Is Jupiter Ascending the Best Space Opera of All Time and Also the Best Movie?

Posted: February 8, 2015 in Threat Quality
Tags: , , , ,

Yes.

I know that I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to build up my credibility when it comes to talking about movies, and I know that basically everyone (including some critics that I almost always agree with, like Walter Chaw and Genevieve Valentine) hated this movie, and so I’m going to burn that credibility by saying that I loved it.  I just saw Jupiter Ascending on Saturday and I cannot remember the last time I had so much fun at a movie.  (No, wait, I can, it was Wreck-it Ralph.  I really liked Big Hero Six, but if I’m being honest, I had more fun more consistently watching this crazy tower of excellence).

SPOILERS.

What follows is a partial list of things about Jupiter Ascending that are perfect and amazing.

The Best Things About Jupiter Ascending

Eddie Redmayne whispers like a cut-rate Voledmort for the entire movie, except for the times when he explodes in high camp melodramatic screaming.

Channing Tatum is a half-wolfman, half bionic-space-eagle who has rocket-powered rollerblades and a gun that fucking barks.  (BECAUSE HE IS A HALF WOLFMAN)

Mila Kunis’ extended Russian family that seems like someone was at least 1% interested in what the immigrant experience in America was like (up to and including dealing with traditional patriarchal cultural values in America and coping with the grotesque and colossal waste of human talent that our two-tiered system of legitimate labor yields).

Extended rocket-boots versus invisible fighter plane dogfight throughout the skyline of Chicago where everything gets wrecked.

Mila Kunis treating Channing Tatum’s injury with a maxi-pad.

Sean Bean is a man with the genetics of a bee so that he has the loyalty of bees.  At one point, he musters up every ounce of working-class Yorkshireman gravitas to deliver a monologue on the virtues of bees.

(In the background of his house, which is covered with bees, there are jugs and jugs of honey, which I assume he can get drunk on, and in the five-hour directors’ cut [WHICH I KNOW MUST EXIST AND I WILL BUY, WACHOWSKIS] I must believe that he gets drunk on honey and his bee monologue goes on for thirty minutes.)

Extended five-minute interlude into a pitch-perfect Terry Gilliam homage that ends with actual Terry Gilliam.

Consistently eroticizes male nudity but de-eroticizes female nudity (Vanessa Kirby is in her underwear at one point, and Tuppence Middleton is naked, but the camera both sort of treats them as though this is ordinary; Kirby is just standing around looking at clothes, Middleton is walking out her bath, and it’s just regular nudity; but Eddie Redmayne gets naked too [glimpsed briefly in his bath] and Channing Tatum gets his shirt off, and the camera positively swoons over these guys.  I don’t know if it represents a legitimate interest in sexy men, or if it’s a conscious flipping of the traditional space opera script, or both or neither, I don’t know what it is but it’s great).

Space alien humans who believe that “genetic recurrences” are basically reincarnation, and so they include their future selves in their own wills.

One of the villains has a spaceship adorned with gold statues on the outside, and whose hangar bay is lit by crystal chandeliers.

Sean Bean and Channing Tatum flying winged robot battle armor through ten million geometry space-mines to stop a space-wedding in which an evil aristocrat tries to marry the reincarnation of his dead mother.

Oedipal space-wedding is attended solely by an audience of robots.

Nikki Amuka-Bird as a Captain of the Space Police, who is just straight-up competent and good at her space policing job. Her pilot has an elephant head.

Channing Tatum uses rocket boots to karate flip kick a dragon man on a secret refinery on Jupiter.

The refinery looks like Notre Dame cathedral if it were also a city and a mountain; the dome that protects it has vaulted ceilings.

Eddie Redmayne has a gigantic room in his palace that has nothing at all in it except columns and one floating hover bench at the far end, that he can sit in and watch the refining.  The floor can turn invisible so that he can look into his torture chambers.

Eddie Redmayne’s uptight villainous kid-Voldemort is COMPLETELY INEFFECTIVE when it comes to actually physically fighting with anyone.  Mila Kunis just kicks his ass repeatedly, including one point where he attacks her with a pipe and then she takes it away from him and beats him senseless with it.

