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I finally got around to catching the Wachowskis grandiose bomb of a movie, Jupiter Ascending. After blowing it off in the theaters (along with most of the world), and wanting to watch something OTHER than the new Star Wars movie, I picked up Jupiter Ascending, expecting to have to soldier through it.

However, I was surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did. The movie is absolutely gorgeous to look at — full props to the Wachowski Brothers for pouring their massive budget into crafting a beautiful-to-watch movie. It’s like they crafted a delicious dessert — empty calories, but gloriously presented.

Jupiter Ascending Sinks Beneath Its Own Gravity

I’m not going to really wade through the plot spackle for this movie — lord knows there are tons of negative reviews out there that do that. My impression of it is that it’s ultimately a kind of fairy tale of a movie that’s set in this grand space opera kind of presentation. Maybe that’s what put people off.

The influences of this movie were very apparent to me. It borrowed lovingly, even name-checking things from them. Movies it pulled from include:

  • Brazil
  • Dune
  • The Fifth Element
  • Men In Black
  • Guardians of the Galaxy

You can really see the influences (there’s a celestial bureaucrat scene in it that’s all-but straight out of Terry Gilliam’s magnificently dystopian Brazil). And that kind of gleeful space operatic promenade that was The Fifth Element  was tapped by this movie, without the dreadful caterwauling of Ruby Rhod (thank the gods).

Some of the aliens, and Sean Bean (who I don’t think dies in this one, go figure), add a bit of Men in Black vibe to it, and it channels Guardians of the Galaxy (only without the goofy humor — watch it, you’ll see what I mean). The set and costume design definitely channels Dune and The Fifth Element, with the space empire politics of Dune.

Space Camp

Jupiter descending amid critical panning.

Jupiter descending in freefall amid near-universal critical panning.

Channing Tatum as lupine space elf dude was perhaps a stumbling block, not entirely sure. He’s made-up and just gruffly grinds his way through the movie, while often skating around on his anti-grav flying boots (yes). Mila Kunis has real gee-whiz kind of charisma, and is genuinely lovely, and gamely works her way through a role that puts her in mostly an ornamental place — it’s an almost-literal Cinderella story fused with the Perils of Pauline, I think. For SF-oriented teenaged girls, this movie would have to be intoxicating.

My only actual complaint about the movie was one (?) of the main villains of it — Balem Abrasax — delivered with a distracting raspiness by Eddie Redmayne. I don’t know who persuaded him to whisper his lines in that raspy voice (punctuated by periodic shouts that had my 13-year-old commenting about “overacting”), but it was a poor decision. Balem’s raspy voice was just distracting and strange.

Otherwise, the movie was actually entertaining as a grand spectacle, and I think it’ll live on as a cult movie. It’s certainly no worse than many better-regarded movies I’ve seen in 2015, and I think there’s a case to me made that this one was one of the most-enjoyable movies of this year!

My advice to you: have zero expectations, get a big bowl of popcorn, gather some fun friends, have some booze handy (craft a drinking game), and just enjoy the campy ride of this movie.