Jupiter Ascending is like a winding mountain road. You lookat it over a few miles and see that there are a lot of twists and turns, someramps where a car might conceivably jump a gap, even a loop-de-loop. And there,
at the start, there’s a European super-car with Vin Diesel getting into it! He
revs the engine. He turns on the radio and wouldn’t you know it, your favorite
song is playing. With a squeal of tires, Vin Diesel takes off, only to jump out
of the car as it flies through the guardrail, tumbling down the mountainside in
super-slow-motion. You watch as the glass explodes from it, as the chassis
deforms with every twisting tumble, until finally it explodes into a fiery
wreck, the sparks like a meteor shower, the flames like a nebula.
And that’s all well and good, you think, but wouldn’t it be
more impressive if that car had actually ran the obstacle course?
And that’s how I feel about Jupiter Ascending. It’s
basically the same movie as The Matrix, only not as good, and we already have
The Matrix sequels for that.
-For some reason, they put the obligatory love story front
and center, even though I could only think was that Caine, our hero, admitted
to attacking ‘an Entitled’ for no reason, which apparently turns Jupiter on.
You’re expecting him to say something like “that Entitled ordered me to fire on
civilians!” or “that Entitled sent my friends to die!”, but no, apparently
Caine assaulted someone just because he has no self-control and Jupiter is
totally into men who are randomly violent. Uhhhhhh…
-Like I said, same movie as The Matrix, only where that
revealed the ‘humanity as cattle’ theme at the end of the first act, this waits
until the movie is mostly over to go into that (even though it’s super obvious,
making you wonder if Jupiter has ever seen a sci-fi movie before). It doesn’t
work nearly as well. I guess here they want Jupiter to kinda be seduced by the
allure of being ultra-wealthy before rejecting the system, but she never really
seems to feel one way or the other about this wish-fulfillment. Or anything. In
fact, her suddenly owning the entire world seems like it comes as a major hassle
to her, not anything interesting or any sort of opportunity.
-Really, pretty much the entire movie is a series of ‘people
explaining things to Jupiter,’ ‘bad guys chase Jupiter,’ ‘if bad guys have
succeeded in catching Jupiter, good guys have to save Jupiter.’ Which, again,
similar to the plot of The Matrix, but there, Morpheus/Caine got captured, so
our supposed hero Neo/Jupiter had to step up and save him. And he only did it
once. Morpheus didn’t immediately get captured again so we could get an instant
replay on the clear and obvious climax we had just seen.
-Yes, the third act of the movie has the bad guys kidnapping
Jupiter and trying to force her into signing over the Earth to them, then her
getting rescued by Caine—then another group
of bad guys kidnap Jupiter and try to force her into blah blah blah. It’s
really odd, because you’re thinking “okay, I guess that winds up the
movieeeeeeee, oh we’re dealing with this entirely new set of problems, ‘kay.”
-Instead of like in The Matrix, where there was one
antagonist who represented all of the nogoodniks, here it’s like in the Matrix
sequels, with three different baddies all feuding with each other. And I could
think was, really? Do we need three? Two could’ve done it, instead of Jupiter
the kidnapping victim being passed around by all three of the Abraxases like a
joint. The film’s big bad guy is, I guess, Eddie Redmayne, and people really
seemed to like his performance, but he disappears for a huge long stretch while
Jupiter has to deal with the two other siblings. It’s just bad writing.
-Jupiter is really shockingly passive for a modern-day female
protagonist. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s actually a little refreshing that
she never learns to fight and has to strap on a skintight leather catsuit and
shoot laser pistols because she’s a Strong Female Character—but she never does
anything else either. You know, she doesn’t inspire people, she doesn’t come up
with clever plans, she isn’t a doctor who cures some disease… In The 100, for
instance, Clarke very rarely has to shoot it out with bad guys or have a
swordfight, but she still makes hard choices and plays politics and comes up
with plans on a weekly basis. Jupiter does none
of that. I see no way in which this character passed the Sexy Lamp Test.
Again, it’s like if in The Matrix, Neo never learned kung-fu and instead he
just kept having to get rescued by Morpheus.
-Okay, let’s just go and compare this to The Matrix again.