Despite everything she has seen and been through, Mila Kunis refuses to kill anyone, not even Eddie Redmayne.  She doesn’t even make a big deal of it, she just beats him up and doesn’t kill him and considers the fight over.

When given the choice between saving her family and preventing earth from being harvested (i.e., everyone gets killed and turned into bathwater for vampire space-Bathorys), Mila Kunis is straight up ready to let her family die.

(I am not sure that people are thinking enough about how rare that is in movies; obviously, no one in the movies ever REALLY makes the choice, because it the bad guy’s plan always gets foiled.  But usually we always save the people close to us, and then have to find a way to protect the common good, rather than protecting the common good and then finding a way to save our families.)

The movie is ruthlessly anti-capitalist:  space-vampire capital class that exploits (re: devours) billions of people to maintain their lavish, hedonistic lifestyles; people being dehumanized (by literally getting spliced with animal DNA) in order to perform their jobs and roles more efficiently.  Mila Kunis’ character wins the genetic lottery (literally), her exaltation to overlordship has nothing to do with merit, ability, destiny, any of that shit.

The plot of the movie is essentially the traditional plot of a Regency Romance, with a girl being plucked from obscurity, introduced to a world of aristocracy, almost getting tricked into marriage with a charming monster, being threatened by a charmless monster who resents her intrusion into his world, and eventually winning the heart of an emotionally-unavailable man who learns to feel again.

Mila Kunis straight up wanting to jump Channing Tatum from minute one, actually trying to seduce him and all but saying, “I want to bone you.”

ETA:  I forgot about Eddie Redmayne’s bare-chested space gown with giant arm sleeves that makes him look like a fucking BAT!

This Sounds Amazing!

Because it IS amazing!  So, why does no one like it?  I don’t know!  I cannot think of one thing wrong with it, or even any constellation of things wrong with it, that doesn’t exist in equal numbers in Star Trek, Star Trek Into Darkness, The Matrix, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers, or any other science-fiction-related adventure movie that people thought was great (clunky dialogue?  Too much exposition?  An implausible premise?  Guys, be serious here).  I got a couple guesses though.

One is that I think people mistake it for being self-serious — though I don’t completely get how anyone can think that.  Sean Bean is a bee man who has a monologue about bees and says “Beeswax” instead of “Fuck”; there is a Terry Gilliam Interlude; when the main alien planet is revealed, there’s this trumpet sting, and then three seconds of silence, and then a second, louder trumpet sting, like maybe the movie could tell we weren’t sufficiently impressed and wanted to let us know what was going on.  I think the idea that this movie isn’t actually super-duper serious, even though everyone in it is behaving very seriously, is all over the place, so, I don’t know.  It may just be that when we think of “not self-serious” what we really mean is “has a bunch of quips”, and it’s true that this movie doesn’t have a lot of quips.  The characters, in other words, don’t seem to know how ludicrous the movie they’re in is, so they never look out at the audience and say, “Can you believe this shit?”  But I think the Wachowskis clearly know how ludicrous this movie is, they aren’t making bones about it.

Two is its straight-up Regency Romance formula.  This is very different from what we’re used to, I think, and it may just seem weird because it’s unfamiliar — Mila Kunis’ accidental space princess is 100% the most important person in the movie the whole time, despite Channing Tatum doing most of the fighting.  Even though Kunis doesn’t necessarily have that much to do herself, the movie clearly revolves around her, in a way that even many movies with Strong Female Characters don’t.

Should she have more to do?  I mean, I think there’s plenty of room for her to have done more (I expect that in my Five Hour cut there’s a whole subplot about her being a super-genius, which goes to support that point about American capitalism’s lies about meritocracy actually wasting genuine human genius, and I think that could have probably contributed some stuff to her actions), but on the other hand, she DOES do a bunch of things, they’re just not fighting things.  She makes decisions about accepting a wedding proposal, about getting a pardon for Channing Tatum and Sean Bean, she makes the key moral decisions that the end of the movie hinges on.   I actually don’t have a huge problem with a female character who doesn’t do very much fighting, or even contributes necessarily to the action of the movie, as long as she contributes to the story.

