-posted by Kate S.
Jupiter Ascending is the best movie you didn’t see this year, and I’m here to tell you why.
Critics widely panned this scifi opera by the Wachowskis–Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 26% rating, and it had a similarly dim review at RogerEbert.com. Even the people who thought it was enjoyable said that it was so bad you couldn’t miss it just for the experience. Common criticisms include an incomprehensible plot, embarrassing dialogue, derivative elements from other scifi films, and over the top performances.
Now you’re really wondering why I think you should watch this movie, right? Just hear me out. First, Jupiter Ascending is visually stunning, something about which the critics do agree with me. The world and environments in the film are lush and complicated, and the spaceships it contains are also one-of-a-kind, with multiple pieces of each ship or vehicle not actually attached by anything other than an anti-grav field. Its use of 3D is truly unique as well, eschewing the typical “random object jumps out at the screen” tactic and instead creating an entire field of vision on the screen that feels three-dimensional everywhere.
Second, I actually think the plot makes perfect sense. It’s pretty simple: girl is a nobody, girl’s life is saved by a handsome space werewolf assassin, girl discovers she is really the reincarnation of a space empress, girl saves the Earth. The setting of the movie, however, is extremely complicated, and it’s one that would have easily spawned several sequels. I think that’s why most folks felt the plot was wanting; this movie is a coming of age love story set in space amid multiple inside jokes and hilarious dialogue, and not the complicated space politics movie it could have been. I’m particularly sad about this when I think about the movie’s poor box office performance, because it means we will probably never see Jupiter Jones dismantling space capitalism with her loyal space boyfriend.
Jupiter Ascending is also something we don’t see very often: a girl’s power fantasy that doesn’t require its heroine to be a stoic, tough figure. In fact, I think it’s fair to say that it’s similar to Star Wars: A New Hope, if Luke and Leia’s roles had been switched. The difference is men are allowed to have varied hero roles within our cinematic landscape, and women often aren’t. Jupiter Jones is a new kind of female space heroine, and she’s one we sorely need. The Daily Dot agrees with me, so check out this article for more on that angle.
Lastly, Jupiter Ascending is an homage to scifi itself, and that isn’t derivative, it’s purposeful and loving. The high point of this is a Brazil-esque bureaucracy scene that ends with a cameo from Terry Gilliam himself, but it ranges all over our shared scifi movie history in a way that will make you laugh and perhaps feel a bit of fond nostalgia. My personal favorite reference is when (spoiler alert–don’t read the rest of this paragraph if you want to watch the movie unspoiled!) Sean Bean’s character miraculously survives all the way to the end of the movie, despite encountering more than one narrative point at which he would have died in any other movie. For more context about this, see this article from 2014 which lists a mere seven movies (out of quite a filmography) in which Sean Bean does not die.
Wait, I lied. I can’t end a post about Jupiter Ascending unless I mention Eddie Redmayne’s spectacular overacting as the main villain. Come on, don’t you want to see a bare-chested Redmayne screaming “I create life!” while standing next to a giant space lizard? Of course you do.