Friday, June 12, 2015

Jupiter Ascending


   I caught Jupiter Ascending the other day on VOD, and whether or not it's good or bad is kinda besides the point. It's worth dissecting. I'll get right to it- The Matrix is my favorite movie of all time. Occasionally tied with Aliens and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but the point is... I'll see anything the Wachowskis put out. I even adored Speed Racer, and I think Cloud Atlas is amazing. So, my tickets are pretty much pre-sold. Problem was, the buzz for this one was telling me it sucked. So, I waited til I could just watch it at home. It was... a smart move, to say the least.

   I can say right now, the Wachowskis have done this before. This trick, this... thing they did here, they did it before. Only, it worked the first time. Because the first time, it was a goddamn trendsetter. I am of course talking about The Matrix. That movie was a hodge podge of different things, taking a massive helping of specific ideas, plots, and visuals from animes, mangas, Hong Kong action flicks, and even American comic books. They blended all these ideas together, and stuck it to a really solid story. If you dig around a bit, you'll find it's not as wildly original as it was made out to be- except when it came to the medium of film.

  The concept and story of The Matrix had in similar ways, been done before, but not on the big screen and most definitely not with a Hollywood-sized budget like it had. Then they tried to do it again with this movie. They took from Star Wars, Dune, Flash Gordon, Masters of The Universe, Star Trek, and just about every single other Sci-Fi space opera-esque movie ever. Ever. The big problem is, that's a very specific sub-genre that is native to big budget extravaganza. Unlike the elements they used to make The Matrix, audiences everywhere are used to seeing this stuff on the big screen. Ever single element of this movie wears it's inspiration like a giant flashing name tag.

   If that wasn't bad enough, the movie is overflowing with ideas. Normally this wouldn't be a bad thing, but I mean overflowing. Bursting. Exploding with ideas. There are new concepts and ideas launched at the viewers at an alarming rate, over and over. Cloning? Reincarnation? Planetary harvesting? Galactic royalty? Hover boots? Cross-breeds? Genetically engineered... bees. Yes... bees. Then they have their own host of ideas about intergalactic politics, space travel, warfare, and more. And all of this is supposed to fit neatly into a 2 hour movie. It was a massive and complicated mess. Don't confused the word complicated with complex. Cloud Atlas was complex. As in intricate, layered, and interesting. Jupiter Ascending is none of those things. It is complicated.

   It's ideas and concepts tug the story in so many different, often pointless, directions that it's a wonder there's even a story left. The concepts hit the viewer with the grace and subtly of an infomercial. Like, HERE: GRAVITY BOOTS! THEY'RE COOL AS FUCK, AND CHANNING TATUM WILL NOW TAKE A FEW MINUTES TO EXPLAIN TO YOU HOW THEY WORK!
 "It's easier to go down than up."
THANKS FOR THAT TIDBIT TATUM!
Every single concept, idea, and snippet of technology in the movie is put on display like that, making the story grind to a halt each and every time to accommodate more stuff like this. This is not okay. As an audience, stuff like gravity boots don't need to be explained to us. We can see them. We get the concept. The stuff that should be explained however, is breezed over with nauseating speed.

  This is a movie full of brooding, angst, romance, and big CGI-fueled laser gun shootouts. I'm sure kids will love it. I'm sure in the future, there'll be a ton of people being all apologetic about this movie much in the same way I defend Masters of the Universe. (Which, when you get right down to it is even better than this. At least Masters had a better villain.) I found it staggeringly painful that the movie couldn't just simplify. They had the ingredients for a Flash Gordon adventure, but kept shooting for something with the scope of Dune. The villains were lame, the story was lame, and everything was stretched far too thin.

  The more I think about this movie, the more I think it would've been more interesting if it was reduced to a book of concept art and left at that. Yes, I think we need more space faring adventures like this, but ones better than this. I want a sequel to John Carter, I want a new Dune movie, I want excitement and wonder- but done by people who know how to generate such feelings. The Wachowskis, sad to say, made a mess with this one. It's unpleasant from top to bottom. Only Mila Kunis stands out and does her best to make it watchable. I got to give her props for that much at least. I thought she was going to be the worst part about it, and she was easily the best.

  I can't recommend Jupiter Ascending, at all. Although I will admit, most of my displeasure over the movie has cropped up in retrospect. If I can muster a single favorable thing to say is that while watching it, it has an oddly engaging quality. Like you feel the potential it has and are constantly expecting it to live up to it. In a few moments you even get caught up in it, feeling yourself on the verge of excitement and interest, but the farthest I ever got was a distinctly numb feeling. Oh well. I certainly hope they try again though, with other stuff. Because even a failure from the Wachowskis has more ambition and ideas than any other ten modern blockbusters.

  That says a lot about the current state of movies.

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