I am still trying to decide what it says about a movie when I have absolutely no idea what most of the characters are named while I am watching, and any names I do pick up on I forget afterwards. If it says something negative about the film and not just my memory, then that is my first criticism of “Jupiter Ascending,” the latest movie from the Wachowskis (best known for the “Matrix” series).
“Jupiter Ascending” is about a girl (Mila Kunis) who is definitely not a Mary Sue. You can tell because her name is Jupiter and she seems totally normal, but learns that she is, in fact, the beautiful genetic reoccurrence of a really rich almost queen-type person from another planet who owned the Earth before being mysteriously murdered. And now everyone — and I mean everyone — is trying to capture, kill, and/or marry Jupiter, in order to get Earth from her, since she apparently has inherited it due to this aforementioned genetic reoccurrence phenomenon.
Nope, no Mary Sues here.
After a sufficient number of attempts on her life, Jupiter meets these beings who own Earth and the other planets in the universe. It turns out they are just people like you or me. But they are called, rather subtly, “entitleds.” They are entitled (get it? get it?) to different planets in the universe, which they have seeded with human beings, who, once they have been fruitful and multiplied and filled the earth to overpopulation, instead of being turned into Soylent Green, are turned into something that had a bunch of names, one of which, I’m pretty sure, was “nectar.” When an entitled bathes in Soylent Nectar, something with the word “genes” in it happens, and the entitled becomes the most sexy version of himself or herself and can live basically forever — like a vampire. (I would say “spoiler alert,” but this was only a spoiler for people who don’t notice that one character is an attractive woman wearing obvious old-ifying prosthetics in the first few scenes.)
The truth is, almost nothing happens in this movie. I’m not kidding. Jupiter falls in love with Channing Tatum with pointy ears (his name was Caine Wise, according to IMDb). But this happens immediately and inevitably, since Channing Tatum has his shirt off for a really quite extended period of time. Oh, and Channing Tatum is a human-wolf genetic splice (werewolf? psh! no!) who growls softly whenever he isn’t saying really big sentences with big sciencey words in them — a lone runt “splicer” with no pack who should have died of loneliness, but has instead become AWESOME. Oh! I almost forgot: Channing Tatum had WINGS, but he was stripped of his wings for mutiny. Channing Tatum has one friend, Sean Bean, whose name I thought was “Buzzer” but who was apparently actually named “Stinger Apini” — 99 percent sure he was some sort of person/bee splice given the subtle name, and the fact that his house is literally covered in bees. Sean Bean goes back and forth between sudden but inevitable betrayal and being a good guy. I won’t spoil it by telling you where he ends up.
Otherwise, Jupiter must figure out (1) that there is a Soylent Nectar plot that Earth people are unaware of, and (2) what she should do about it, since she owns Earth and everyone’s trying to get it from her so as to continue the Soylent Nectar plot. It would be impossible to spoil these plots, since whatever you’re not guessing right now was left unresolved.
“Jupiter Ascending” tries to be clever and ironic. Jupiter, we learn in her first voiceover, is an illegal alien. So aliens may or may not come into this story (wink, wink). Jupiter also cleans toilets a lot. We see her clean 10 to 15 toilets throughout the course of the movie. Isn’t that ironic, since she OWNS EARTH? Jupiter says hilariously inappropriate things like “Oh, crap.” She says this a lot, especially if she’s in a super fancy alien dress participating in a ridiculous alien ceremony.
I know, I can’t get enough of how clever this is either.
On a serious level, “Jupiter Ascending” was problematic in the ways that most contemporary science fiction seems to be problematic, but it takes each one to a new level of terrible.
Here are just a few:
1. Unending action sequences: This happens in action movies. I get that. I watch action movies sometimes, and generally enjoy them. The spectacle is not my favorite part, but if I care about the characters and what’s happening between action sequences, I can enjoy the action sequences for what they are. However, during the action sequences in Jupiter Ascending, I reached a point at which I could hardly even look anymore, because they’d gotten so long and ridiculous, and there were so many people doing so many things. And there just wasn’t enough plot to add any purpose to the action.
2. Gratuitous immodesty: Again, ladies in their undergarments or alien clothes that look like undergarments for no particular reason at all is a staple of the science fiction genre. I find this gratuitous immodesty more demeaning than almost anything else in film or television. “Jupiter Ascending” embraced that trope wholeheartedly, using PG-13 level nudity as a segue from scene to scene. It was almost as bad as the scene cuts from “CSI: Miami.”
3. Ill-thought-out philosophizing: I’m quite sure that there was supposed to be a deep message there about rich people and poor people. It was probably super-anti-capitalist. Or maybe just super-anti-bureaucracy? There were also hints that this was saying something about the treatment of women (Jupiter’s uncle tells her that “men do not want to marry smart women,” which made me wonder why Jupiter wasn’t married already), but even if it hadn’t undercut itself by being a two-hour-long vehicle for titillating views of women, it wouldn’t have mattered — the complete lack of plot meant it said nothing at all.
As I said, I’m not an anti-action-movie grinch. I’m not a person who can’t get past corniness or silliness in a movie or a TV show to see something worthy of discussion. (I love the Star Trek Reboot, and I’m rewatching the original series Star Trek right now, and I would happily write three articles about why they are worth your time despite the fact that they demonstrate the three flaws I pointed out here in abundance.) But “Jupiter Ascending” had nothing. There was nothing at all to recommend it, or discuss, because it put so little effort into following through with any idea, that it just turned into bowl of catchphrases floating in a soup of spectacle.
“Jupiter Ascending” is rated PG-13 for some violence, sequences of sci-fi action, some suggestive content, and partial nudity.
Kaitlyn Elisabet Bonsell was suddenly and inevitably betrayed when her best friend forced her to watch this snarkable movie alone. It looks like Arthur the Labradoodle may have a job again.