Matrix ends with Neo, fully a hero, reveling in his newfound power and saying
now he’s going to take his fight to the Machines. Ascending ends with the
equivalent of Neo going back to work as an office drone, happy with his place
in the system, not doing anything to fight against the Machines even though
they’re still oppressing his people and he has all this power, but hey—who
cares, he’s got a cute girlfriend now. And maybe that’s supposed to be a really
subversive ending about what an asshole Jupiter is. I don’t know, it doesn’t
play that way to me, especially since the Abraxases are infinitely worse than
the Machines, destroying whole civilizations on a regular basis just so they
don’t get liver spots. I thought this would be a movie about Jupiter expanding
her mind and becoming aware of injustice and suffering around her. Instead, it
takes on the worst part of The Wizard of Oz, the end where she says “screw all
those hopes and dreams, I just wanna stay home and happily accept my lot in
life!” Did we really need an update of that?
-Can we please stop casting Channing Tatum as a stoic action
hero? It never works. When he’s basically playing Bruce Campbell—yeah, I said
it!—and doing comedy, that works fine. He was even alright making quips in
White House Down. But can anyone take him seriously?
-I get it, guys, I want to enjoy a movie that ends with
Channing Tatum fighting a space dinosaur too. But! I would enjoy it much more
if we’d established that that space dinosaur was Bolin’s big number two man,
his fixer, his right hand, not just one more in a long line of henchmen—not even
the only dragon. So instead of thinking “yes, Caine beat Bolin’s best man!” I’m
just “okay, how is that different from the fifty other people working for Bolin
that he beat up? It’s not a climax just because he had a little more trouble
with this one. What is this, Taken 2?”
Now, I know Tumblr needs something to insist people see
instead of Fifty Shades of Grey, but instead of it being Jupiter Ascending,
which is a lost cause and has about as much chance of crossing over with John
Carter as it does getting a sequel, how about we throw our support behind
Kingsman: The Secret Service? I thought it was really well-done, great action,
great writing, and I say this as
someone who makes an ‘eww, gross!’ face at Mark Millar as much as the next
(In fact, if you go to Latino Review, there’s an interview
with the film’s director where he’s shockingly upfront about how much of a hack
Millar is and how Jane Goldman, is responsible for turning Millar’s
high-concept shit into actual stories human beings enjoy.)
What are some areas
where you [and Millar] differ creatively?
Vaughn: I believe in a
thing called three-dimensional characters. [Laughs] He believes in the quick
one-liner. I always say, if he was around in the 80s, he’d be in Hollywood
making a fortune saying, ‘This is Jaws, set in space.’ That’s where
[co-screenwriter] Jane Goldman comes in as well, to say, ‘This is great idea.
It’s got so many facets to it but we’ve got to get that heart and that drama to
underpin these crazy ideas.’
So, if you wanna talk about how
a woman co-directed Jupiter Ascending (~so diverse~), I’ll counter that a woman
co-wrote Kingsman and did a much better job.
-I’m going to shock you now:
Kingsman is actually a lot more feminist than Jupiter. The female lead, Roxy,
has basically the same creds as Mako Mori. She’s in training to be a spy, just
like our hero Eggsy, they befriend and support each other, but never develop a
romance. They’re just bros who kick ass together. She’s also super cute and has
no qualms about seducing another woman, fyi.
“And why should the people listen to you?” “Because unlike some other heroines, *I* have an impact on the plot!”
-The villain’s henchgirl,
Gazelle, is afforded the honor of getting the final mano-e-mano fight with
Eggsy. You might expect for it to come down to a ‘good girl vs. bad girl’ fight
between her and Roxy, while Eggsy goes after real bad guy Samuel L. Jackson.
Nope, SLJ is a total wimp and Gazelle does all the heavy lifting. You could
also count her as being a badass disabled character, but I guess ‘the evil
villain with the hook hand’ isn’t anything too new. Still, it’s probably better
representation than Jupiter Ascending, where it’s like ‘uhh, the police captain
and one of the three villains’ twenty henchmen are black women. Diversity!’
-Now, due to our present dumb
culture wars, I’ve heard people complain that the movie is denying climate
change. Which is just mindboggling stupid to me. Good guy Colin Firth—who is
excellent, by the way, as basically Roger Moore’s James Bond in a Daniel Craig
world—outright says that climate change is happening. It’s just that SLJ’s
character’s attempts to stop it are extremist and evil. Guys, it’s the same
plot that Hugo Drax had in Moonraker or Karl Stromberg had in The Spy Who Loved
Me: save the planet by wiping out most of humanity, then ruling over the
survivors. I don’t think we need to politicize saying that mass murder is
-I’ve also seen people demanding
Social Justice! over the very end, where Eggsy saves the world and then has sex
with a cute, grateful girl. Okay, fine—to me, it’s the movie being upfront
about being a guy movie and giving the hero a sexy reward, which is a lot less
offensive than suddenly turning Roxy into a love interest or the thing the Bond
movies seem to be on now, which is to go ‘oh, oh, we care about women’s issues,
look, this girl was forced into prostitution, how terrible,’ and then she has
sex with Bond anyway and gets killed to show how evil the bad guy is. Kingsman
just takes the old stalwart of Roger Moore getting the girl and parodies the cliché
by turning it up to 11, with ‘Bond’ knowing the girl for five minutes instead
of ten and being more explicit about what’s happening. But at the end of the
day, it’s still two pretty people deciding to have meaningless nookie because
they didn’t die. I’m pretty sure a fandom with ‘sex pollen’ in their vocabulary
doesn’t have room to complain.
