something. Now I’m angry with myself because I can’t make any sense of the ending.

    Maybe a SPOILER: Does JUPTER ASCENDING really end with Jupe as the new queen doing absolutely nothing against the still existing harvesting of human beings everywhere in the universe because she now enjoys scrubbing toilets at least a little bit more and has a lot of fun while surfing through the air with her new boyfriend?

    If that’s really the case you have to respect their boldness to end on such a subversive downer note.

  24. Better version of this plot:

    Jupiter Jones is an everyday schlub until an alien prince comes down from the sky and whisks her away into a space fantasy, telling her that she is the reincarnation of his one true love. They will be wed and she will become queen of the milky way. Now, Jupiter is young and healthy, but she is infertile. So, she takes a magical bath that restores her fertility. Everything seems to be going great… but something feels off.

    On the night before the wedding, she is kidnapped by a wolfman and taken on a wild ride through space. Along the way, the ship crashl ands on an alien planet. Most of her captors are killed. She must band together with the wolfman – who is actually like a poorly trained pitbull and *acts* like a dog in many ways – to survive the elements and the local population of monstrous aliens. Along the way, the two begin to fall in love.

    After finding a way off the desolate planet, Jupiter is delivered to a second alien royalty member who reveals that her suitor is trying to rob Jupiter of her birthright. She is *already* queen of the milky way, he wouldbe husband wanted to steal her property. Making things even worse, Jupiter has regained her fertility with a gene bath made from her large, impoverished family. With her Earth family dead, Jupiter and the second royal form an alliance to fight ‘prince charming.’ The Wolfman is given his reward and sent packing. Unbeknownst to Jupiter – but beknownst to the wolfman – this second royal is also trying to rob Jupiter.

    In a moment of courage, the wolfman throws his reward (his freedom from indentured servitude, perhaps) away and goes to save Jupiter because he loves her. However, Jupiter has put the pieces together and launched her own plan to subvert the second royal. She makes land deals, giving away principalities in the milky way in exchange for loyalty to Jupiter in the coming mutiny. Jupiter’s mutiny is successful (and the Wolfman rips out the second royal’s throat) and the ship heads back to Earth.

    But, when Jupiter arrives on Earth, she discovers that the harvest has already begun. Now, Jupiter, the wolfman and some friends she has recently brought into the gentry must fight together to destroy the harvest machine before the earth is destroyed.

    In the end, Jupiter becomes a queen, democratizes the milky way, and chooses the wolfman as her mate. With no place left on Earth, she heads out into the galaxy to fight the royals and avenge her family.

    Now, I’m not saying this would be a good movie… but I *am* saying that this took me like 10 minutes, removes many redundancies, gives action to the plot instead of exposition, and fulfills many of the set ups that Jupiter Ascending never bothered to pay off.

  25. @Tawdry, I think you have it backwards (though I don’t know why that’s too interesting of a story?): the “aliens” are actually humans. I would expect that their institutions affected Earth instead of vice versa. Some stuff is carried in the genes!

    I was entertained. It was pretty. I agree that there was too much falling, and I wish we’d get more movies like the original Star Wars where they don’t explain anything. But I thought the whole set-up had a lot of potential. I think something like this might work better as a TV series, so I’m interested in seeing what they come up with for Netflix.

  26. animalramirez1976

    February 10th, 2015 at 4:42 pm

    One of the few things that stuck out about this for me was the scene with the skinny girl in bra and panties the whole time. Is it just me, or does it seem that seeing this much skin in a movie just doesn’t happen much anymore? Would younger viewers be shocked by movies from the 80s featuring gratuitous bare breasts seemingly at random?

    A couple of other things. Tatum’s physique was surprisingly unimpressive. Also, did he use his rocket boots while he still had wings, or did he learn how to use them after they were cut off? If you’re in the army, can you really flat out murder someone and get off with a dishonorable discharge and some elective surgery because your officer “takes responsibility” for you? Was Stinger part bee? I’m sorry to say that this movie wasn’t very good.

  27. Well, shit. If the Wachowskis have lost Vern then they are well and truly fucked.

    I, personally, thought this was great fun. Excellent action sequences, great special effects, and a whole bunch of crazy shit to look at. I loved the winged lizard goons, the excellent flying debris, and all the lovely prequel-esque digital landscapes. I was worried that there would be too much palace intrigue (there’s very little I hate more than palace intrigue) but that basically boiled down to one scene of exposition and then a bunch of kidnappings. It’s a tried-and-true pulp story structure that has worked since the days of Doc Savage. I see no reason it can’t work in a movie about flying dogboys from space.

