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The UnPopular Opinion: Jupiter Ascending

06.18.2015

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

The Wachowskis were once looked at as the next saviors of the Hollywood epic. With the release of THE MATRIX, everyone was prepared to bow at their creative feet and studios just wanted to throw money at them. Since the conclusion of that trilogy, the critical and fan reaction to their films has been less than stellar. SPEED RACER was a bomb and CLOUD ATLAS barely made enough money to cover it's budget. Despite these failures, The Wachowskis were still looked at as visionaries and given the chance to create an original space opera in JUPITER ASCENDING. The results were more of the same. As a fan of The Wachowskis and someone who loved CLOUD ATLAS as well as SPEED RACER, I can say that JUPITER ASCENDING is a damn fun movie that falls into the same category as JOHN CARTER. It is an underseen and underappreciated gem.

It is incredibly difficult for Hollywood to finance and release major tentpole features when they are not based on an existing property or a sequel to a box office success. Even with the excitement surrounding the new STAR WARS movies, fans did not seem ready to venture into a new mythology with unique alien creatures and a royal hierarchy that requires the viewer to pay attention to everything on screen. Like JOHN CARTER and the beloved Dune novels, JUPITER ASCENDING is a complex and massive universe that could easily have ventured into a massive franchise of novels, comics, video games, and feature films, if only viewers gave it a chance. It also has some of the most spectacular special effects of the year and that takes into account AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON, MAD MAD: FURY ROAD, and JURASSIC WORLD.

JUPITER ASCENDING has everything a space opera should have. There are monsters, heroes, explosions, villains monologuing, and a main character plucked out of normalcy and thrust into the spotlight of a galactic war. The big difference between most scifi epics like JUPITER ASCENDING is that the hero is actually a heroine. Long have women taken a backseat when it comes to genre movies like this and The Wachowskis imbue Mila Kunis' Jupiter Jones with the same type of piss and vinegar that made Luke Skywalker so relatable in the original STAR WARS films. Kunis comes across as naive and new to all of the royal lineage she is know a part of but it is a perfect introduction for viewers to join her as she explores the hidden side of our universe we knew nothing about. With a brief backstory as to where she came from, JUPITER ASCENDING quickly races through a massive plot spanning thousands of years.

The issue for many when the film was released was the incoherence of the story. Watching JUPITER ASCENDING the first time, I have no problem following the plot. It does take a lot of political and heirarchical explanatations to make sense of it, but it is no harder to understand than how the Ministry of Magic oversees witches and wizards in J.K. Rowlings Harry Potter universe. In fact, the sequence in the middle of the film that follows Jupiter as she tries to get her title and legal ownership of Earth feels perfectly beaurocratic and reminiscient of Terry Gilliam's BRAZIL, complete with a cameo from Gilliam himself.

But, what really makes JUPITER ASCENDING so good are the visuals. The Wachowskis do not utilize any camera tricks like they did in THE MATRIX nor do they have to depend on a twisty narrative structure as they did in CLOUD ATLAS. JUPITER ASCENDING works as a straight narrative action movie with a singular linear focus. This allows the siblings to direct action scenes that are both sweeping in scope and easy for the eyes to follow. Watching JUPITER ASCENDING proved to me that Andy and Lana Wachowski would be ideal candidates to either direct a STAR WARS movie or a future entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When they want to be innovative, they can, but when trying to tell a story, they know which way to point the camera to best paint that picture. JUPITER ASCENDING is a visual feast with few comparisons in recent memory. Michael Giacchino's score is also spot-on and has a very John Williams feel to it.

Many of you shit on Channing Tatum as the flavor of the month and not someone worth the celebrity heaped upon him. He is eye candy and has shown a prowess for comedy, but here he serves as the braun while Mila Kunis and the supporting cast get to do the heavy lifting. The minor characters, mainly covered in prosthetics and make-up, do an admirable job of populating this alien cornucopia, but the main actors including Douglas Booth, Eddie Redmayne, Sean Bean and Tuppence Middleton really shine. Redmayne especially chews the scenery like a pro and proves here that he would make a damn find Bond villain if given the opportunity. He almost comes across like a young Lord Voldemort with his snake-like movements and raspy voice. Bean, as the grizzled Han Solo type, is always a great addition and helps carry the dramatic burden so Tatum can shoot and look badass.

In all, JUPITER ASCENDING deserved to be so much more of a success. This is not high art aiming to be Best Picture at the Academy Awards. This is good, old-fashioned space opera with a heaping dose of cutting edge special effects. If this movie had been a STAR WARS spin-off, we would all be singing a different tune. Some minor modifications to the story and this could easily have been an expanded tale for an entry in Lucasfilm's ANTHOLOGY series. In fact, maybe this should be the Wachowski's application to helm one of those movies. I felt like a kid again watching this and would easily enjoy watching it again. I feel the future will be kinder to JUPITER ASCENDING with fans discovering it on Blu-ray or cable, wondering to themselves why they didn't take the chance and see it on the big screen.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to alexmaidy@joblo.com, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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