Thursday, March 19, 2015


OK kids, today's lesson is all about falling. Both literally and figuratively. And all found in the  film  Jupiter Ascending, written and directed by the Wachowski brothers

In the movie, Mia Kunis plays Jupiter Jones, a Cinderella like Earth girl who "hates her life" and wishes for something bigger. As it turns out, as she is to learn, her actual life is so big, she kind of owns the Earth.

Also turns out that there are aliens who are humans who are sort of related to Jupiter who don't want her to own the Earth. So they try to do bad things to her. Like throw her off buildings. A lot. Jupiter falls. A lot

I don't know if anyone keeps these stats but it may be fair to say that Mila Kunis probably spends more time falling than any other actor in any single movie.

Luckily for Mila's character there are other aliens who were hired to find her for the aliens who don't want her to own the Earth but who decide that maybe she shouldn't be thrown off so many buildings and every time Jupiter falls, they catch her

The principle catcher in the movie is Cain (can there be a more overused surname in an action movies) a human-wolf hybrid planned by Channing Tatum. Cain is actually an interesting character, a former space commando now disgraced and turned bounty hunter who only needs to find a pack in order to find himself

What he falls is a cute Earth girl. Falling. So he catches her. He catches her because he wears a pair of anti-gravity boots. Jupiter calls them flying boots. No, Cain tells her, they are contra gravity boots that use displaced vectors off of objects to propel him. Bullshit Cain, they are flying boots

Well, to be accurate, they are like flying power skates. When he uses the boots, half the time Cain appears to be air skiing, the rest of the time he appears to be speed skating. In the Canadian version of the film Cain will be played by Wayne Gretsky. No, Tai Domi, because Cain can fight

The boots are a problem. They look ridiculous. Every time Cain is ardently fast skating to try to stop Jupiter from falling I giggled out loud. And I can accept a lot of inaccuracies in sci fi film but dude: When you are in open space, millions of miles from anything what the hell are your contra grav boots pushing against. Five minutes for icing and a totally fucking ridiculous idea

Tatum is good in the movie, as is Kunis. And there is the always reliable Sean Bean. He plays another former space commando who has retired to Earth to raise bees (I'm not making this up) The bees like Jupiter, they recognize that she is a queen and the swarm to her (not a bad concept actually) Silly bees though. They never do try to catch her any of the times she is falling

There are several villains in the movie, most of them related to one another and all of them somehow related to Jupiter. The main bad guy is Balem, scion of the most popular family in the Galaxy. He does not want Jupiter to own Earth because he wants to own Earth Not because he thinks Earth is pretty or that Earthlings are cute or even that he is addicted to Krispy Kreme donuts. No, Balem wants to own Earth because, well SPOILER ALERT he saw Soylent Green as a kid and thought, hell, there's an idea.

Thing about it. I'll give you a minute. Long enough for the space Zamboni to do a pass

The reason why Balem wants the Earth is another ridiculous idea that absolutely tortures our suspension of disbelief. Balem is also a problem because his portrayal bye Eddie Redmayne make the flying boots and treating humans like cattle seem like brilliant pieces of writing. He stinks. That's all I can say about it. He chews so much scenery he probably shits drapes

Jupiter Ascending is a big, good looking, nicely designed piece of space opera. It is chock full of plot and characters and make up and special effects and things happening. And falling. It's the kind of movie that if you poke it too much it falls apart. It is wonky and filled with nonsense but if there was some emotional connection, if there was an over riding sense of humour it could still work

The Chronicles of Riddick was such a movie. An elaborate, highly stylized space opera jammed full of story and back stories and larger than life characters. It is far from a perfect movie but for me it worked, held together by a compelling character, some well designed set pieces and an absolute conviction by its film makers, a vision if you will, that if you are able to not look at the thing too closely, it takes you on an entertaining ride

The Wachowski brothers did not seem to have that conviction. And this is where the other kind of falling comes in. These are the guys who made Bound, and the Matrix and Cloud Atlas. For me, pretty high mountain peaks. But they're also the guys who made Speed Racer. Free fall times kiddies, pack your parachutes

There are some things that work in this movie. The design is pretty yummy, the space ships and costumes and sets have a lovely, Victorian, roccoco feel that is like future Gothic. As I said, there are some good performances. And some tasty little notions like Cain's need for a pack and bees sense Jupiter's royal status

But damn, there is just a lot of flat out stupidity as well. Those fucking flying boots. And a sequence where Jupiter has to have her Galactic royalty confirmed on a bureaucratic planet; suddenly, from Gothic space opera we are shoved into out takes from Brazil. It's like we just landed in another movie not another planet. It sticks out and it makes no sense whatsoever. That, combined with Redmayne's annoyingly over the top performance almost makes me think the film makers was going for a spoof or a satire. If so, it doesn't work because it is not at all consistent.

There is also a problem with the titular character. As I said, Kunis as Jupiter aquits herself pretty well. She is largely low keyed and her comedy delivery is proven. And although Jupiter gets to have her moment of vengeance on Balem but overall she is just too passive. Her lovely, large doe eyes mostly watch stuff happens. The choices she makes are largely chosen for her and although she gets to kick a little butt it is indeed far too little and far too late. Guess all that falling just tuckered her out

The Brothers don't seem to know what kind of movie they were making. Sure, you can combine sci fi and romance and fantasy and adventure etc etc. But it has to have a direction. Space operas like Chronicles of Riddick and Guardians of the Galaxy knew where they were going so even if the road got a bit bumpy, we did not require a crash helmet to survive the road

Jupiter Ascending is so bumpy you don't need a helmet you need .. you guessed it .. flying boots

And a net. To catch that damn chick.

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