The opinions expressed in the following review of the Wachowskis new movie, Jupiter Ascending, do not necessarily reflect those of AtomicMoo.com or its staff. However, it should be noted that Atomic Moo’s opinions are much like the fabled vampire and are rarely reflected in anything…
They’re finally back! One-hit-wonder filmmakers, the Wachowskis, have returned once again to set the big screen on fire… at least in their heads. Best known for creating The Matrix, and then pissing away any and all goodwill that movie had generated thanks to a fetid stream of swings and misses, the duo have teamed up once more for a new sci-fi adventure titled Jupiter Ascending.
No, you read that right. Yes, that is the title. And yes, that is a terrible, terrible title. With a name like that, it could either be a really forced multi-issue comic book crossover “event,” or some art house cinema piece in which, over two hours, and filmed in a single take, the cloudy planet of Jupiter moves from the bottom of the screen to the top. To be completely honest, either of those options would have been preferable to the slop the Dynamic Duo have once more thrown upon the silver screen.
I have to hand it to the brothers: they’re clever businessmen. In an attempt to refill the coffers, they have tried to cash in on the recent trend of sub-D-tier valueless sci-fi/fantasy aimed at tasteless teenage girls filled with casts of improbably good-looking people. Yes, it’s one of those, and with the trademark Wachowski overuse of CGI and slow-motion, no less.
The tissue-paper-thin plot has holes large enough to fly a starship through, but I shall do my best to recap it here. Basically, the chick who played Jackie in That ‘70s Show is illegal immigrant from Russia (in the movie, I mean) who spends her days cleaning toilets in Chicago. One day, the dude from Magic Mike rolls into town to whisk her away on an interplanetary adventure of some kind.
Y’see, she learns that humans aren’t the only species in space, and that a family of infighting inbreeders are the most powerful beings in the universe. They rule over planets, populate them with genetically-modified human-based clones, and return after millions of years to “harvest.” The human-based life forms are turned into tubes of a valuable currency of some kind, which somehow makes the bad guys live forever. Jackie, for some reason, has the same genetic code as the late Queen of Space, and her bickering children each want the inheritance (ie: planets to rule) to themselves. So, Magic Mike must project Jackie from evil space murderers because she’s some kind of queen and has control over the Earth, which is just one planet in all of the cosmos.
Over the next two horribly-paced hours that feel closer to three, they get entangled with (yet fail to satisfyingly dispose of) each of the three main baddies, children of the late Queen, who are all fighting over their inherited planets in order to turn the population of those worlds to currency-tubes. Jackie must escape the evil space-businesspeople and bag Magic Mike, who spends the majority of the movie shirtless, of course, in the process.
Essentially, it is some kind of space-Cinderella story, in which the good-looking cleaning girl finds out that she’s royalty and falls for some smug-faced prince, but how exactly is she royalty? According to the late Queen’s children, Jackie has the same genetic code as their mother, which, in the eyes of space-law, legally makes her the Queen. Thing is, she’s not a clone of the Queen or even a descendant of her bloodline. Humans were native to another planet, and after the extraterrestrial humans wiped out the dinosaurs and terraformed the Earth, they seeded our planet with some human-based genespliced species. If Jackie is the result of millennia of natural breeding of spliced human-based creatures, would it really be plausible for her to have the identical genetic makeup of the alien human Queen, barring some kind of mutation?
Furthermore, she discovers the most valuable currency in the universe are the tubes of fluid made from people. It takes 100 dead humans to make a single canister of the substance. Why, then, would this anger Jackie so much? How many Earthlings die every single day, from avoidable causes, no less? And how many habitable planets in this movie’s universe host human-based life? A few hundred disappearances once in while would cause no concern at all to the general population, especially if the subjects turned into the valuable fluid were people who’d fallen through the cracks of society. Criminals, runaways, prisoners, or citizens of the third world could easily be abducted, juiced, and no one would miss them. Repeat this on a few thousand planets and there would be no need to “harvest” entire worlds’ populations at all. Surely the super-smart alien bad guys could see this.