(Consider Natalie Portman in Thor:  The Dark World, she’s definitely there, and important in the, “we have to protect the princess” sort of way, but her involvement in the plot comes from the fact that the plot was specifically arranged to make her a part of it, not because her inclusion in the plot was in any way essential to the story it was trying to tell.)

If anything, I wish that the movie had leaned into that Space Romance even more — I know that they couldn’t know this was going to be dumped in the dead of winter when no one would see it, but that being the case, I wish it’d gotten an R rating and we’d gotten some actual sexing going on (in no small part because auggggh the evil space aristocrat having a juicy sex scene with the reincarnation of his dead mother come ONNNN you guys that is amazing).  Also, I think there was room for a sword duel in there.

Three is its ruthless excoriation of capitalism.  I mean, I know that we get a lot of stories where corporations are the bad guys, we’ve seen that before.  And we’ve even seen ones where corporations are more than uncaring, but actually specifically make their fortunes via murder.  But I don’t think it’s very common that we get a movie whose premise is that all human life is part of a system of ruthless exploitation that explicitly connects genocide to the accumulation of capital.  And there’s a lot of historical evidence for a connection like that (some real interesting arguments, for instance, that the violence of World Wars I & II was connected to the fact that Germany was largely excluded from the mercilessly violent and cruel colonialization of Africa).

It’s kind of funny, because the Wachowskis made The Matrix, which was about human beings getting used as a resource by an exploitative ruling class, but everyone sort of thought it was a metaphor about machines and AI and like that, so I like to imagine that they were just sitting down and said, “Hey, how can we make it real clear this time?  I know!  The ruling class is genocidal space vampires.”  “Should we give them, like, good attributes or something?”  “No.”

Ha!

I think we don’t get that very often and I think that a lot of critics are instinctively reacting to the fact that this premise is unequivocal to the point of being actual Marxist parable (see again all of the human beings literally dehumanized to fulfill specific roles in society) as being excessive.  In my personal opinion, however, we can never be too excessive in our condemnations of capitalism, so maybe that is why I’m better-disposed to it.

Four is that it definitely has an episodic quality to it.  Some space bounty hunters show up, do a thing, and then disappear.  We never find out what the deal is with the little gray men, or what the evil Abrasax sister’s interest in all of this is (though I still hold out for a directors’ cut).  People show up, play a short but important role, and then disappear.  None of this especially bothers me — I don’t think it’s wrong, I think this episodic quality is part of the same structure that governs old epics like The Iliad (for example, no one ever asks what the fuck happened to Thersites after Agamemnon beats the hell out of him with his Rod of Power), and the Flash Gordon serials that this is clearly meant to hearken back to.  It gives the movie a messy, disjointed feel, but only in comparison to movies that are slickly intertwined, and I actually think that this disjointedness serves a valuable purpose:  when the movie is filled with things that are evocative but not otherwise connected to the story, it gives us the sense of a much bigger, more open universe than one in which every detail shows up again somewhere in the climax.

Finally, and this is actually probably not motivating anyone, but it is something that I didn’t see a lot of people talking about and I am interested in it.  Chaw dismisses the movie as being another “transformation story”, like The Matrix, about a person sort of embracing who they are and finding and fulfilling their destiny, but I think this crucially misreads the actual transformation that goes on in the movie which is:  none.  Mila Kunis character doesn’t transform at all.  That’s weird, I know the rule is that you can’t have a character end up where they started, but I think that there’s something hugely interesting to this, making a story about a person who gains this sort of cosmic awareness of the illimitable horrors of reality and remains a basically decent person.

Jupiter spends the entirety of the movie essentially rejecting the expectations of this universal, colonialist, genocidal kyriarchy.  She doesn’t even kill the main bad guy at the end, and not only doesn’t she kill him, she doesn’t even make a speech about it.  (Obviously he dies anyway, but the movie isn’t about him dying, it’s about her not killing him.)  Not only that, but the end of the movie involves her going back to her job as a maid and cleaning toilets, despite being Space Princess of Earth.  There’s a way that this is actually a very wise statement about the fight for social justice — people who make this their mission are constantly trying to find a balance between believing that the system can change, and accepting the fact that the system is never going to fully change in our lifetimes.  So, a movie whose premise is, “there is an evil galactic kyriarchy and actually you can’t destroy it, the best you can do is temporarily protect one small little corner of it,” is more honest and more wise than many movies that explore a similar premise.

