Why you should see JUPITER ASCENDING

Basically, because it’s bad.
And I mean terrible. I saw it last weekend, and it’s a clusterfuck of epic proportions. A film so charmless it makes the VHS footage from my 11th birthday party (spoilers: we had cake) look like a contender for Best Picture at the Oscars. I did an impromptu survey outside the cinema afterward, and 84% of attendees said they’d rather be kicked in the groin by a mad Irish woman than see the film again. I will go on record now: if you think JUPITER ASCENDING is a good film, you are demonstrably wrong.
But you should still go see it and here’s why:
ASCENDING cost 176 million spacebucks to make. That’s a greasy shit-ton of spacebucks. It pulled $18 million on it’s opening weekend; a kick to the lurve machine even by the Warner Brothers’ meager estimations. It’s being touted as the film that will send the Wachowski’s big budget career up in gouts of hellish green flame, and you know, there’s a drunken argument to be made for that. I thought CLOUD ATLAS was a work of unsung genius – say what you will about the movie’s treatment of race, it was still a masterfully executed piece of film, successfully balancing not only multiple themes, but multiple genres (scifi dystopia, post apocalypse action, spy thriller, slapstick comedy, period drama). But CA was based on the David Mitchell book, and it still bombed like the Enola Gay at the box office. Maybe the Wachowski’s don’t have any more good original ideas in them? Some people only have the one. Fair enough.
But here’s the thing – the failure of ASCENDING will not just be ringing alarm bells for any studio exec who wants to hire the Wachowskis for a big budget spectacle film again. It will ring alarm bells for any studio exec that wants to tackle an original science fiction script at all. It’s a brave studio that tries to make original sci fi these days to begin with. A squeaky peek at the list of top grossing sci-fi films shows a fairly obvious pattern to anyone with those eye-things in their skulls: the vast majority of these titles are sequels or based on existing IP. And some of these films seem to succeed in spite of being really shitty movies – the big budget, braindead spectacle of the TRANSFORMERS franchise, the STAR WARS prequels (“I find her . . . intoxicating . . . “), MAN OF STEEL, etc. It seems mainstream audiences are still willing to march like neckbearded zombies see a poorly reviewed, badly made shitpile with a familiar name than risk wetting their pantaloons on something they’ve never heard of.
This is the age of the reboot. STAR TREK. INDIANA JONES (fuck me, really?). GHOSTBUSTERS. ROBOCOP. MAD MAX. These are films I loved as a kid. And the thing is, studios bank on my bullshit sense of whiteboy nerd nostalgia. They know the average 40 something neckbeard with 2.5 sprogs loved Star Wars as a kid, so of course he’s going to drag those sprogs along if the studios vomit out another Star Wars film. The truth is, we need another Star Wars film like we need a fucking hole in our collective heads. The first one was made nearly forty years ago. There’s been more bad Star Wars films than good ones, and yet audiences keep flooding back like junkies. Full of  rose-colored remembrances of that first wonderful high, and indulging the doomed quest to feel that magic once more by doing the same thing over and over again.
Here is truth, people: that magic doesn’t lie in a fucking reboot. Or a re-hash. Or another goddman sequel. It lies in original film-makers like the Wachowskis. But this breed of filmaker? It’s a dying one. Young and promising directors who step into the sci-fi arena usually get snapped up by the studio system and put on regurgitation duty within one or two films. Any of you beautiful people see CHRONICLE? Sensational, right? A truly original take on the superhero genre. Cleverly shot. Directed exceptionally. What’s Josh Trank’s follow up? The FANTASTIC FOUR reboot. Niell Blomkamp explodes onto the scene with the brilliant rust-punk madness of DISTRICT 9. What’s he working on 5 years later? The fucking ALIEN reboot.
What happened to our sense of adventure? What happened to the mindset that gave us films like ALIEN? THE TERMINATOR? PLANET OF THE APES? TRON? And yes, even STAR WARS? Out of the box, genre-defining films that broke molds and expectations and linger in our collective consciousness decades after they were made? You think you’re going to feel the same sense of wonder watching yet another Indiana Jones film as you felt when you first saw RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC? I have a bridge in Sydney I’d like to sell you. The dream is over, nerdkid. Open your eyes. Open your mind. There’s incredible, original stuff being written out there, and it’s within your power to see it get made. But here’s the thing. Studios won’t be looking for the new STAR WARS as long as audiences are satisfied with just another STAR WARS.
Seriously? Fuck STAR WARS, people. You deserve more.
We should demand the new. The bold. The brave. We should reward filmmakers who try to give us more than the same old rehashed, rebranded, nostalgia wankery. Even if they fail. And yes, they will fail. The Wachowskis just did. Walking into unknown territory means that will happen sometimes. That’s the risk you take. But unless that risk sees some kind of reward, the accountants of the Hollywood green machine will  give us a world where the new is feared around the boardroom table. Seen as too frightening. Not worth taking a chance on. Films like TRANSFORMERS 17: RISE OF THE PROFIT MARGIN will continue to get the big budgets. The big marketing. Great scripts with new ideas and unfamiliar names will never make it out of development hell. Promising new film-makers will get sucked into the regurgitation machine with the lure of big money, and never be seen again.
And our art, and our imagination, and this amazing nerdy culture we’ve built will suffer for it.
So please. Pretty please. With sugar on top.