Even though the plot is thinner than the actors in the movie, the ‘Skis just had to go and over complicate things. Action sequences run way too long, and in modern-Hollywood format, are impossible to follow even though they’re nearly entirely CGI. Simultaneous simulated camera-shake effects, overuse of lighting effects, and too much motion of on-screen characters of objects turn what could be exciting battle or chase sequences in mundane computer-animated cluster-fields. Pacing issues are further complicated by scenes dragging on way too long and crucial story elements being completely glossed over. Plot-critical elements are mentioned once and never again in single blink-and-you’ll-miss-it lines, such as the reasoning behind why clones cannot be used to make the money-juice.
On the topic of dialogue, let me just say that the dialogue is simply atrocious. It’s not even intentionally cliché or playfully tongue-in-cheek. It’s just terrible, in a self-aware way that focuses too hard on the fact that is self-aware and that they know it is self-aware. Rather than spending a few lines explaining what the hell is going on and why a concept, character, or item is so important, they waste time by having characters crack bad jokes, and then self-deprecatingly make fun of themselves for making said bad jokes. It’s completely unnecessary, adds nothing to the film, and in fact takes away from it, doing nothing to make the plot understandable and only making the characters less and less likeable.
Speaking of unlikable characters, just about all of the characters are flat, undeveloped, abysmally acted walking clichés. This isn’t a case like del Toro’s Pacific Rim in which the tropes and conventions of the giant monster movies and mecha animé that inspired that film were intentionally celebrated and sometimes lampooned. Jupiter Ascending’s clichés seem deliberately chosen to appeal to the target demographic of tasteless teen girls and/or Tumblr, including such gems as princess fantasies, elaborate weddings, being powerful/wealthy without having to work, hunky boys, extreme sports, angels, humanoid animals, yiffing, “strong female characters,” token minorities, and of course and in a roundabout way, vampires and werewolves. It is a bingo sheet of the stereotypes and preconceived notions of disposable teenage fantasy/sci-fi fluff. With a plot that falls apart before the late title card and moves around too much for characters to develop at all and a grocery-list of tacky clichés, this might as well be Fanfiction the Movie, Sponsored by Deviant Art.
Speaking of sponsors, blatant product placement and visible logos pepper the movie’s first act. If the characters are as broke as the audience is supposed to believe, why would they have overpriced hipstertech brand-name smartphones? Why would they use authentic Swiffer™ brand static cleaning rags instead of the cheaper generic brand? And if someone truly attempted to play Dark Souls II while being that distracted with his phone, the death screen would’ve appeared before the scene was even half-way through.
So, what did it do right? The only enjoyable parts of this space-trainwreck are the unintentionally funny parts, such as the preposterousness of space-bees bred to detect royalty (I could not unthink a screaming Nicholas Cage), ripping off the escape destruction scene from Aliens complete with falling metal structure and orange sky, the tryhard ‘90s EXTREME sports ‘tude of flying space-roller-blades, and an Eastern-European character who was more than a little reminiscent of fan-favourite bowling addict Roman Bellic from Grand Theft Auto IV. Essentially, the only parts I enjoyed are potentially-unrelated connections I overthought and the ham-fisted stupidity of the movie in general.
This is, in short, a solid example of all what is wrong with Hollywood today. There are no redeeming qualities to be found, and marketing this swill to their target demographic is akin to child abuse. This is part of the reason why I don’t want to have kids – they’ll be spoonfed this sort of crap by media outlets and their peers. You want to introduce your daughter to sci-fi? Show her Star Wars (the two good ones at least), Blade Runner, Alien, The Fifth Element, and hell, the Wachowskis’ own The Matrix rather than insult her intelligence with valueless trite like this.
It’s not even a steak-versus-hamburger argument. While the aforementioned films are highlights of the genre, the steak in this metaphor, Jupiter Ascending is by no means hamburger. Rest assured, it IS something that came out of a cow. But it isn’t meat.
This movie review is provided by Atomic Moo’s designated Canadian, Numbers, who remembers a time when “movie magic” meant more than a CGI machine. His opinions are facts, or so he tells us.
You can follow Numbers on his gaming blog, True Game Truths, or check out his online comic: Ages 25 & Up.
Check out the trailer for Jupiter Rises Below!