Jupiter Ascending (US/AU, 2015)

So this was something eh, holy soap opera! I mean space opera, well…holy rip-off of literately anything and everything ever! This almost overbearing sci-fi epic is basically all about other alien races way beyond our simple human comprehension, running the universe as a business. That business in question happens to be all about retaining youth…and that’s it. Yep nothing to do with super powers, super suits, super weapons, some form of super mcguffin or some form of super valuable natural resource, oh no. This plot centres on a spin of the old fountain of youth shtick with a twist obviously. The alien races in question are actually royal families of extreme levels of wealth. Together they work with (or rule over) other alien races to control and eventually harvest certain inhabited planets, such as Earth. When I say harvest I of course mean wipe out the planets population, because the inhabitants are the natural organic resource that somehow makes up the youth serum which keeps all these aliens young. God knows how they manage to control an entire planets population in order to harvest them, surely there would be huge rebellious wars? Anyway, essentially this entire intergalactic space set struggle and siege is all about looking good and ironing out those wrinkles. OK I’m being facetious, it also extends their lifespan too so its not all silly, I guess.

The main difference with this movie is the main protagonist (Jupiter Jones played Mila Kunis) is firstly a woman and secondly a regular woman just like any other regular person. At no point will you see this character leaping from rooftops with a gun in each hand, using martial arts to take down hordes of dumbass henchmen, flying spaceships like an expert without ever stepping foot in one, using special powers like a pro after learning some bullshit from some wise mentor type character etc…Nope, Jupiter Jones (despite her ridiculously stupid action heroine type name, oh and notice the clever play in the films title) is just a plain and simple woman who is just as perplexed by what’s going on as we the audience are. Yes I do mean that literally, half the time spend watching this movie is being in complete bewilderment, you literally follow Jupiter around just as confused as she is.

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So Jupiter is a regular person who cleans toilets with her mum for a living, I kid you not. Her parents came to the US from Russia after her father was murdered by robbers. She is named after the planet because her father was obsessed with astronomy. We see all this and Jupiter’s mother travelling to the US stowed away on a cargo ship for some reason. She couldn’t afford a simple ticket? Its later on in Boston that Jupiter meets up with Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), a space warrior send to protect and collect her. Without going into deep depths with this bizarre plot, long story short, the House of Abrasax is the most powerful alien dynasty in the universe. After the death of the matriarch of the House her children quarrel over the inheritance. Titus (Douglas Booth) wants Earth because its a highly valuable planet and Balem wants to harvest Earth, but both discover Earth is actually ‘owned’ by Jupiter because, as it turns out, she is actually alien royalty too (don’t ask, just accept it). So through various tricks and deceptions both men basically want to kill Jupiter in order to get their hands on Earth. Only Wise and the intergalactic space police (indeed!) can save her.

In all honesty this could be the plot for a sequel to ‘Spaceballs’ if you think about it, but that’s not even the half of it. This movie is a special effects extravaganza no doubt about that, but not just with the obvious CGI monster (although it doe take up about 90% of the movie), but with makeup and costumes too. Lets just get one thing out the way with though, yes the CGI content is high and its obvious. It genuinely looks like the Wachowskis have in fact taken lessons from George Lucas because you’ll swear you’re watching the Star Wars prequels at various points. Some scenes even look like they’ve been pulled from the Star Wars prequels! Various sequences of spaceships landing inside huge cruiser ship landing bays, landing in beautiful cities on alien worlds, lots of faceless troops in heavy armour and helmets, lots of acting in front of greenscreen sets etc…Yes the CGI does of course look lovely for the most part (especially shots of Jupiter), but it also looks fake and plastic-ish in others, just like those Lucas films. Strangely enough the movie visuals could also be very elegant and operatic at times, on a grandiose scale much like ‘2001’, but only very briefly.

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Again just like the those Lucas films the costumes and makeup were of a very high standard throughout, but also overly ludicrous at times. There are lots of different alien races on display, many of whom look terrific with real prosthetic masks and solid makeup, others not so much. Some are simply people in crazy looking sci-fi attire that (again) kinda resembled fetish gear, possibly using latex, PVC, plastic even? Mila Kunis also changes her attire plenty of times just like Natalie Portman once did and its just as amusing. Influence from many different sci-fi movies is apparent from these costumes, for example many female characters are bald with odd looking masks or head gear which kinda reminded me of ‘Dune’.

Much of the hero costumes definitely have a ‘Matrix’ vibe about them, that gritty military look with big boots and cargo pants all in dark colours. Where as the bad guys had more regal attire which definitely harked back to Star Wars again, the various all CGI baddie aliens didn’t help with that call back either, and they looked just as crap (read below for that). As mentioned before the faceless baddie troops you see are amusing as they wear these daft helmet type masks that look like a cross between a latex fetish mask and a luchadores mask (oh and they seem like rip-offs of the imperial guards from RotJ).

