Jupiter Ascending Review [SPOILERS]
by Adrea Scheidler
Well, I did it. I went to see Jupiter Ascending despite several reviews warning against it. They warned it was a winding sort of journey, visually amazing, but basically not worth the going. Actually, I’d say the opposite. At the core it was a very straight forward and methodical journey that was visually good… but not all that amazing.
First, I have to confess “beautiful earth girl is actually alien princess helped by handsome bodyguard” is a trope I’m down with. So, while industry people found that first trailer like fifteen years ago troubling (I may be exaggerating the passage of time here), I thought it looked great. I tucked the movie name in my head to look out for a premiere date.
Still, I am glad that the reviewers shot down my expectations, because there was some things about the dialogue that might have killed it for me with my original high hopes. As it is, I went into it hoping to find some of what had attracted me to the trailer and honestly, sorry film snobs – I found it. What did I like? Jupiter Jones, played by Milas Kunis, isn’t extremely angelic (read: Cinderella singing to the birds as she does her chores) or extremely rebellious (read: ready to sell out her family for drugs) in the beginning. I love when an emotional arc is not the size of Everest.
Anyway, Jupiter starts out the film as an unfulfilled girl working in her family’s housekeeping business. This family interaction was not as funny to me as I think they thought it would be, but whatever. A trace of her DNA on a medical application is detected (semi-long story I don’t really want to get into) and sets off a universal race to get a hold of her. Very little of this is spoon fed to the audience – you are required to pick up clues from the things that are happening and the interactions of the characters: shocking!
So, now we come to the why. This is such a problem for so many plots like this and I have to say that they definitely went simple with it, but again – I think that was a good plan. The very basic gist of her importance is that she is the same genetic person as a Royal in a very powerful family: the Abrasax. The broader universe that Jupiter is introduced to assumes that eventually there will be a person with the same exact genetic code as themselves simply because there are billions of planets with life. So this very powerful Royal set aside an inheritance for her future genetic repeat: Jupiter.
This inheritance (Earth) is what has driven the children of this Royal to beg, barter and steal for Jupiter. Caine Wise, played by Channing Tatum, is a splice of human and wolf and is one of the many pawns put into the fray by these royal children. Caine can use those wolfy senses to help him fight and he is drawn into Jupiter’s orbit as he struggles to save her from the other minions coming after her. It doesn’t take Caine long to figure out that his employer (Titus – the third child of the Royal that has identical DNA to Jupiter – can we just call her the Royal Mom from here on out?) and the other royal children have started their own little private war to get Jupiter. While also not a saint (there is an odd vicious backstory with him that they tease but never payoff), Caine doesn’t have to go through any sort of big transformation in order to continue to look out for Jupiter’s life despite the threat that doing so will negate any deal he had with Titus.
Jupiter then goes thru a very deliberate parade of the Royal Mom’s children starting with the sister: Kalique Abrasax. Kalique encourages Jupiter to officially accept her inheritance out of a pretty convincing desire of Kalique’s to connect with the genetic repeat of her mother and… ok yes – also to mess with her elder brother’s power. The elder brother (Balem) has current rights to Earth and Earth is apparently highly valuable in this universe. Why? Well, my husband and I fought about this – but what I understood was that Earth was valuable because it is wealthy in resources – human resources (cue: “IT’S MADE OF PEOPLE!!!” or, for you Twilight Zone fans: “It’s a cookbook!!!!”). Yes. The Abrasax family (and apparently many other companies in the universe) harvest people and turn them into “time” – basically like a youth serum.
