Have you ever seen ‘John Carter Of Mars’? If you came to this article to decide whether or not to watch ‘Jupiter Ascending’, I can provide a solution straight away, and that solution is to go and fucking watch ‘John Carter of Mars’ because it’s the same fucking film, except that it was done first and is better in every measurable way. It’s funnier, smarter, better paced, just as batshit crazy and is far, far more deserving of two hours of your life than ‘Jupiter Ascending’, which I can only assume is ironically named because of the frequency with which people are subjected to gravity throughout the whole bloody film as a substitute for actual threat.
First things first, everything in this film has a stupid name, worse than anything that ever dribbled out of George Lucas’ wretched approach to nomenclature. ‘John Carter’ also features lots of silly names, but ‘John Carter’ was based on a bunch of erotic pulp space opera novels from the 1920s. ‘Jupiter Ascending’ is based on the Wachowskis having no creative restraint, and as such has no excuse for being so inaccessible.
The story itself is simple. Mila Kunis is a genetic duplicate of a dead space queen who had three garbage children each with a horrifying sexual attraction to her. Earth is a completely ordinary planet in a galaxy full of millions of others, but is still also somehow the most important planet in the story, because it’s Earth, or something. The three children are all thousands of years old and willing to murder each other and their own mother over control of the Earth, because it’ll boost their profits by eight per cent, Or Something. The three children all send mercenaries to capture Mila because she is the legal inheritor of Earth, as laid out in her own will before she was murdered by her own children, OR SOMETHING.
The point is, there’s nothing special about Earth. Sean Bean is really keen to point out that there’s nothing special about Earth, except for it being the birthplace of the genetic plagiarism of Space Queen Kunis and also important enough for three of the most powerful people in the galaxy to dedicate weeks of their time and a shitload of angst to owning it. Because it turns out that they all have stocks in a massive Spice-market, except the Spice is made from people and not sand worm larvae. It’s Soylent Spice, and Earth is one of many Arrakises across the Galaxy, and at this point it becomes clear that with all of the elaborate costumes, ridiculous names and mystic bullshit, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ is just a teenage ‘Dune’ fan-fiction that got a bit out of hand, ‘Fifty Shades’ style.
But I’ve already whittered on enough about a lot of narratively-null trash, so let’s get down to the real issues.
One is that the eponymous Jupiter never actually ascends. I mean, she physically gains elevation at a few points, but she’s exactly the same person at the end of the film as she was at the beginning. Her lack of agency is staggering, because random shit just keeps happening to her, or maybe because of who she is, but she never does anything. I think at the end she punches Eddie Redmayne a few times, but that doesn’t seem so hard given that his body is basically a series of plastic coat hangers tied together with shopping bags.
I mean, at one point she just about chooses not to marry the skeevy space prince who states he doesn’t give a shit about her but heavily hints that he really wanted to fuck his mum, and also makes pretty fucking clear that he’s going to wait about three nanoseconds after the wedding ceremony before stabbing her in the brain and using her pancreas as a sex toy, inheriting all of her property anyway. So she made that decision for herself, I suppose.
She also tells Eddie Redmayne to fuck off when he makes the generous offer of letting her abdicate her space throne and all of her space power and space wealth so that he can almost immediately harvest Earth, killing everyone and turning them all into Soylent Spice. So she also has that going for her. She goes from someone who is occasionally taken advantage of by her family to being someone who will Not be taken advantage of by her evil incestuous space family. How Empowering.
No, all the agency in the entire affair rests with Channing Tatum, aka The Plasticene Muscle Man, who is some kind of dog-person with magic ice skates and A Dark History. And this leads into probably the biggest problem with ‘Jupiter Ascending’, its structure. Laying out the major plot developments:
- Mila Kunis is bored on Earth.
- She gets captured by creepy space aliens, and is rescued by Running Wolfman.
- She finds out she is a space queen.
- She gets captured by her creepy space daughter, and is rescued by Running Wolfman.
- She gets captured by her creepy space son, and is rescued by Running Wolfman.
- She gets captured by her other creepy space son, and is revealed to have been the mastermind behind her own ascension to the space throne, and in the epilogue is shown ruling Earth as a cruel and vindictive tyrant for a thousand years.
- Just kidding, she gets rescued by Running Wolfman.