But that’s not even the thing, the thing is this, I know that it’s not really fair to evaluate a movie based on things I know outside the movie, and I think it’s ALSO not really fair for me to talk about transgender identity like it’s something I know anything about, but I got to admit that I kind of can’t help including the knowledge that Lana Wachowski transitioned largely after she became a semi-public figure; like, she didn’t do it publicly, exactly, but we all knew who she was when she did it, and we all eventually knew that she did it.  And so  I can’t help being really amazed at a movie that chooses to center itself around a character who wins the genetic jackpot, and then refuses both the expectations and privileges of that identity.  I can’t help but think about how much more poignant it is when Mila Kunis talks about everything around her that’s changed, and says, “I’m still me.”  That’s interesting to me, and I hope there are more people who are more familiar with this idea who will be better able to talk about it.

So look, maybe that part is off base, but nevertheless, even discountimg that, I think it’s really refreshing to see a movie that both exposes a universe of galactic horror and then states pretty straightforwardly that you can’t save the whole thing, you can’t even get away from your shitty job as a maid to rich people.  The best you can do is live your life, and find your own personal rocket boots and half-wolfman, half bionic-space-eagle boyfriend, and maybe that’s all that life is.

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Comments
  1. Everything you say is factual. All of those elements are things that would make an awesome movie. But they didn’t (IMHO) actually progress from one thing to another. Indeed my problem is that MOST of the things which take place in the movie are irrelevant to the plot. The wedding scene? It has zero impact on what happens next or for that matter, ever. Sean Bean’s daughter… going to the store… that results in… nothing.
    I wish that any one of those elements above — the super crew of the Aegis, the mercenaries, the Queen of the Earth, were what the movie was about. We never earned the “You are the bravest man I’ve ever met” stuff.
    I wanted this movie to be really good. Instead it’s like 9 different ideas for some movies with some similar characters.

  2. […] Threat Quality Press just sold me on Jupiter Ascending now. […]

  3. braak says:

    Okay! I disagree with you, both broadly and specifically; specifically in the sense that I think the two examples that you describe actually do impact the rest of the story, and broadly in the sense that I don’t think that if they didn’t impact it, it would matter altogether that much.

    So, specifically: the wedding scene, just in terms of the basic mechanics of the plot, has a huge impact on the rest of the movie. The final sort of moral question hinges on whether or not Jupiter will abdicate her ownership of earth; that question would have been impossible if she’d actually married Titus, even if she’d survived getting murdered. Assuming that the driving question of the movie is, “What happens to Earth?” it’s essential that we establish the fact that Jupiter retains sole proprietorship. Similarly, navigating the possibility of mutual alliances and entering into a system of privilege is part of the process of inheritance, which the wedding scene is a pretty important step in: if the driving question of the movie is, “How will this knowledge change Jupiter”, then the question of whether she’ll marry her incestuous space siblings and/or the question of, having found all this out, she decides she doesn’t want anything to do with it, is vitally important. The wedding debacle is the thing that makes Jupiter decide to go home, and not get further involved in space-nonsense; this choice is the setup for Balem’s gambit at the end.

    The question of Sean Bean’s daughter going to the store is a weird one; I mean, obviously it’s not important whether or not she goes to the store, but also we don’t see her going to the store, so plainly the movie doesn’t think it’s important either. The important part is that she says she’s going to do it, and then Sean Bean offers to do it instead; the exchange doesn’t exist to establish that she’s going to the store, it exists to lay the emotional framework for Sean Bean’s later betrayal: i.e., his daughter is sick, and he is overzeaoulsy solicitous of her health.

