I need to post here more. Err, I need to post here at all, mostly. Ahem. This post is a jumbled mash about how much I love Jupiter Ascending, so if you don’t want to read about that, I suggest you skip, maybe?
I don’t usually write reviews, and by now, I’m probably not saying anything that hasn’t been said elsewhere… but my sweetheart enabled me to write this, because she sincerely wanted to know what I thought about this film beyond keysmashing, squealing, and helpless flailing.
I have not had this much fun watching a film in a long, long time. Not even Big Hero 6, which gave me many feels, was generally fun, and dealt with grief well. Even Guardians of the Galaxy, which I see a lot of people comparing JA to, was a film that quickly lost its shine after deeper thought.
I just. This film has everything I never knew I always wanted. It reminds me of the Sailor Moon Yahoo Groups RPG one of my friends and I started when we were 14. And I cannot believe I either remembered that or admitted out loud to running that, so y’all know I’m serious.
Flaily fangirl version: If Mila Kunis being a lost space queen and space werewolf Channing Tatum zooming around on space rollerblades and punching dinosaurs doesn’t bring you to the theater, I honestly don’t know what you go to the theater for. Jupiter Jones is endearingly imperfect, and the relationship that forms between her and Caine Wise helped sell a lot of the film for me. I’m pretty sure the Wachowskis’ glitter/ sequin budget was bigger than some nations’ GNI.
Longer version: A lot of people claim that JA wasn’t actually a good movie (which the extremely low ratings and poor reviews may attest to), but I’m not sure I agree. Were there plot holes? Yes. Was there ludicrous dialogue and over-acting? Oh, yeah. But I’ve come to basically shrug off these things as part of sci-fi in general. Really, though, Jupiter Ascending is one of those films that back-flips over “good” and straight into “awesome” territory. I went into it really excited to see it because of the buzz I’d seen on Tumblr. I was not disappointed. I saw it first in regular 2D and a second time in IMAX 3D, which blew me away.
From the very beginning of the film, Jupiter lets us know that we are in the world of women. One of the first scenes is of Jupiter’s mother giving birth as she and a group of other women ride over the sea to (hopefully) better lives in America. She works in a rather devalued and female-coded job, cleaning houses with her mother and her aunt. You can tell from her repetitions of “I hate my life,” every morning as the alarm goes off at 4:45 that she’s not satisfied with the way things are, yet she doesn’t seem to feel able to or desire to disrupt her life.
And one thing I’ve definitely noticed — even from people who say they enjoyed the film — is that a lot of people criticize Jupiter’s passiveness, her seeming lack of agency, throughout the film. Would I agree she’s passive? Possibly. But she’s been thrust into a world that she literally knows nothing about, expected to keep up with people much older and much more advanced than she is. I think in the same situation any of the rest of us would feel just as out-to-sea as she does.
Not to mention that I feel like the film sort of addresses the way young women are treated by society. We’re often told we don’t know what we want, and even if we do, it’s not what we need, or it’s at times “inappropriate.” (I’m prob wording this badly, tbh, but I’m not really sure how to say what I’m trying to say.) Even at home, before she has aliens out to kill her, Jupiter’s family talks over her, orders her around, etc. I’m not saying she’s mistreated, but it’s not an environment possibly conducive to being super-confident and driven. Even when Jupiter’s uncle compliments her, calling her smart, it’s only to say well, this is obviously why she’s not married yet.
I think the thing I really found refreshing about Jupiter Ascending beyond the use of a female Hero’s Journey (Yes! The same story structure George Lucas used in the original Star Wars trilogy!) is that it was a sci-fi movie that didn’t feel bored with itself. It was like, SPACE, YES! LOOK AT THESE SKY ROLLERBLADES! AREN’T THEY AMAZING?! I don’t know if it’s just film-making nowadays or what, but so many sci-fi movies lately just seem like they’re completely exhausted with themselves.
(See, this is why I don’t write reviews much. I find it so hard to hold onto the thread of describing the film’s events. Anyway!) And speaking of Star Wars, I feel I need to point out that it’s rare to criticize Luke Skywalker’s lack of action throughout most of A New Hope. I feel like he and Jupiter traverse similar heroic journey’s. And yet no-one accuses him of “lacking agency.”
Back to things I love! As if Channing Tatum as a pointy-eared space werewolf isn’t awesome enough, I feel like the character of Caine Wise is an alpha hero written as NOT an asshole… which is EVEN MORE interesting because so much of his later interaction with Jupiter has a definite fem-dom/ male-sub vibe to it. I want fanfiction of Jupiter buying him a fancy collar and leash, damn it.
The very first thing Caine says to Jupiter (as she’s swooning into unconsciousness in his arms, incidentally) is, “I’m here to help you.” As she wakes up, he says, basically, “I left you the gun because I thought it would help you feel better. But it works better if you flick the switch by your thumb.” And I was so struck by the fact that he thought of that. Who would? He makes it clear that he wants her to feel safe with him. And as many times as he dashes off to her rescue, he treats it as his duty, but never as an unwanted obligation. She doesn’t become a burden to him. Even as he rebuffs her romantic advances, he tells her, essentially, that in the eyes of the world, he would never be good enough for her. It’s not a bullshit “It’s not you, it’s me,” excuse. It’s genuinely how he sees things. Even when they kiss later, Jupiter is the one who initiates it. In a way, Caine is the only person in the film not trying to coerce Jupiter into anything.
Okay, I doubt any of this made sense. I’ve gone on for about 500 more words than I initially meant to and I’m feeling a bit brain-dead, so I’m just going to stop myself here.