Seriously, those are the plot developments. An hour of dull exposition, interspersed with pointlessly lengthy action scenes, followed by the same fucking plot three times over. I honestly believe the Wachowskis got bored after writing the second act, and just hit ‘Ctrl+V’ a couple of times and then auto-corrected some of the names. It was so repetitive that it could’ve fooled you into thinking it was a strange rehash of ‘Groundhog Day’ or ‘Edge of Tomorrow‘ but made with about one sixteenth of the talent.
So you end up with this bloated two-hour mess which manages to multiply its mediocrity through repetition. I would love to credit the creativity that went into the visuals and the costumes and so on, but the story itself is so fucking void of captivation that I can’t bring myself to do so. Stories don’t have to be original, but when they start plagiarising themselves I start to lose patience.
The villains were all stupid to the point of being impotent. Eddie Redmayne will happily kidnap and murder, but won’t just fucking harvest Earth when he could because “it wouldn’t be legal.” Creepy Space-Incest Boy wants to kill Whining Houndbum, so rather than shooting him in the heart or just locking him in an airtight box for three days, he leaves him his energy shield and his magic ice skates, then blasts him out of an airlock filled with emergency spacesuits, placing him roughly at the “Bond Villain” level of evil competence / ability to achieve objectives.
The action scenes took forever and were pointless. During one, I wandered off, did a bit of washing up, went for a piss, got changed (unrelated to the piss), hung some laundry out to dry (still unrelated to the piss) came back and it was the SAME fight scene and NOTHING HAD CHANGED (I didn’t piss myself). Martial arts films can get away with shit like that because their fight scenes are daring displays of acrobatics and staggering precision. The Wachowskis fill the screen with CGI lasers and spaceships which make it impossible to follow what’s happening and which were put together by legions of underpaid graphic artists, whilst the directors presumably go home to huff the smell of one another’s socks and practice high-fiving.
There was a weird montage scene where Mila Kunis, allegedly one of the most powerful people in the galaxy, has to go through about three hundred different registry offices to get a piece of paper which actually grants her the title – which is ultimately achieved through a pedestrian level of bribery. Like, to become the ruler of Earth you just need to slip someone a tenner and wink at them, Or Something. Anyway, it’s weird and pointless, lasts far too long and is basically just the same joke over and over. The only other time you see shit like this is in films based off books with a need to include lengthy written segments as efficiently as possible. Aesthetically and structurally it seemed identical to other scenes in the ‘Harry Potter’ series, for example, but that makes no sense because ‘Jupiter Ascending’ isn’t based off a book but rather a vomit stain on the floor of a petrol station toilet.
Like all terrible films these days, ‘Jupiter Ascending’ picks up and then drops plot threads like a grubby-fingered hippy trying to find the best avocado in the discount salad aisle of a suburban corner shop. Sean Bean betrays Drooping Cheekbone and then they’re best friends again, all within the space of eight minutes. Tuppence Middleton has Queen Kunis captured, so she can show her a statue of her pre-dead self, watch her get undressed and take a bath, and then, I don’t know, she doesn’t seem to want to actually use Mila for anything except just having a bit of a chat. You’d think she could’ve just called her.
A lot of people have piped up about Redmayne’s own peculiar brand of skinny-Blessed scenery-chewing, but the fact is it could’ve been one of the strongest points of the whole bloody film. His two siblings – Middleton and The Other Bloke – both deliver such standard performances that the only clue they’re from a different culture, nay, planet, to our own, comes from their costumes. They’re meant to be aristocrats, dozens of millenia old and in charge of hundreds of thousands of star systems, but they don’t present any differently to any other scheming Earth-bound homo sapiens. Meanwhile, Redmayne delivers a quite alien persona that comes close to selling the notion that he might be from another world. If the rest of the cast had gotten on board with his approach, I’d be willing to give the film a bit more slack.
There are plenty of other things that make me foam at the liver when I think about this shitshow, from the boring performances delivered by every actor that wasn’t warming down from playing Stephen Hawking, to the fact that Tunneling Moleman or Maudling Humdrum or whatever he’s called actually gets WINGS at the end, because of all his “good deeds” Or Something. Christ, you’d never have thought that a film that steals material from ‘Dune’, ‘Harry Potter’, ‘John Carter’ and now fucking ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ would ever make a good story, and ‘Jupiter Ascending’ proves that you would be absolutely correct, it doesn’t make a good story, it in fact amounts to three separate helpings of the same turd-flavoured sorbet heaped into a soggy sugar cone, sprinkled with gold flakes to make it look pretty.
Sean Bean was alright in it, I guess.