11 Responses to “Why you should see JUPITER ASCENDING”

  1. Jonas Lee says:

    This makes me wish we could get a beer together. Still, I can’t, I just can’t go to that. It’s a Netflix queue anchor for sure.

  2. J. E. Ryan says:

    I never thought I could gain more respect for you, Jay. And then you said you loved Cloud Atlas. *stands up and applauds* Thank you, sir. I thought I’d never see the day that someone apart from myself could see that movie (and book) for the awesomeness it was.
    And what you said is completely true. As uninteresting and bland as Jupiter Acceding seems to me, I cannot help but think, “Well at the very least it’s NEW.” Nothing from a comic book series, nothing from a book series, and not some sort of re-boot.
    Much like you with Jupiter, I begged everyone to see a film titled John Wick. It might sound a bit silly (he’s a hitman seeking out revenge after someone killed his dog, for Christ sake) but it was something to truly admire. Fun, had me on the edge of my seat, stylish, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. And, most importantly of all, it was unlike anything I’ve seen before. As much as I love the Hunger Games movies (but loath the fact that they split the last movie into two parts SIMPLY BECAUSE OF THE MONEY), I’ve also read the books. This immediately ruins that sense of mystery a movie might have – a sense of unpredictability. Because I’ve read the books I know what happens and it ruins the experience. Same with any Marvel movies, or books-to-screen adaptions, or re-boots; we can all look at the source material and guess what’s going to happen.
    Yes, Cloud Atlas is a book-to-screen adaptation. I know that. But at the very least the Wachowskis took a relatively unknown novel and took a bold risk, creating a rather unforgettable and beautiful film.
    Sometimes popular reboots/adaptions are brilliant. I’m not denying that at all. I’m just concerned because of this fact; the “most anticipated” movies this year are Star Wars, Mockingjay Part 2, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Superman vs. Batman, Peanuts, Fantastic Four, Jurassic World, Finding Dory, the Minions Movie, and James Bond: Sceptre. ALL of whom are apart of a brand we all know. Nothing that celebrates imagination or creativity.
    I’m going to end this with a Michael Bay quote (responding to the hate critics spat at Transformers 4); “Let them hate. They’re still going to see the movie!” And you know what? He was right. Because it grossed $245,439,076 at the box office.

    • marnij says:

      Everything J.E. Ryan said! I applaud you both and you both have hit the nail on the head.

    • Yeah, and to an extent, Bay is totally right in saying that. For all the shit we give TRANSFORMERS, it still makes a metric shit ton at the box office. By one criteria of success, those films are very successful. But I mean, that just goes toward my theory of “just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’s good”.

      • J. E. Ryan says:

