Jupiter Ascending should be made into a thrill park ride immediately. That’s was my experience while watching it: a dizzying, slightly nauseating-yet-exhilarating sensation that immediately ended when the credits rolled. The ride had ended, and all I had was a slightly winded feeling to show for it. That and the question of ‘why do I keep doing this to myself?’ Which is precisely the question I had the last time I rode a roller coaster.
I hesitate to frame the film’s ‘plot’, for the simple reason that the movie seemed to have a myriad of plots. It’s like an entire season of your favorite TV show mashed into one episode. There was the ‘working girl-turned-princess meets wolf-boy love story, also known as ‘Cinderella Meets the Beast’. There is the ‘Game of Thrones In Space’ plot with warring siblings vying over control of the galactic empire. There is the ‘Bah On Industry’ plot decrying Big Business and corporate greed.
And oh, there is the ‘No Idea Is Rejected’ plot, which really kicks the film into overdrive.
Take one character: Caine Wise, played by Channing Tatum . He’s an ex space-cop, kicked off the force for ripping a royal citizen’s throat out with his teeth. Yes, you read that right. But don’t worry, his rage at royalty isn’t his fault: he’s what’s known as a ‘splice’. That’s a human genetically altered with the genes of a wolf to make him a better soldier or something. While the splicing doesn’t make him look anything like a wolf, (which would’ve been cool), he does have pointy ears and he growls when he’s upset. He’s like an angry, muscular space elf with flying boots. Or like Wolverine with a laser gun instead of claws. And oh, yeah: his wings were cut off in retaliation for his throat-ripping frenzy.
Wait… say wha…?
That’s right: his freaking wings. Why does he have wings when he’s a wolf hybrid? Who cares? Just run with it. The Wachowskis did. And that’s just one of the many characters in the film.
Jupiter Jones: Are those flying boots?
Caine: They used the force the gravity, redirecting it into differential equations slips so you can surf.
Jupiter Jones: Yeah, I heard “gravity” and “surf”.
Caine: Up is hard, Down is easy.
Jupiter Jones: Thank you, wow!
Take that concept, multiply it by a thousand, and you start to understand the plot of the story. You understand that you’ll never understand the plot of the story. Because the movie itself is a splice, combining the plots and effects of every sci-fi film you’ve every seen in your life. Like Micheal Bay-style complete city destruction? You’ll love the seizure-inducing Chicago action sequence, which really made me think that Man of Steel wasn’t as bad as I thought. Like dogfights in space? You’ll love the sequence when our heroes take on a bunch of metallic missile stuff that explodes. Like a melting pot of alien characters that look like they walked off the collective sets of Star Wars and Star Trek? Then you’ll love the zany collection of lizard men, Area 51 aliens, big-eared pretty chicks, and space pilots with a baby elephant heads, to name a few. Like characters the show up, seem like they’re important, than just vanish into? thin air You’ll the love the group of bounty hunters that show up, seem like they’re important, then vanish into thin air. You’ll also love Sean Bean’s character, who doesn’t do much of anything in the film except (spoiler alert) not die. Like inter-species love affairs? You’ll love the sequences when the action dies down long enough for our two star-crossed lovers to quickly form an unlikely and inexplicable bond with one another and utter such poetic expressions as:
Caine: Your Majesty, I have more in common with a dog than I have with you.
Jupiter Jones: I love dogs, I’ve always loved dogs.
Ok, that scratches the surface of the awesomely stupid that overflows in the movie. But let’s not kid ourselves: the movie is equally stupidly awesome. The sheer scale of the story/world building is something to be in awe of. The CGI sets and effects are marvelous (much fashioned in homage to the fantasy artist Moebius), the costume and makeup are to die for. Seeing glittering spaceships emerge from ice crystal rings, viewing the massive world of Jupiter and its moons: dazzling stuff. There is much artistically to be admired about the film. I would have actually preferred a more detailed and coherent look at the world beyond earth as opposed to the heavy-handed, sometimes disorienting action scenes that took up much of the film. It feels as though a large portion of the movie fell victim to the editing floor, which leaves hope for a superior extended/director’s version to emerge in the future. I certainly hope so. Because the movie deserves something more than a February dumping ground.
Last thoughts: Mila Kunis doesn’t seem to bloom well in fantasy/sci-fi films. I’ve seen her shine in more grounded movies, but she was nearly a mannequin in this film, uttering nearly all her lines in the same tone of voice. Channing Tatum actually appears to buy into his character, which is pretty funny considering the points I mentioned above.
Wachoskis: Ok, here’s the deal: We want you to play an angry human/wolf hybrid with his wings cut off, from outer space.
Channing: I’m totally down with that. Cannot wait to get into character. Grrrr
Despite its obvious faults I’m still giving Jupiter Ascending a lazy three out of five stars. Because it’s so bad it’s good. And that in itself can be pretty entertaining, even if you’re laughing in all the wrong places.
When Bard Constantine isn’t consumed by pop culture, he writes gritty futures and far-flung fantasy. See more at bardwritesbooks.com