“Jupiter Ascending”

Film Review:

I’ve been trying to figure out what it is about “Jupiter Ascending” that made it such dismal viewing – I wasn’t encouraged by the trailers, and as a die-hard sci-fi buff I always have time for a good sci-fi movie.

By now you’re thinking that I might have highly refined tastes in SciFi movies and Tarkovsky’s “Stalker” is a benchmark…wrong.

It’s relentless nuttiness leaves me feeling that the Wachowskys’ surely MUST have written it to be loaded with subtext, and if so, they pretty much scuppered any pretensions towards a message with laboured and over the top action sequences, which could have been humorous digs at genre cliches – e.g. the endless dog-fight sequence over Chicago & the hokey concept-art opulence of the alien worlds.

Perhaps it was intended to be the concentrated satire of a “Starship Troopers”, but if so, it’s not apparent.

What strikes me now is that this is a film which only “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” would find interesting, if they ever got into SciFi (god forbid…) – it’s fundamentally an immigrants tale – a potential rags-to-tasteless-riches story, which they neatly subvert at the very end by saying that Mila Kunis’ character can spend the rest of her life with her mongrel alien boyfriend in glorious near-poverty, still cleaning toilets, but also still dreaming of having the space 4/4 that they always wanted…except that here it’s gravity boots – however, by now it’s way too late and everything that went before sabotages any irony which the writer / directors may have wanted in their story.

It reminds me of how badly wrong the later Star Wars films went – with exactly the same drift into a kind of tacky opulence which became impossible to relate to.

“Jupiter Ascending” begins as a story about an “Everyperson” – a toilet cleaner – and part way through deviates into a horrific vision of unbounded wealth but zero taste, and ends with our heroine choosing the simple life.

In the first Star Wars, the main characters are all bums to begin with…Luke Skywalker is a bum on a desert planet, Obi-Wan Kenobi is an old bum on a desert planet, Han Solo is just some space-bum, the robots are the robotic equivalent of couple of bums, Chewbacca is a hairy-ass mongrel bum, and after her planet gets destroyed, Princess Leia is reduced to a planetless royal bum – they are all endearingly relatable bums – ordinary folk swept up in extraordinary circumstances and that immediately made the story accessible to everyone.

As soon as they entered the slightly tacky world of the higher echelons of society, they became less accessible and therefore less interesting and the later films were played out in a succession of bland hotel room-like interiors that smacked of the kind of bourgeois aspirations of people who have just come into money – just like “The Real Housewives of New Jersey”- people with money but no taste and no opinions worth anything – and this, I feel, is the biggest flaw with “Jupiter Ascending”.

So Mila Kunis’ character is space royalty…who cares ?…I don’t – no one really cared if a recently arrived U.S immigrant claimed to be a member of the Romanoffs fleeing the pogroms of the Russian Revolution – America purported to be a classless society at that time, a refuge for everyone.

Perhaps that is still the final message of the film, but if it is, it’s lost amongst the flashing, frenetic visual effects and tacky opulence on show, and all I was left with is a sense that given the choice, people will still secretly lust after the impractical 4/4, bad art & ensuite jacuzzi.

Ravi Swami 2021