    Plus you gotta love any movie whose backstory explains, vampires, werewolves, crop circles, the extinction of the dinosaurs, the missing link, reincarnation, UFO conspiracy theories, and the big red spot on Jupiter. It’s just full-on ridiculous shit all the time, with a couple of comedically trained leads to hold it all together with just the mildest amount of irreverence. And I didn’t even notice the turtle man.

    P.S. Sean Bean has thus far been the only survivor of two consecutive SILENT HILL movies. So who knows what to expect from this guy anymore?

  28. Wait.. Sean Bean of all people survived two trips to SILENT HILL?! Most people don´t even survive one!

  29. Honestly guys, I liked it a lot. I didn’t LOVE it (the last act dragged too much and the action scenes were fun, but kinda uneventful.) but I think by now it’s sure that I’m the Wachowskis’ target audience. It’s not just that I’m a sucker for the kind of SciFi that has space ships, strange creatures and all kinds of that colourful FLASH GORDON shit, it also felt to me like a huge throwback to the SciFi and fantasy popcorn cinema of the 80s, only without any shitty nostalgia. I can totally see how those giant lizard dudes would have looked like in stop motion or how the big chase through Chicago would have looked like with shitty blue screen and thick black lines around the actors and I’m smiling.

    Talking about the case scene: I love how they didn’t use any show offy camera moves through a CGI Chicago. Don’t get me wrong, you know I’m pro CGI but I love how it looked like they really filmed the backgrounds the old fashioned way from a helicopter. (Although knowing the Wachowskis, it probably was all CGI anyway.)

    And am I the only one who noticed the thing about Sean Bean? That he was apparently some kind of bee mutant..who was VERY good at a fist fight? Y’know, “sting like a bee”.

    MILD SPOILERS FROM HERE ON!!

    My favourite touches were maybe how important business decisions and bureaucracy in this action movie were and how the “I know I’m special”-fantasy was handled. It was a cool idea to have a movie about some folks from outer space trying to kill all humans, in which they actually had to go through all kinds of red tape before they could start. The climax wasn’t a race against some doomsday machines, with shots of how the first big landmarks on earth getting destroyed and the first 1000 people die. No, they had to stop the bad guy from blackmailing Jupiter first into signing a contract before he was even allowed to push the button!

    And although Jupiter is now officially the queen of earth, the whole adventure fucked her up so badly that she just said: “Nope, I stay with my shitty life on Earth. I keep some of the benefits, but I’d rather keep cleaning other people’s bathrooms. Fuck that outer space shit.”

    All in all I’m in the pro-Jupiter Ascending camp. I don’t need a sequel or anything, but I’m glad that this movie exists and I hope that they will get some more chances to bless multiplexes with their anime & saturday morning cartoon sensibilities.

    P.S.: As much as I liked that broad comedy moment in the middle of the movie, Asterix did bureaucratic insanity better. http://youtu.be/JtEkUmYecnk

  30. I wanted to like it, I really did, but as I watched it I just sank deeper and deeper into my seat. Just lame and doesn’t work on any level. Can you imagine the look on Warner Bros executives’ faces after they saw the first cut of this? Yikes. The Wachowskis are done.

  31. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKpKAlbJ7BQ

    Getting a CLOUD ATLAS-y vibe from this, not surprisingly.

  32. I guess glimpses of the negative reviews (I usually steer away from ‘one star/worst… ever’ comments after the initial sentence – what could be worse than ‘House of the Dead’?) actually helped me enjoy this movie probably more than I should have. As much as I loved the first Matrix when it came out, I often found that others enjoyed for different reasons than I did. In fact, what were generally praised for were what I found to be the nagging problems of the film. Without ‘bullet time’, everything in The Matrix has been done, and done better – the mythology was intriguing but contrived; the king-fu was good but honestly only for Hollywood standard at the time; and the romance was rigid at best and already corny as hell; and worst of all was how humorlessly convinced the Wachowski siblings were about it being a testament for sci-fi action movies. Yet it all worked beautifully together and established a plausible alternate universe. And as spectacular as its predecessors, I felt the philosophy became increasingly muddled, dialogues doubly more clichéd (how many times do we have to hear “it can’t be!” “I don’t believe this!”?), and actions infuriatingly more digital (which defies what made the first one so special) and ultimately pointless. The insistence of every character forcibly mystifying every plot point they have to exposit becomes incredibly tiresome. Instead of feeling a visceral terror of what could happen to the characters, I simply became indifferent to their fate. My main problem with the Wachowskis is that, while they are busy self-indulging in relentless visuals, convoluting plots and borderline in intelligible dialogues, they forgot to welcome the audience in on the fun. And what they claimed to be an originally conceived trilogy felt definitively like any inconsistent afterthoughts spawned from nothing but the success of the first entry.

