Jupiter Ascending (2015)
Directed by The Wachowskis
Written by The Wachowskis
Let’s meet our heroine (and, if you live on the planet Earth, your new landlady), Jupiter Jones. Her mother was a Russian mathematician, her father was a British professor of astrophysics in St. Petersburg. They had a blissful marriage until Dad somehow got in bad with the Celestial Bratva, a group of Russian loan sharks who apparently work at the local planetarium and will only accept astronomical instruments as collateral. They break in, shoot Dad, and garnish his telescope, and Mom promptly sails for America. Their daughter, Jupiter, is born at sea - the same place I found myself when I tried to figure out this plot.
Jupiter Ascending was heavily promoted for its ooh-and-ahh visuals, and the film pays off with a bravura opening sequence in which Mila Kunis clean toilets in 3-D. (Not to nitpick, but where do you get off naming your lead character “Jupiter Jones” and not have her played by Pam Grier? That shit is just wrong.)
Meanwhile, on Planet Plotpoint in the constellation Exposition, a pair of aristocratic siblings stroll through an eerie, lifeless city. Shopping bags and baby dolls lay forlorn and abandoned, while the entire world appears covered in a light dusting of Blue Berry Blast Kool-Aid. The douchebag aristocrats tut-tut about "the harvest," then Eddie Redmayne suddenly appears, stepping out of an unimpressive special effect that acts like Star Trek's transporter but looks like that pixelation thing your satellite TV does in crappy weather.
The aristobags argue about who gets to inherit Earth from their dead mother, because it's the best planet in the universe, worth more than all others combined. True, the ozone layer is disappearing, the seas are dying, and the climate is changing catastrophically, but it is relatively free of massive powdered drink spills. Eddie suddenly disappears into the transporter again, or maybe it just started to rain, I don't know. Anyway, it’s pretty cool – traveling instantaneously anywhere in the universe – but the alien aristos instantly forget they have this technology, and spend the rest of the film puttering around in space ships, which is kind of like NASA forgetting about the Saturn V halfway through the Apollo program and trying to launch astronauts at the moon in Conestoga wagons.
Back on Earth, that jewel of the galaxy, Jupiter is still scrubbing toilets. We meet three new characters, who – like their counterparts in The Matrix -- challenge our ability to discern between perception and reality. You see, they claim they're badass bounty hunters from outer space, yet they look like cosplayers at the Kennywood Comicon in West Mifflin, Pennsylvania who are holding up the corn dog line, debating whether to get a medium soda because if they get the large they might have to pee during the Manimal symposium.
But they better hurry up and decide, because Channing Tatum suddenly struts on screen like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. Channing is a genetically engineered hybrid between a wolf and a male exotic dancer – I think they call his species a “lycan-stripper” -- and he's reputed to be the Imperial Legion’s deadliest hunter-killer, although mostly he just zips around the sky on anti-gravity figure skates, so a good chunk of the movie feels like watching Eddie Munster in the Ice Capades.
Anyway, Channing has come to Earth to kick ass and sneak into Planned Parenthood to smell Jupiter's medical records. Meanwhile, Jupiter's friend is mistaken for her and attacked by a squad of alien Greys. Jupiter saves her, by which I mean she grabs her phone and snaps a picture of the interstellar molestation and then just stands around, because risking your life for a friend is good, but it doesn't feel as good as getting a ton of Likes on Instagram.
After watching her friend receive an unwanted medical exam from a team of nude Space Mengeles, Jupiter goes home, where her cousin talks her into selling her eggs to some shady enterprise that presumably wants to make really tiny omelets.
Channing rescues Jupiter from Planned Parenthood, proving that Operation Rescue would be a lot cooler if they spent less time screaming at women outside clinics, and more time perfecting anti-gravity werewolves. But as soon as they escape the Roswell Greys, they’re attacked by the bounty hunters, so Jupiter clings to Channing’s back like Yoda while he Triple Lutzes and Salchows all over the sky in a scene that temps you with visions of another, better movie, one in which Hans Brinker wins a pair of silver skates for discovering Flubber.