-Now, I don’t mean to say the
movie is perfect. There are a few too many winky nods to James Bond, where you
lose points for subverting a cliché by pointing out ‘look, I’m totally
subverting this cliché!’ And it’s funnier if you just let the audience pick up
on it. Like how instead of crying blood or having a cyanide capsule collapse
his face, SLJ’s villain deformity is just… having a lisp. That’s clever! And
there’s also a bit where the villain tests out his doomsday plot on the
Westboro Baptist Church. And it’s short enough that I don’t really mind, but
the satire there falls flat for me—it’s just the preacher being an io9
commenter saying ‘I’m a religious fundamentalist! I hate science!’ and the
punchline is Colin Firth saying ‘wonk wonk, I’m a gay atheist jew with a black
boyfriend on socialized welfare’ or something like that. Which is fine, because
it’s over with so quickly, but if you’re going to take a shot at as easy a
target as the WBC, I feel like you need to be even more clever about it, otherwise you’re just going “and what’s
the deal with airline peanuts!?” (c.f. the recent Parks & Rec episode about
NO NO NO NO NO
You don’t get to tear down Jupiter Ascending like that. NO.
Maybe you didn’t like Jupiter Ascending. Maybe it wasn’t your cup of tea. Maybe you thought it was too similar to the Matrix. Maybe all of these things. Maybe you want to talk about what problems you had with other like-minded people.
BUT YOU DO NOT GET TO TELL PEOPLE THAT THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED TO ENJOY SOMETHING, SO ENJOY SOMETHING ELSE.
I haven’t seen Kingsman. So I don’t know if it’s the second coming of the feminist agenda, if it avoids a million fucking clichees and transcends all repetitive tropes to become the ONE TWU ORIGINAL MOVIE. I don’t know that. Maybe it is. I have no comment on that.
But don’t use it as a prop to tear Jupiter Ascending down, to make people feel bad about liking the movie.
How about you go: Hey, I see you guys are enjoying Jupiter Ascending because you see all these feminist themes in the movie. You know what, KINGSMAN IS CHUCK FULL OF FEMINIST THEMES. It has a badass lady character! She’s not defined by a love story! She ‘s awesome like Mako Mori! Look how awesome it is! I like it so much! Pay attention to this movie too!
You don’t get to tear down people’s enjoyment of the love story in Jupiter Ascending. Maybe you think that Cain’s character is problematic. Ok. It’s not for you. LADY CHARACTERS GET TO HAVE ROMANCES TOO. WOMEN DO NOT HAVE TO BE SEXLESS TO BE STRONG. BACK THE FUCK AWAY FROM THE MADONNA/WHORE DICHOTOMY.
Women are complex creatures. They can like more than one movie. They can go see more than one film. They can find themselves in more than one character. Men do. Men get to see themselves in scifi heros and action adventure dramas! Men get to see themselves in love stories and out of them!
There should be more than two options for women. You think Kingsman is great and enjoyed it’s cast of ladies? Awesome. I am overjoyed for you. DO NOT SHAME OTHER PEOPLE FOR LIKING OTHER MOVIES ABOUT WOMEN, FOR FINDING GREAT THINGS. THERE IS MORE THAN ONE TYPE OF WOMAN. THERE CAN BE MORE THAN ONE MOVIE ABOUT WOMEN. AND THERE FUCKING SHOULD BE.
Let’s sum up:
1) People (AND MOST ESPECIALLY WOMEN) are allowed to enjoy Jupiter Ascending
2) People (AND MOST ESPECIALLY WOMEN) are allowed to enjoy Jupiter Ascending’s love story.
3) Be unrepentantly excited about things! Share things! Tell people about them! Be enthusiastic!
4) Don’t bag on other people’s happy things to make your thing seem more exciting. Women need more representation. Do not make this an either or. Make this an AND AND AND AND.
You’re right. Thank you for the great response!