        Yeah, I can relate to that theory, You know I can put that into context into the Oscars this year. In the animation category a voter claimed that the Lego Movie was snubbed a nomination. Now he could have left it there, but oh no. He went off and bashed on two other films in the category which were nominated — Princess Kaguya (a Studio Ghibli film) and the Irish film Song of the Sea, saying that they did not deserve the nomination as they were not popular.*
        You cannot believe how hurtful that is to me since I’m looking to work along with the creators of Song of the Sea once I’m older (if I’m lucky that is). That a movie is not worth praise, love, or an ounce of dignity just because it’s not a popular in the USA. It’s disgusting that such beautiful artworks such as those two movies were disrespected.
        I was extremely ticked off by the fact he never even saw Princess Kaguya nor Song of the Sea yet he felt the need to say they didn’t deserve the nominations. Instead of insulting things he clearly doesn’t know about, he should have said that he wanted the Lego Movie to be nominated because it was a good movie — NOT BECAUSE OF IT’S POPULARITY.
        But yeah. Transformers’ box-office success is just one of the great mysteries in life. I won’t lie and say the first movie wasn’t at least enjoyable to some degree (in a this-is-really-stupid-but-I-don’t-care kind of way) however the other films are just the same thing over and over again. At least for me. :/
        By the way one of my favourite critics made a video on this topic. I just saw it now and it is pretty much nails the whole situation on the head. I thought you and others might find it useful, so here’s the link. 🙂
        *quote; “I only watch the ones that my kid wants to see, so I didn’t see The Boxtrolls but I saw Big Hero 6 and I saw How to Train Your Dragon 2. We both connected to Big Hero 6 — I just found it to be more satisfying. The biggest snub for me was Chris Miller and Phil Lord not getting in for The Lego Movie. When a movie is that successful and culturally hits all the right chords and does that kind of box-office — for that movie not to be in over these two obscure freakin’ Chinese fuckin’ things that nobody ever freakin’ saw? That is my biggest bitch. Most people didn’t even know what they were! How does that happen? That, to me, is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen.”

      • J. E. Ryan says:

        Sorry! The link to that review didn’t seem to work. It’s titled “NC: Why is Nothing Original Anymore?” and upon second viewing I actually noticed hat he used clips from Song of the Sea, which I hadn’t noticed when I first watched. So yeah. Coincidences all around! 😀

  3. Mike says:

    I just saw it by myself last Monday. I thought it pretty good and original. LOVED John Carter, but it also tanked. What a shame. A movie literally 100 years in the making, with hopeful two sequels to Burroughs greatness, but people would rather see yet another crappy Transformers movie. God, please, at the very least, have a solid Tarzan movie, which is coming 2016.

  4. Hmm. I haven’t seen Jupiter Ascending yet but I intended to already. You forgot to mention it’s a beautiful hash, total SFX eye-candy.
    Arc? Story arc? Rainbow arc for dancing ponies in pretty colours?
    ARK as in the Ark of the Covenant.
    [hard stare]

  5. Lisa Jensen says:

    Ned Stark and Stephen Hawking walk into an exploding spaceship…that’s the kind of fun I was hoping for when I saw Jupiter Ascending. And, boy, was I disappointed, especially because, like you, I got a big kick out of Cloud Atlas—hypnotic and a bit scruffy, and memorable in ways Jupiter just isn’t. But it’s all about the story, and Jupiter’s is way too silly and pointless.
    So this week, I saw the latest from Blomkamp, Chappie. Again, sort of silly and lightweight, especially compared to District 9. But at least it’s an original story! Same cannot be said of (yet another) Alien reboot, sheesh!
    But in movies, like books, procurers don’t want to try anything that’s not exactly like some other successful thing. Until somebody has the cojones to try something new. Then, if that’s successful, everybody wants that exact thing. *Sigh*

  6. Penny says:

    I read a review that also recommended seeing Jupiter Ascending for a similar, but slightly different reason. Essentially it described the film as a pretty crappy script stuffed to the gills with a random collection of details from a 15-year-old fanfic-writing girl’s fantasies. It’s got furries, and action hero princess Mary-Sue characters awaiting their manifest destinies, with unicorns and rainbows and elaborate costumes and Eddie Redmayne. It’s stupid and terrible. But when similar films are made based on 15-year-old boy fantasies, we describe them as fun, light-hearted romps and they do reasonably well at the box office. It’s sexist and unfair. The review pointed out that while JA is being widely panned in the general press, there is a core of young women and girls that actually got a real kick out if it and it may well become a cult classic within that group. But ultimately the review agreed with your overall point, if we want more films with female protagonists that cater to female empowerment fantasies, we need to go see them, and let ourselves enjoy them, even if they’re not always especially good.

    • They tried. They REALLY did.
      I’m not entirely sure about the 15 year old boy fantasy films being met with less brutality thing, though. The reviews I’ve read for Seventh Son for example – which is as about as campy 15 year old boy fantasy as you can get – have been absolutely savage.

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