The actual alien races are a curious one though, I still don’t really get the idea behind this. Put simply most of the aliens are based on animals from Earth, they are genetic hybrids in the plot. Tatum’s character of Wise is a cross between human and dog/wolf so he basically looks like a Vulcan with fangs. Many other characters are the same with Sean Bean’s character being part honeybee (he’s called Stinger…no lie) complete with ridiculous black and yellow dye in his hair (seriously). One baddie female character is part deer and looks inane, one guy is clearly a flippin’ elephant, one baddie looked to be part rodent of some kind. There are also bipedal dragons (all CGI), the classic 1940’s grey alien design (think Roswell), errr…lots of bald pale women and some characters seem to have bits of plastic looking robotic parts on their faces which are presumably some kind of enhanced body part. Basically it all looks like a Trekkies wet dream.

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As for the action, well its draining to watch, literally tiring. By this I mean its so energetic and frantic I could hardly keep up, no clue what was happening half the time because it was all a CGI blur. The first action scene we see with Wise trying to escape alien hunters with Jupiter is so outrageously insane it became a farce. After riding on Wise’s hover boots the characters then get inside these freaky looking spaceships that seem to have this ancient Egyptian vibe going on. They are tearing around downtown Boston, ripping up the city and probably killing many innocent people as they blast away with their laser cannons. I realise this is a fantasy flick so of course you come to expect outrageous things, but this is the first action scene, Jupiter has only just discovered aliens and spaceships etc…

She’s now being chased across the city, riding on hover boots, then a spaceship, getting dangled from great heights, falling from great heights and eventually crash landing. Anyone would be crippled with fear by now, broken down into a puddle on the floor from the vertigo issues alone! But not here, she just takes it all in her stride. Other space battles we see are again terribly chaotic to watch, I’d say virtually impossible because its literally just a CGI mess of explosions and shiny objects whizzing around. As said before there’s nothing to lock onto when watching, you can’t distinguish between the spaceships, the explosions or the objects they are fighting. It just looks like a convoluted mess interspersed with shots of the character in a cockpit.

Speaking of the hover boots, they are awesome, why does no one else in the entire film use these things because they are perfect for getting out of scrapes. Heck they’re just as convenient as the convenient mind wipe explanation for all the destruction and eye witnesses left behind (eye roll!!). Wouldn’t they (whoever does the mind wiping) be constantly mind wiping humans all the time? Like at the end when Jupiter and Wise fly around for fun in broad daylight, wouldn’t a shitload of people be seeing that?? How do they identify the humans that need mind wiping? Who has this terrible job??

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The casting doesn’t really help this movie either if you ask me. Kunis is good as the everyday girl next door type, but she’s a bit too good and she doesn’t really fit into this type of space opera? Same can be said for Tatum who quite frankly doesn’t fit into hardly any films he does, he looks like such a doofus and can barely act. Bean again seems completely miscast here, sure he’s got the look of an old battered warrior, but that accent! Oh my God Bean try and lose that bloody Yorkshire accent for some of these roles, it just doesn’t work here. Then of course you have Eddie Redmayne who I literally couldn’t hear or understand half the time. Yes he looked the part, all twisted, gaunt and evil, but he overacts in quite the epic way which ultimately doesn’t work.

This movie came across as self-indulgent if you ask me. It seemed like, because of one particular successful movie, the Wachowskis were given the green light to run amok without really thinking. The plot is incoherent but its not helped by the fact that you can’t understand what the main bad guy is saying, many things aren’t really explained and what is explained gets lost in a landslide of exposition. Hats off to the effects team and writers though, the world building is tremendous here, so much depth, scale and imagination (that isn’t pinched) which does draw you in. Problem is it feels like they tried to cram too much into one movie, maybe this movie did actually deserve a sequel or franchise to expand it properly. Its like Titus’ ship in the film that has a bloody gothic cathedral built into it, its too silly and too over the top. They didn’t need to go that far, I get that these aliens are mega wealthy and live in total opulence (which is well visualised with some magnificent sets and props) but at the same time it just looks a bit daft.

Ambitious is a word, and a good word to describe this movie, but add the word overly in front and that sums things up much better. This is a literal labyrinth of a movie, knee deep in ideas from so many other films but more openly Flash Gordon, Star Wars, Dune and of course The Matrix. Yet despite all that, despite all the annoying and ghastly deus ex machina moments that just make you wanna vomit over the person sitting next to you, its not too bad. Call me crazy but I actually kinda enjoyed this but I’m really not sure why. I think it kinda reminded me of hokey sci-fi films like ‘The Last Starfighter’, does that make any sense? So yeah its stupid, but its relatively engaging too, stupid fun possibly destined to become a cult.

6/10

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