    Now while many of the W Siblings’ masturbatory traits persisted in ‘Jupiter’, this one actually felt like a crammed version of a trilogy. Of course it would still be debatable whether it is worthy of a trilogy, there certainly is enough concepts that could have benefitted from better layout and less haphazard pacing (almost every character appears and introduces another new terminology that requires more of them to properly explain, yet the main character for reasons unknown, either just understands it, or at the very least very least needing surprisinglay little persuasion). And it also seems to be a missed opportunity that several key information could be presented visually than being spewed yet again by another character through lengthy implications. I mean, there’s subtlety and ambiguity, and there’s being pretentiously vague. The acting of the royal members certainly are stiff and laughably two-dimensional (even in 3D), especially Balem, but since he was supposed to be this sickly, maniacal alien who is really just a very old human I was gleefully happy to see him meet his inevitable miserable end. And this time what works for me are exactly those things I didn’t think worked for the makers of the Matrix Trilogy – the corny romance (and bromance). Even in such a vast canvas as background, the main characters’ thoughts never ever far from finding the one they belong to. Amidst all the conspiracies and deceits, a little honesty seems extra precious (spoiler: see how quickly Cain forgives his former captain after he told him his motive for betrayal). Those tiny moments are sporadic but consistently sweet, and in contrast makes Jupiter’s decision to (spoiler again) sacrifice herself and her family feel that much more genuinely difficult. My wife groaned at the sappy ending, but I actually thought it was fittingly cheesy. I even like the touch that for someone who owns the planet is content with going back at scrubbing toilets in fancy houses. It has a little of “power to the people” kick to it that actually made me smile.

    Had the Wochiwskis aimed squarely at making a B action movie, they might have succeeded here. Undortunately, they don’t seem to be able to get off from their “creating mind-blowing epic” high horses. Those horses are getting old, W’s. You should jump off, get your feet dirty a little, give people what they want instead of thinking you’re gonna change history or something.

  33. You gotta love at least how endearingly 90’s it is for them to put grey aliens in the movie along with everything else.

  34. So I decided to give this movie a shot, because I’m always rooting for the Wachowskis. And it’s as bad as everyone says it is. In-between the endless bouts of exposition, there are some fun moments and moments that are entertainingly bizarre.

    However, I’m surprised no one mentioned the most cringe-worthy line of dialogue in the entire film: When Mila Kunis tells Channing Tatum, “There’s nothing royal about my bowels.” Yes, that is a line in a film from 2015 that presumably had to go through multiple drafts and made it into the final version of the movie which was shipped out to theaters and then onto DVD.

  35. Yeah I really wanted to like this one too, but at the end of the day it’s just a bad movie, and not even a “good” bad movie. It’s just dull and tedious, and even though it’s sad this may be a nail in the coffin of “original properties”, you can’t deny this movie’s weaknesses are just as terrible as the weaknesses in most reboots, remakes, or adaptations. (ie ham-handed exposition, zero chemistry between the leads, chaotic action sequences, bloated running time (this is the longest 2 hours I’ve ever felt)). In fact, i’d argue if this EXACT same movie came out and didn’t have the Wachowski’s name on it and was instead based on some YA series of books, the few defenders of this would probably hate it, or more likely, not have watched it in the first place.

    I’ve still never understood why so many sci-fi franchies like The Star Wars Prequels and Chronicles of Riddick, etc.. abandon what we liked about the actual hits of the genre and instead replace it with politics and senates and Lady MacBeth and Machiavellian scheming. Jupiter Ascending goes one better and adds contract negotiations and paperwork and mental competency and a long, out of place montage in an interstellar DMV that seems like a bad joke in that it calls attention to how nobody wants to watch this stuff. As terrible as that sequence is, I wish the movie were more like it, with a sense of cheekiness and fun that’s missing everywhere else in this slog of a movie. Oh, with the exception of Redmayne’s kind-of incredible performance, who seems to be the only one in on the joke. Watch the clips of him on youtube and skip the movie.

  36. I feel like the only one who really loved the DMV sequence. This is by no means a good movie but I feel it is way to weird to completely dismiss.

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