    More broadly, I don’t think any of those things matter. Or, at least, they don’t matter to me, I know they matter to a lot of people — I think they matter to a lot of people, though, because of the acculturation that comes from generations of movies that rigidly adhere to Aristotle’s Unity of Action (probably because of generations of screenwriters that only learned one kind of critical theory), which says that a story can’t have parts of it that don’t directly relate to the main action. But this rule — even to Aristotle! — only applied to tragedy, whose purpose is to narrow in on a single character’s arc over the course of two or three hours. It very specifically doesn’t apply to Epics, whose purpose is to explode the world, and tell a very large story that indicates the existence of a much larger world. Nobody, for example, is going to take The Odyssey to task for including the episode with Polyphemus — but what is Polyphemus doing there? Odysseus lands on the island, he escapes from the island, and we never hear about the cyclops again; you could easily excise this event and not change the basic throughline of the story.

    What you’d lose, of course, is the recurring motifs of the conflict between civilization and savagery, the exploration of the outlands of the Aegean as a strange place full of weird monsters, &c., which I think is sometimes worth giving up that Aristotelian unity.

    So, why don’t those bounty hunters turn up again? I don’t know, why would they? They did their jobs, now they have to go get new jobs. Why doesn’t Tuppence Middleton turn up again? Why would she? She’s got a whole galactic empire to run; Jupiter Jones is the most important part of her own story, but she’s not the most important part of the universe. In fact, I think that the idea that these characters can’t simply fulfill a role in an action sequence or as part of a thematic vignette and then disappear, or the idea that they have to turn up again just because the plot demands that they do, is a very artificial one, and I think that this artificial demand for Aristotelian Unity leads to movies with writers doing these bizarre backflips of explanation to ensure that all of the events in the movie are directly connected to each other. (I’d posit, in fact, that this is exactly what’s wrong with the essentially nonsensical plots of both new Star Trek movies — this acculturated idea that characters can’t live in a story in which any part of the movie doesn’t directly relate to the driving actions of the plot.)

    The same is true with exchanges like the one with Sean Bean’s daughter — I think a rule that said that all dialogue in a movie (even if we made exceptions for quips) had to directly relate to the action of the plot would be both suffocating and, bizarrely, unrealistic. Even in a weird space opera universe, people still go to the store, and talk about going to the store; the idea that once the inciting events of the plot occur, no one is allowed to talk about anything else, I don’t think I’d like a movie that was based on that principle.

    So, I’m not saying that the Aristotelian Unities don’t have merit to them, but I am saying that they’re not objectively better than considered disunity, and the particular episodic disunities of this movie didn’t bother me.

  4. […] Braak writes more on this in an article that considers the feminism in Jupiter Ascending and how the film’s messages […]

  5. John Jackson says:

    I almost saw this movie last Thursday night, but I opted for Seventh Son instead, because I figured Jupiter Ascending would hang around in theatres longer, and I thought Seventh Son would be lambasted and ignored (which it has been). Seventh Son was fun, but it certainly wasn’t good. So much world building and exposition that served no purpose except to explain villains who didn’t last more than five minutes. Also, the film was serious, but Jeff Bridges had metric fuck tonnes of quips that weren’t even funny. Very confusing all around.

    I saw this article over the weekend, and determined to see Jupiter Ascending at my first chance. I just got back. I stopped using ‘best’ to describe movies ages ago, and I’ll admit that half of the things that you point out were either too subtle for me to notice or my brain simply wasn’t attuned to it.

    The whole reversal of the “male gaze”/hyper sexualization of the nude male or whatever term is best is not something I really noticed, but it’s definitely an accurate description. The only time I really noticed any sexualization of the women was when Mbatha-Raw walked away from the camera for a long stretch in exceedingly tight pants and the absurdly narrow waist/ribcage under Kunis’s outfit at the refinery. Neither of those instances, I think, were the goals of those shots. Also of note, even in the royal space orgy scene, all you really see are the faces and arms of women and the man’s bare chest.

    Her line: “I’m still me.” did have an impact, but I admit I didn’t draw the connections you did, though I’m not arguing they weren’t there. It’s definitely worthwhile reading that into the line, but the line definitely still works without it. Interestingly, for me it is Tatum’s reaction to the line that is important, not Kunis’s delivery of it.

    I remember seeing the destruction of the refinery flying fight sequence in the trailer, and assuming that that was some American city after space-bombardment. The design there was exceptional. And the torture chamber is more aptly the assembly line, where they pulp the bodies for the … life sustaining vampire juice.

