Okay so I have a confession to make: I have never seen the Matrix films trilogy. I just, I wasn’t too into them when they came out and the whole God-story comparison just put me off it further. When they became a big phenomenon, I just tended to ignore discussions on it or distract people. So when Jupiter Ascending came out, with the promotion that it was created and directed by those who created The Matrix, I decided it was high time I sat down and took part (well an indirect part) in the whole Matrix event. However, when the movie came out, I heard some pretty scathing reviews and hence decided that there was no need for me to get involved (LOL). I finally ended up getting over my reluctance and sat down to watch it. And now that I have, I figured a review was due.
In general terms, Jupiter Ascending is about a woman named Jupiter, played by Mila Kunis. Before her birth, her astronomy-loving father died in a robbery attempt gone wrong. Her mother, desolate in her grief, moved to Chicago and raises Jupiter as a single mother while living with some relatives. Quite poor, Jupiter, her mother and aunt work as cleaning ladies for rich people. Jupiter always expects the worst from people, so she hates her life and work. Her days pass by in monotony. However, she’s also incredibly interested in her father and desperately wants to buy a telescope (he was killed in a robbery over a dispute about a telescope). Desperate to gain funds, her cousin convinces her to donate her eggs to earn some extra cash.
Meanwhile, far off into space, it turns out that the universe is ruled by elite alien families. We’re introduced to the powerful House of Abrasax who own and harvest planets, effectively destroying all of its inhabitants. The three Abrasax siblings, Balem played by Eddie Redmayne, Kalique played by Tuppence Middleton, and Titus played by Douglas Booth, are the main characters in this plot. After the death of their mother, Balem inherits a large portion of planets, including the fruitful Earth. Titus does not inherit much but also desires Earth, wanting to end the harvest practises. Kalique remains in the middle. Alongside these aliens, there’s also hybrid humans and robotic-human/ machine people living in space.
Anyways, it turns out that the Abrasax mother had been reincarnated as Jupiter. As a result, if she claimed herself, then Jupiter would own all of the Abrasax’s mother’s inheritance. So when it came to the question of Earth, Jupiter could own it. Realizing this, all three Abrasax siblings send soldiers to Earth to figure out who the mother was reincarnated as (Jupiter) and capture that reincarnation. During Jupiter’s egg donation procedure, it is revealed that the doctors are actually aliens in disguise and sent by Balem to murder her. However, Caine, a human-dog soldier sent by Titus, and played by Channing Tatum, manages to rescue her. Before he can deliver her to Titus, the two are attacked by more of Balem’s men. Caine manages to escape with her and they end up at his friend’s house, Stinger, a human-bee mix, played by Sean Bean.
Here we learn that Caine served under Stinger in some sort of army/ police force but was discharged after he attacked some royalty. Jupiter also discovers that she is a part of the galactic elite. However, the two are again attacked by some soldiers and then transported to Kalique’s residence somewhere in space. Kalique explains to Jupiter than she is her mother’s reincarnation and hence owns Earth. She also reveals how the galactic elite possess a type of youth serum that Jupiter would be entitled to, should she claim her position. However, before things can go any further, the inter-galactic police force (?), Aegis, arrive and grab Jupiter and Caine. At some intergalactic place (?), Jupiter and Caine go through various bureaucratic challenges in order to have her claimed. Just as she finishes, Jupiter and Caine are again intercepted by Titus, after a betrayal by Stinger.
Titus explains to Jupiter how the youth serum is actually derived from the harvest of people on planets. In other words, real humans from other planets are harvested to create the youth serum. Jupiter is understandable disgusted. Titus also reveals how once Jupiter’s reincarnation, his mother, changed her mind and started trying to end the harvest trade instead of profiting from it, she was murdered. Using manipulation, he admits that he plans to stop the harvest trade and proposes to Jupiter in the guise that if anything happens to him, she can continue their work. Jupiter is visibly confused and wants to talk to Caine to discuss things over before she can agree. However, Titus again manipulates her and she ends up agreeing to the wedding. Meanwhile, we see that Titus had Caine captured and reveals his plan to marry Jupiter, kill her, and then inherit her inheritance. Caine is unable to do anything and as Titus expels Caine into the void of space.
On the other hand, the Aegis and Stinger do their best to go after Titus’s ship and save Caine. After Caine is conscious, we learn that Stinger betrayed them in exchange for money to finance his daughter’s sickness. Anyways, Jupiter and Titus’s wedding is arranged quickly and Caine and Stinger attempt to reach the ship to stop it. Just seconds before the wedding is complete, Caine manages to crash the wedding and stop it, revealing Titus’s ultimate plan to Jupiter. Jupiter is understandably shaken and demands to go back home to Earth. When she arrives home, she also discovers that Balem has kidnapped her family and in-exchange for their safety, she must sign over her inheritance to him. The rest of the film deals with that conflict.
All in all, I’m a bit confused as to what I feel for this movie. On one hand, I do like that there is finally a female sci-fi action hero. But on the other hand, she does play the role of damsel-in-distress for a large portion of the film. On one hand, the script is just all over the place with random cuts to scenes and no real exposition in between. But on the other hand, it’s still enjoyable to watch and the visuals are pretty cool. On one hand, some of the acting is really great (Channing Tatum), but on the other hand, some of the acting is just really campy (Eddie Redmayne). I mean, the movie definitely does have its positives but it also has its fair amount of negatives. At this point, in order to get through the haze and form a definitive decision about the film, the best course of option would be to apply a value ranking to the movie’s characteristics. But, I’m having difficult with that as well just because while I don’t think any of the movie’s faults are that incredibly bad, I also don’t think that the movie’s positives are amazingly wonderful. I just, I think I’m just stuck in the middle. It was fun enough to watch, with cheesiness and cliche tropes, but also not firmly in ‘good movie’ category with the disjointing flow.
If anything, I think the movie could’ve benefitted from more editing. Some scenes could’ve been cut, others could’ve been longer, some could’ve been added, etc. I mean, the movie plays off like any sort of generic sci-fi space action flick. But it’s also really ambitious in its scope and that ambitious feelings comes through quite easily while watching. You think and feel like the movie is going to be really good. I mean while watching, I felt like the harvesting plot might go somewhere and raise questions about morality/immortality, but it just got left behind. I thought maybe the whole idea that humans actually aren’t alone in the world or that we aren’t the biggest hot-shots in the universe was going to be explored and take on the theme of hubris vs dissonance. I thought the whole half human-half animal mix might lead somewhere interesting. I thought maybe Jupiter might be a more nuanced and interesting character than originally perceived to be. Actually, to be fair, I was interested in her pre-alien life, especially with the telescope. Yet, even with these failed opportunities, it doesn’t quite crash and burn for me. It ends up okay and still remains fun- to a point.
My rating: watch it if you’re bored and want a typical sci-fi movie, but you won’t miss anything by skipping it.