Movie Review: Jupiter Ascending

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A lowly maid discovers she is the reincarnation of the matriarch of a powerful family and owner of Earth.

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The Wachowskis, 2015

Toiling away cleaning toilets, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) hates her life. Her father was murdered before she was born, and she and her Russian mother slave away cleaning people’s houses, barely making enough money to get by. Jupiter gets desperate enough to have her eggs harvested. Unfortunately, getting hold of her DNA tips off the powerful interstellar Abrasax family to her location. She’s about to be killed by terrifying grey aliens before she’s saved by the part-wolf former soldier turned mercenary Caine Wise (Channing Tatum). He tries to protect her, turning to his old part-bee friend Stinger (Sean Bee Bean) for help, whose pet bees swarm around Jupiter, proving her to be the reincarnation of the matriarch of the House of Abrasax. She’s eventually found and kidnapped by Kalique Abrasax (Tuppence Middleton). Kalique and her brothers, the louche Titus (Douglas Booth) and the sinister Balem (Eddie Redmayne), each plot to take Jupiter’s inherited planets for their own sinister purposes.

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Watching Jupiter Ascending at the cinema was the most confusing, convoluted, marvellous, and enjoyable time I’ve had at the movies in ages. It’s a 100% bonkers space opera set in a baffling universe that its 127 minutes barely has time to cover. I’ve tried to put everything into a coherent and easily followed plot summary up there, but I’m not sure how well I did, or even how accurate my descriptions of some things are. Jupiter Ascending is a movie best experience, preferably in a cinema surrounded by people who are willing to throw out all the usual conventions of plot, clever dialogue, and realism and just go along for the ride. If I could, I would make every person in the world sit down and watch this cult classic in the making. Critics, in all their usual snobbery, have panned this movie for all its flaws, but I had much more fun watching it than any Oscar movie I’ve seen this season, and it’s spawned more conversations than all of them. It’s sort of an heir to the Fifth Element throne, only less snarky and more earnest. I find it sad that the film industry as it is now has no room for balls to the wall crazy space operas like this one any more. It is simultaneously terrible and wonderful, and you can feel free to enjoy it on both an ironic and unironic level as you see fit.

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Flaws aside, Jupiter Ascending has plenty to recommend it. It looks incredible, a brightly coloured kaleidoscope of awesome. There are cool gravity-defying space boot fights and winged lizards and beautiful costumes on beautiful people. The Michael Giacchino score is awesome, with echoes of his Star Trek score (my favourite), and it is every bit as melodramatic as the movie. Eddie Redmayne doesn’t just chew the impressive scenery, he devours it, whispering 90% of his lines until he explodes into screaming fury. Every scene with him is a gift. Douglas Booth is a lot of fun as his lecherous brother Titus, putting his weirdly beautiful features to good use. The movie is funny in both intentional and non-intentional ways, and I have no doubt that years from now people will be quoting it (“Bees don’t lie” and “I love dogs, I’ve always loved dogs” are probably my personal favourites). Mila Kunis spends most of the movie poorly defined, but Jupiter¬†doesn’t lack agency; she makes choices, for good or ill, throughout the film, and she gets to rock an action ponytail. She¬†does do an awful lot of, er, descending (falling. I mean falling off of stuff) and Channing Tatum has to save her frequently, but he’s such a gentleman about it. There’s a lot of diversity in the supporting roles, too. And sure, the plot is episodic and silly, but it’s also an origin story, so it has to fall back on some tropes in order to make room for the world building, which is amazing. I want ten sequels and a TV show. Honestly, I wished this movie wouldn’t end. The five-star rating system does not do movies like this justice, so feel free to disregard my rating all together; know only that I genuinely love Jupiter Ascending in all its mad glory. Embrace the operatic space madness.

Jupiter Ascending on IMDb

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