Review Redemption: Jupiter Ascending


Posted in Reel Chat on 09 Jul by

Ever hear horrible reviews about a movie and go from excited to see it to skip it altogether? A few months or years later, you may give one of those movies a chance and realize – it wasn’t that bad. Yeah, me too. If you’ve ever thought a movie was unfairly reviewed after you’ve been able to judge it for yourself, read on. You may just want to give the movie Jupiter Ascending – and countless critically-panned films – another chance. Buckle up, readers. This is a long one.

Movie Poster for Jupiter Ascending with Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum

According to this handy-dandy graph, we’re not alone in thinking that some pretty great movies were not nearly as bad as critical reviews lead us to believe.

There’s a lot of interesting conversation regarding the gap between Critic and audience perception regarding movies. As this New York Times article points out, Critics are far harsher on movies than the average moviegoer. Why might that be? A Critic is most likely looking at the film through production and screenwriting lenses. They also weigh cinematography, plot holes, genre, and the films distinctiveness all at once.

The NYT article listed another practical reason for severe reviews I hadn’t previously considered: Critics are paid to watch all kinds of movies – even those they wouldn’t normally pick on their own. It makes sense if a person is already adverse to the style or idea of a film, they might be a bit harsher.  Moving forward with the discussion of what makes a good, great or tragic movie, it’s important to take into consideration one’s genre affinity.

On to my review of the sci-fi movie Jupiter Ascending (2015, PG-13).
– Plot in one sentence: Space Cinderella kicks butt, defies expectations and grows from past versions of herself
– One word descriptor: Quirky

– My rating: 7/10

 

Visually stunning, this movie is fun to watch from an artistic perspective. Even Critics had to give the movie kudos here. Action scenes are highly satisfying in timing, choreography, and creativity. There are even several impressive practical stunts. Meaning yeah, that actress is really falling. The character creation of people spliced with various types of creatures is taken to an imaginative degree without being overwhelming. The details are brilliant yet melt into the story.

Admittedly, the idea of melding man and beast (and some other elements of the plot) are not unique. However, they are still well done. In all honesty,  most of the time I’d rather watch a new story that utilizes some old ideas than the movies where these tropes originated. In the end, while Jupiter Ascending contains familiar sci-fi tropes, it’s by no means indistinct.

Rotten Tomatoes, however, tells a very different story. For anyone unfamiliar, RottenTomatoes.com is a website that collects critical movie reviews from all around the world. They also allow audiences to give their own ratings, striking a very necessary balance. Rotten Tomatoes’ average Critic score of Jupiter Ascending was 26%.  The average audience score of Jupiter Ascending was 38%. By all counts, the movie was a box office flop. It was almost universally panned, and this Critic with Deadline hinted it was career-ending for the directors.

The plot follows Jupiter, a young woman living with her struggling family. She finds her life stifling but dreams of having a richer life, literally. After nearly being killed and saved by a half-wolf named Caine, the pair is reluctantly thrust into the battle between three eons-old siblings vying for ownership of the Earth.  As the film progresses, Jupiter discovers why she’s been targeted and fights to regain her once disdained normality.

Many laud the movie for its heroine alone. For me, however, it is a brave departure from typically male roles (especially pre-Wonder Woman). I come from a Xena: Warrior Princess, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and anime-loving background. Strong females leads are what I was raised on. In Jupiter Ascending I found a few, somewhat more subtle yet equally as refreshing aspects of having a female action lead. Another of my favorite aspects of the film are the details and moments when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. It makes the movie all-the-more fun to watch.

Throughout, there are several scenes where small details that are are easy to miss the first time which gives the movie strength. For instance, the damsel in distress waking up next to her rescuer and a loaded weapon. It may seem small but after being nearly murdered and waking up in a strange place a weapon would be comforting. It gives power and choice back to our lost character.

Speaking of sci-fi tropes, there are predictable character arcs or roles that are small yet still important. They often become background noise in movies. Not in Jupiter Ascending. The writers took the opportunity to flesh out many characters with minor roles well enough to make them matter. They seemed to have a motive, personality, and a reason to be there. Take Jupiter Ascending‘s fluffed up Spliced Owl advising the middle Abrasax sister Kalique. With few lines of dialogue, the character still presents as rounded, gives the ruling sister sound advise, and is responsible for plot progression. I’ll further elaborate about badass moments in the Spoiler Alert! section below.

In a nutshell, the movie is good cheesy fun. I highly recommend it for sci-fi lovers who want an action-movie-and-popcorn night. If you’ve heard the reviews and avoided the movie, I advise giving it a second chance. Who knows how many movies out there might actually be fun or are just so bad they’re good.

— Spoiler Alert!——-

It was all about the details for me. One piece of dialogue that didn’t hit me at first in the film but blows my mind afterward is when Kalique is showing Jupiter the rejuvenating bath. She mentions that her people (maybe her own family) were the origin of the vampire myths. At first, it seems right because they don’t age. Also, back in the day, people weren’t exactly science-forward. That statement later takes on a new meaning. It’s people feeding off the life force of others to stay immortal.

It also brings a chilling question to the mind: Given what the audience now knows, it doesn’t seem far-fetched to envision that bath as the famed Elizabeth Bathory’s “virgin bloodbath” of Vampiric folklore. So the question is who was the depraved murderess Kalique or Jupiter’s past-self? Creepy thought, huh?

Speaking of Jupiter’s past self, I really like this film’s take on reincarnation. The idea of Jupiter solving her own murder is a cool one. It also makes the ending SO satisfying. Not just from a girl power perspective either. She’s the one that took on the main enemy perspective and defied the labels others have placed on her.

Jupiter doesn’t follow the typical story arc of  “one life is worth everything.” She resigns the hope of saving her family and surviving the moment to instead safeguard the future of Earth. I do not often see this in most movies and Jupiter Ascending did it well. Typically we’ll instead see that there IS a way to save EVERYONE, and the main character does just that, usually by themselves. I like that Jupiter has a team who each play their own integral role.

At first the ending gave me pause. I mean, if she owns the world, why is she scrubbing toilets? Upon further reflection, I think it makes sense for the story. In the film, the character is still adjusting to what happened and her parents don’t remember anything. Which means saying “hey, I own the Earth” over peas at dinner is not exactly an option. As a story, it makes sense because the character comes to realize that there’s more to happiness than wealth and power. If you believe Balem, the oldest brother, then Jupiter was equally as unhappy as an empress in her other life. And as the saying goes, sometimes we need to lose or come close to losing something to fully appreciate it.

Did you see Jupiter Ascending? What are your thoughts? Did you think the critics were right to come down so hard on it as a movie? Be sure to add a spoiler warning if you go into detail.

If there’s a movie that was hardcore panned that you think deserves better or if you’d like me to review, comment below! Looking for Jupiter Ascending and other great titles? Bookmans has a huge DVD selection (including 4K and Blu-rays) and low prices on them all. What have you got to lose?

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