Jupiter and Caine team up with the police at this point (a refreshingly good but not crazily backstory encumbered crew) and go thru the process to claim Jupiter’s title/inheritance. They do this by going thru a series of little bureaucratic hoops meant to remind us of the DMV on crack. Whoops – I said the journey was methodical – okay so this IS a sidestep from the main path, but it was funny – I went with it. NEXT they get back on track and are kidnapped by Titus so that he can make his plea to Jupiter. He convinces her that he wants to marry her (remember that she is the GENETIC DUPLICATE of his mother – Freud would have been freaking out) for humanitarian purposes and since he has slandered Caine and Caine has rejected her twice romantically already, Jupiter thinks she’s doing the right thing by agreeing to marry Titus.
Caine has survived a lot by this point, but rather than cliche, it comes across as increasingly heroic – he doesn’t obliterate the obstacles that are thrown in his way – he sort of just… powers thru. Its a little like the little blue engine that could – if the little blue engine was handsome.
So Caine survives Titus’ attempt to kill him AND he brings back the police for backup (yay! I so appreciate the little smart things writers let characters do). So Caine and friends stop Jupiter from marrying Titus thereby thwarting his Princess Bride-esque plan of killing his new wife immediately after the ceremony. But Jupiter, tired of playing the fool to her double’s elitist children, and done hoping that Caine feels what she does, just wants to go home. But alas, at home she learns her family has been abducted by the eldest son Balem. So off Jupiter goes to her final confrontation.
I’m leaving a lot out:
Sean Bean plays Caine’s friend, Stinger, a splice of human and bee. I loved him except for the exposition he’s forced to give us. While the Warchowski siblings didn’t spoon feed us anything about the plot or the universe they created, wow they REALLY wanted us to make sure we thought Caine was great at fighting (something they’d already shown us) and that Caine had feelings for Jupiter despite resisting her two advances (also obvious). I was sorry it was Stinger stuck with delivering the redundant lines, but hey – he did sound great doing it.
This is one of the only movies I’ve seen in my memory where I wish they’d added a few MORE seconds of clarification in some areas. There are a couple early scenes where there is just NO connective tissue between a few scenes, but that is something they smoothed out midway thru.
Jupiter doesn’t automatically become an interstellar ninja and she doesn’t run around whining about “why why why”. She does just about the right amount of “why, oh why” then she shuts up and does her best to save the people she cares about with a touch of strategy and maybe just a little bit of kick ass (we are not talking Black Widow kind of kick ass – just ordinary girl that can swing a crowbar type).
Romance: If I do more of these, you’ll have to understand romance is going to be what I am most nitpicky about. And in this area I was surprisingly happy. Yes, Jupiter rushes the romance a bit, but as a whole it was subtle. I love subtle. I love that they gave a good solid reason for Caine not to immediately jump Jupiter (he seeks a pardon for himself and Stinger) and a poetic one as well (he’s a wolf without a pack, too vulnerable to be open to her impromptu advances). By the time they do smootch it took me by surprise but was had been well earned. I tell you – if there had been just ONE less scene of Jupiter trying to convince Caine to kiss her and ONE less soliloquy from Stinger on how wolfy Caine was, I think I’d be secretly going back to watch this movie fifteen or sixteen more times before it comes out on DVD. “Hey honey I’m going to the grocery store again… should only take two hours – no I can’t pick up ice cream.”
I’ll take a minute here and address the beauty of the visual effects – though that’s not what I came away with. I was most struck by the beauty of the costumes. Does it make sense that Jupiter ends up in no less than three gorgeous incredible gowns in this movie? No… but I really don’t care; Mila Kunis looked amazing and epic. Balem has this incredible gold collar for their climactic scenes together… and yeah, right that is still costume work. Ok… Caine had these hover boots that I think were supposed to be the “bullet time” of this movie. And they were sometimes awesome; they were also sometimes a little awkward… frankly there was too much of them. The composite work seemed pretty dang seamless and maybe that’s what should be getting the attention. Because it was beautiful and even though I was trying to distract myself by looking for issues, it didn’t work. I just got to see more of the digital art.
So that’s it. Adventure, romance, some humor and a LOT of fancy bootwork. I like it… but sort of defensively.
Verdict: 4 out of 5