    My biggest problems with the movie are basically simple and easy to ignore:

    I really disliked the space religion built upon the DNA of its rulers, especially in a culture so freely splicing DNA. My main issue with the concept is that…the exact same DNA sequence reincarnated in a different human and raised naturally will not produce anything like the same person. There’s a whole treasure trove of genetic discoveries we’re currently making now and barely understanding that really destroy this whole myth we’ve built upon DNA, but as that myth is currently the Dawkinesque religion of choice, then my issue isn’t really important. I can ignore it easily as if they had said Magic made her royalty, or astrology.

    The boots use gravity to react against and give something like ‘lift’: “down is easy, up is hard”. In most cases, they are essentially hover skates/air skates, just like air hockey. And we’re introduced to them gliding up walls and fire escapes and capable of acting almost like magnetic boots too, and that first scene built their lore so exceptionally well… and then the second scene they’re used in throws that out the window and just makes them “flying boots”. Every other time they’re used, the earlier hover skates fits well, even in the refinery explosion, when the “flying” is more like controlled falling.

    Back to that space ship dogfight over the Chicago skyline, the ships might have a lot of interesting space opera design schematics, but they had no easily apparent outline, so even when I saw them blow up, I had no idea whether a part of the good one was blowing up, or multiple bad ones were blowing up. There’s a reason airplanes and ships can be easily distinguished, probably one more based in physics and aeronautics than for plane sighting, but I still think they should’ve been less fluid and more distinct. For instance, I’m assuming that the WolfMan Hero flew at least two different ships, presumably three, one for each battle, but honestly it all looked like the same ship performing twenty different functions. And yes, my problem is with space ship design in a film where the larger space ships were very well designed. I guess I’ve been playing Elite: Dangerous too much.

    Probably the most important issue I have with it is the Titus wedding fiasco. I appreciate its purpose and I really liked how they tied in the exposition on the creation of the vampire juice, but the spoiled brat goes on and on about protecting his people and his subjects, but the only witnesses to his wedding are robots and Mbatha-Raw? Didn’t he at least have enough humans onboard as concubines to show up and pretend to be the subjects whose lives he was saving? There’s a point where she pauses during the wedding, and he repeats the line about how much he loves his people, and he’s surrounded by robots… which would be great, if she would have stopped, looked around, and called the whole thing off. When she takes a breath and continues on, it just makes her seem really stupid.

    And on a final note, about the “grocery store” line, it wasn’t even important that she had a place to go. The only thing of importance was her out of the house before the fight, and the cough before she said the line. I think everyone assumed she would be back later, because the cough strongly implied there was a lot more to her story. And there was, but it was simply told in two lines of exposition when Tatum confronts Bean in the brig. (Which was a great scene, btw, everyone there is a soldier/police officer, none were entitled, so when he revealed his betrayal because his daughter was sick and he had no health insurance, they all just shrugged and said ‘I’d have done the same.’) I really loved how they didn’t so much have exposition, but had new characters explain something entirely crucial to the issue at hand, complete with distortions of perspective, half-truths, and manipulation. It was really great.

    I’d never call it the best space opera ever, for me that will always be Lynch’s Dune or something else that I saw at just the right time, but it was definitely a great movie and I’d love to see more of the universe (though we likely never will).

  6. cleo says:

    I really enjoyed your review and I agree with most of it, although I’m not quite ready to declare it the best space opera ever. But I loved it and I’m excited to read a review talking about the solid underlying ideas as well as the insanity of the over the top visuals and plot.

    I agree about the anti-capitalist message. I liked the way they showed typical modern consumerism and materialism in Jupiter’s life (her dad was killed over a telescope, her cousin sold her eggs for a tv, she wanted pretty things she couldn’t afford) and then took it to its illogical extreme in space, with the entitled blithely killing entire populations so they could live forever, even though they seemed to hate their miserable lives.

    And it ended with her embracing her ordinary, unglamorous life. She started the movie saying she hated her life, and being ashamed of cleaning toilets for a living, and ended by declaring that the previous queen’s problem was that she’d never cleaned a toilet in her life. And we see her happily scrubbing toilets and making coffee for her mother.

