Jupiter Ascending

So, word on the street is that Jupiter Ascending is a hot mess. But remember Speed Racer? That nearly all the reviewers panned and a few years later folks were watching it on DVD for the lulz and went “Oh, wait, this is actually pretty good”? And they’d missed seeing it on the big screen? Which is a real pity because SR on the big screen was freaking awesome?

Right. Nothing was going to keep me away from Jupiter Ascending. We went to see it last night.

Now, I’m not any kind of reviewer or critic. I’m generally at a loss when it’s time for reviews. So I really won’t be able to tell you much more than “Gosh darn it, I really enjoyed that a lot!”

Well, I can tell you that you need to be willing to accept a high level of amazingly ridiculous and gorgeous stuff. The movie doesn’t waste a lot of time letting you know this. Basically, JA says to you, “Look, you see this giant ship we’re on? And the depthless abyss of ocean beneath us? And this rail, here, that would keep us from going overboard in a very large scale way? Yeah, fuck that rail. Let’s put on our antigravity rollerblades.”

I’ve seen reviews complain about Eddie Redmayne’s acting job here,but honestly, I enjoyed Redmayne, up to and including the pieces of scenery that stuck in his teeth. I’ve seen reviewers complain about the chewed scenery here, as though somehow that’s automatically bad, but all things in their place. This sort of thing really does call for tooth marks all over the set, if you ask me. The question isn’t “was scenery chewed?” but rather “how artfully, enthusiastically, and grandly was the scenery chewed?” It’s a matter of what mode you’re working in. And I’ve seen snickers about the “I like dogs” line, but in context actually it worked, at least for me. Various things weren’t explained during the course of the movie, and various things were just kind of thrown onscreen to be admired and enjoyed momentarily without accompanying explanation–yeah, so what? I admired and enjoyed, and while there’s a kind of SF that revels in explanations (and I enjoy that), this wasn’t that kind of SF–and I enjoy that kind, too.

And honestly, you know, it was obvious from the get-go that it was never meant to be a Serious Science Fiction Film of Great Seriousness. Honestly, I feel like complaining it’s filled with familiar motifs and over the top and silly in places is like being presented with a gigantic meringue-topped everyberry trifle and complaining that it’s the worst roast free range chicken you’ve ever tasted.

Okay, I’ll admit the “Bees recognize royalty” thing was a step too far even for me, but the rest? Pure meringue-covered, sabayon-drenched fun.

Now, this is not to say it’s perfect–the aforementioned royalty-detecting bees for one, and yeah, seems to me that screenplay was edited to within an inch of its life and various plot threads kind of appeared and disappeared. You will have to pay attention to make any minimal sense of the plot. Or not, if that’s not a thing for you.

But anyway. My advice–if you liked Speed Racer (inexplicably, not everyone did. I gather for some the colors and motion is headache inducing, which it’s understandable you wouldn’t enjoy that, I guess) anyway, if you liked Speed Racer (“yes, one racing team dresses like fake Vikings and has a beehive hidden in their car to launch at competitors. Just go with us on this!”) then you might be onboard for Jupiter Ascending. And if you’re half-thinking about maybe seeing it on DVD–see it now, on the big screen. Like SR, the visuals are half the experience.

Oh, but the previews beforehand. OMG. They just kept going on and on and they all were dreadful. There was this one, about some boy and some girl (there were title cards to helpfully let you know this, because otherwise you’d have taken the actors for adults) and she said “you make it seem impossible!” and some wise motherly figure advised our supposedly romantic lead that “if you don’t run after her you’re not the man I’ve taken you for” and about four hours into it I leaned over to the 15 yr old and said “This is endless. We’re in Hell.”

Anyway. Wretched previews or not, seriously, Jupiter Ascending was a lot of fun.

15 thoughts on “Jupiter Ascending

  1. Paul Weimer (@princejvstin) says:

    Previews CAN be awfully wretched.

    As far as JA, saw it yesterday just like you. I think the script needed a couple of additional passes to make something more coherent and tight.

    However, this is unabashed space opera insanity that knows it is. It reminds me a lot of CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK that way. Z

    But then far wide galactic civilizations and empires are part of my jam (but you knew that already, I think).

  2. M
    Margo Hurwicz says:

    I didn’t even mind the bees-detect-royalty scene. Reminded me of Eywa’s “pure sprits” landing on Sully in Avatar. Visually & as plot device.
    And the “I like dogs” struck me as exactly what she would say in that moment.
    I did have trouble at first with Redmayne’s voice, but my attempt at backstory involves Mom half strangling him at some point.
    So, yeah. Crazy fun. Great visuals. That wedding dress…

    1. Ann says:

      That was my own headcanon, re: Balem while I was watching. But several someones have pointed out that we never are told just whose throat Caine ripped out. Betcha there was some interesting backstory trimmed from that screenplay!

      1. Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin) says:

        Yeah, *who*? Was it from the Abraxas? Or some other Noble House?

  3. Fade Manley says:

    I’m so glad I didn’t see any previews for Jupiter Ascending, because I was honestly not expecting the sheer weirdness of the movie. Which meant every stage of ramping up the WTF a new delight. Multi-planetary empire, okay. Giant spaceships, sure. Flying motorcycles, cool. Gray aliens in illusionary disguises with memory wipes, okay. Flying roller skates? And…are they having a jet fighter battle over Chicago? And now it’s going to ramp up more?

    I saw this in IMAX, and I kid you not, I’m kinda thinking about going again.

    1. Ann says:

      We didn’t see it in IMAX but I am kind of tempted now.

  4. I loved it, too! I went with a large group, and a lot of people had nothing positive to say about it, but it was everything it advertised itself as and I enjoyed pretty much every minute (except a few minutes of each far-too-extended fight scene). You don’t want to poke the premise too hard, and the “Harvest” thing wasn’t really convincing for me, but the visuals alone make the movie more than worth seeing. I thought Mila Kunis did a great job, and I agree that the “I like dogs” thing made sense in context. Plus there’s the bureaucracy scene…

  5. Minki says:

    I wasn’t going to watch JA…but now I think I just might! I did like John Carter, after all, so who am I to judge?

    1. Ann says:

      I liked John Carter too! There’s another hella fun movie that was inexplicably trashed by critics!

      1. Paul Weimer (@PrinceJvstin) says:

        Yeah, that’s a good example of a movie banished to winter and left to die.

        1. M
          Margo-Lea says:

          I know it has been a month since y’all wrote this, but I feel I should add that I too enjoyed John Carter. I’ve watched it at least one more time on a so-called premium cable channel. That “dog” ~ sluuurp!

  6. Liz says:

    this review persuaded me to go see it (I’d never heard of it). saw it in 3d with a likeminded friend and had an absolutely riot. thanks Ann!

    1. Ann says:

      You’re very welcome!

  7. P
    Penny Nasrin says:

    I forced my family to go with me. I agree with Ann, I liked it a lot, visually appealing, fight scenes a bit long at times but it was good undemanding fun. Eddie Redmayne was certifiably bonkers and Channing Tatum’s great comic skills not really used enough but plenty of action and glad I saw it on a big screen rather than wait for DVD/online

  8. Vince says:

    Your review persuaded me fully and I had a wonderful experience. I have to thank you for it.

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