    I also interpreted it as a spiritual metaphor (like I interpret most of the Wachowski’s movies) – it’s not about seeking things outside you, it’s about accepting your life as it is, toilet cleaning and all.

    I love the points you make about the eroticized male nudity and regency romance plot. I think that may be why this movie seems to be getting more love from women than men (based on my completely unscientific sample of me and my husband, plus the review at my favorite romance blog – http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/reviews/jupiter-ascending/).

    And I agree about the realistic portrayal of Jupiter’s family and the immigrant experience. And it may be the most realistic portrayal of urban housing that I’ve ever seen in a blockbuster action type movie – it’s so rare to see people living in housing they’d realistically be able to afford in the movies. Her family’s home actually looks like something a working class family might be able to afford to rent in Chicago.

    I’m a Chicagoan and I loved how they used the city. I loved that her home had the same cheap, fake brick siding my grandparents’ house had. And the fight scene over downtown – swoon.

  7. Blaire says:

    I think I may be able to help you understand what that odd scene in the middle of the movie (intergalactic bureaucracy) was all about. They kept saying she had to go through the ascension process in order to receive her entitlement to claim her title to earth. That is a metaphor for going through spiritual ascension, which, if you’ve ever gone through a Kundalini awakening would understand the parallel. Going through all of the Kundalini ascension trials/symptoms (look it up) is like waiting in various lines at the DMV. It can be stressful and just when you think you’re through, you have to wait in “another line”. All of this, of course, is so that a person can achieve enlightenment (which the movie playfully calls entitlement). Every review I’ve come across seems to miss this point. The movie actually parallels The Matrix very closely, in that, an ordinary person is plucked from obscurity, shown that there’s more to the world and the universe, goes through trials to prove that they are The ONE, and then saves the world. I’m sure that much was edited, and yes they could’ve done better. But I personally think that there’s an agenda at play to keep people from seeing movies like this, movies that touch a little on truths that the powers that be don’t want the masses to know. It was bad for many reasons, but I believe that the negativity regarding this movie when it comes to reviews is being heightened for a very specific reason. So people won’t go see it. The movie was based off the Terra Papers. Look into that yourself and you’ll see….

  8. Rachel says:

    I saw it last night. Great and beautiful movie. Great review. I reckon it might be like Blade Runner: a long slow burn into the mainstream recognising its greatness.

    Many thanks.

  9. athenagrayson says:

    I love your review of this! You touched on all the things I adored about the movie, and brought up some very salient points, too. This was definitely not a “hero’s journey” but rather almost closer to a “heroine’s journey” more closely related to mythic goddesses and their respective descents into the Underworld. Their journeys rarely change the world, only their perspective of it, and their individual, internal selves are more transformed than anything external.

    And I have to disagree–the wedding was hella important to Jupiter’s character transformation. It’s the first step to her self-actualization, and her first big test against the underworld–her wedding, on the surface, was something that would personally elevate her–make her a space-queen and give her a life of luxury and pretty space-dresses that come with tiaras and all the trappings of luxury. But it’s all illusion, right down to the guests *and* the “happily ever after.” Hey, all those background people in Cinderella’s wedding were robots and 2-D cutouts, too, but Cindy went ahead with it, and we’re all fairly certain that she just traded one crap job for another.

    Throughout the movie, she’s presented with opportunities to better her personal situation–save herself, or save her family, but instead, she repeatedly makes the more difficult choice of choosing the long view, in parallel to the goddess journey of learning the secrets of the world without having to take it apart or break it. In the end, when Jupiter’s still cleaning toilets, I’m reminded more of the Zen Buddhist proverb, “Before Enlightenment, carry water, chop wood. After Enlightenment, carry water, chop wood.” Nothing changes, except that she’s the queen of the world, and the best queen ever, because she actually demonstrates that mythical noblesse oblige that suggests what a real divine right of kings would have provided, had the concept been grounded in a reality of justice.

  10. Quitefrankly says:

    Wow thanks so much for writing this review I completely agree with everything you said Ive actually been working on a review kind of like this with a little more focus on the post modern nature of the story and its function as a transgender fantasy parallel I’m a trans woman and I think it’s fair to say it is a fantasy for being trans the movie is littered with trans references parables and metaphors her whole reincarnated queenship harkens to the fact that lgbt essentially have a reincarnated legacy at least in so much as the queer community are connected through genetics but not blood Caine and stinger suffer from dysphoria due to their wing loss as you noted Jupiter doesn’t exactly change she merely becomes aware of who she is and is happier for it there are tons of other references I’ll put in my review just wanted to say the trans metaphor you suggested is present in the movie I actually have a ton of respect for this movie simply out of that idea that it’s trying to subvert the social reality of being trans by reimagining a trans story as a power trip space opera that everyone could latch on to and enjoy just wanted to share a few thoughts thanks again soo much for the review!

  11. Altariel says:

    I saw this recently and then immediately had to take my mother to see it because hugely impressive space operas are her thing. I enjoyed it immensely both times for many of the reasons you gave and even for reasons you point out that I didn’t realise at the time. Everyone else I’ve talked to didn’t like it and thought it was silly. I can only put it down to people being confused about whether or not they were supposed to take it seriously, could have done with a little more humour at the start maybe but come on ‘ I love dogs, I’ve always loved dogs’ that still makes me laugh.
    Basically thank you so much for this review, I want to give you a hug it made me feel much better knowing I wasn’t alone in my appreciation for this epic piece of space madness!

  12. moreno1991 says:

    Thank you SO MUCH for this review. After alls the malignity elderly white criticist have poured over this funny, ironic, campy and queer-feminist film it’s nice to read something honest about it. This film means a lot for a lot o young women and (queer) men and it will be a cult-movie in 10 years.

  13. Tonic says:

    I liked this movie even if it seems a mess at times. There sure HAD BETTER BE a director’s cut with more of the 4 hours worth of movie included. That might help make sense of some pieces.

  14. […] to look even closer at the movie and it’s attributes and sources, is this fantastic article Is Jupiter Ascending the Best Space Opera of All Time and Also the Best Movie.  The author has some really interesting and insightful commentary, including the subversion of […]

  15. Meg says:

    I just watched this, and I loved it. I really want the damn 4 hour director’s cut with more plot to fill in some of the hole’s like what was Khalique hoping to gain, but aside from that, this movie is so much fun.

    I love that Jupiter didn’t change, but her perspective did and she went from hating her life to utterly loving it. I really want a scene where her family meets Caine because I think that would be hysterical.

    Thanks for the beautifully put review, there’s so much negative nonsense out there (and why? because they clearly watched a different movie or had trigger warnings for capitalism), and this one really resonated with my own experience.

  16. Anne says:

    Apparently few reviewers have ever cleaned a toilet. Going into space, finding awesome new horizons and happily going back to cleaning toilets is not heroic- it is called marriage. If you want a movie where a heroic woman doesn’t change, finds- and manages to exist- in a never imagined situation, and is able to transcend species and language to relate to another, try Sanaa Latham’s Aliens-Predators, which I know no one likes. However, it features no tiolet cleaning.

  17. braak says:

    Anyone who doesn’t think marriage is heroic probably doesn’t understand it very much.

  18. I also really liked the movie.

    However I found the whole harvesting humans thing hopelessly implausible… clearly a society so advanced would have ZERO problem synthesizing “Abrasax/Regenex” artificially and cheaply, thus the entire motivation for most of the conflict is entirely bogus (I find this a common issue in works that try to say “capitalism = bad” because capitalism is morally neutral: it depends on the actions of people within it)

    In fact, what I most liked was the standard of living that the Abrasax family enjoys. The redicuously luxurious spaceships and the ownership of whole planets, not to mention indefinate lifespan are all things that I havent seen elsewhere. Most sci fi doesnt dare to mess with the “human condition” because doing so obliterates a wide range of possible plots and drama. The result is that most sci-fi is basically modern society transplanted into space. Very unimaginative in my opinion.

    Jupiter ascending on the other hand, offers a glimpse of a world that can make us re-think what it really means to be human.

  19. braak says:

    Disagree that capitalism is morally neutral.

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