Channing takes Jupiter to see Sean Bean, who's a genetic splice of Boromir and the Honey Nut Cheerios Honey Bee, and like all bees and Beans, will soon be dead. In the meantime, Sean's bees declare Jupiter Queen of Outer Space, because "they've been genetically engineered to recognize royalty" (which explains their tendency to genuflect in the presence of Prince, Dairy Queen, and King Vitamin).
Sean celebrates Jupiter's coronation with some backstory. It turns out that modern humans are actually a billion years old, rather than a hundred thousand or so, and first evolved on a distant planet called Orbitz. But before we can use this information to book the first discount flight out of this movie, the cosplay bounty hunters capture Jupiter and take her to the planet Douchebaggia. There, royal servants drape her in finery fit for the Queen of the Universe, i.e., a dress that looks like it was made from Grandma's chenille bedspread. Eddie's Douchebag Sister explains that Jupiter is a "recurrence", or reincarnation of her mother, who was 91,000 years old, and was either murdered, or fell in the bath and couldn't reach her Life Alert.
Jupiter takes a space ship to planet Orbitz. She also hits on Channing, but he rebuffs her because she's royalty and he has "more in common with a dog than I do with you," meaning he can lick his own balls, which makes her kind of superfluous.
Speaking of the human-animal hybrids, they’re really coming out of the woodwork now, and veering into Island of Dr. Moreau territory (the Marlon Brando one). Eddie's henchmen are monitor lizards with eagle wings, which would be great if this were a video game and I could hit them with a flaming sword. The helmsman who flies the good guy’s star ship is a hybrid of Sulu and Dumbo, Douchebag Brother's Henchwoman seems like she’s on her way to a furry convention and didn’t spend a lot of time on her costume, and Eddie Redmayne, based on those huge rubbery lips, appears to be a genetic cross between a man and a grouper.
Also, may I just say a word about Redmayne’s performance? Except for one or two shrieks that were so abrupt I thought he’d just stubbed his toe, his whispers his entire part – every damn line – so even when star ships are exploding and monitor lizards are wrestling Eddie Munsters, you get the sense this whole movie must be taking place at the library.
But enough of the Westminster Mutant Show. Time for a whole weird section sequence where Jupiter has to get her pink slip to Earth notarized, and the Wachowskis use the unmistakable visual vocabulary of Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (and Terry Gilliam himself in a cameo role) to satirize a day at the DMV. Way to stick it to the Man, ladies!
On the way home, Jupiter tries to get Channing to bite her; but while they're first checking to see if Channing's had all his shots, they’re abducted by Sean, who bee-trays them (sorry, not sorry) and turns them over to Eddie’s Douchebag Brother. Like everyone who meets Jupiter, he immediately dresses her up in a fancy, yet stupid gown, making me suspect the Wachowskis added all the sci-if imagery and monsters and action movie tropes to placate the studio, when what they really wanted to make was Colorforms: The Motion Picture.
Anyway, Douchebag Brother finally reveals the shocking plot twist, which most viewers saw coming as they jockeyed for a parking space outside the Cineplex: It seems the aristobags are basically Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory, but rather than bathe in the blood of virgins to preserve their youth, they plant human beings on various worlds (in what really should have been a mid-Fifties TV show, “Johnny Appleseed, Space Cadet!”), and then when we’re ripe, they harvest our skin for lubricating bath beads. So according to this movie, we basically evolved from trilobites to mammals to hominids to Oil of Olay.
Jupiter doesn’t take the news well, so Douchebag Brother decides this is the moment to whip out an engagement ring and ask his dead reincarnated mother to marry him.
While Jupiter mulls over her romantic options — bestiality or incest — D-Bag Bro secretly tosses Channing out an airlock. Fortunately, as we learned from those Mutual of Omaha specials, the only two species that can survive for any length of time in the vacuum of spare are wolves and male strippers.
Jupiter still yearns for Channing to sweep her off her feet and take her to Zootopia, if you know what I mean, but she decides to go with the incest, because even though it’s equally gross, she’s less likely to catch scabies. Meanwhile, Channing is saved by Space Cops (A Quinn Martin Production), and decides to make a suicide attack on D-Bag Bro’s ship to rescue Jupiter. Sean switches sides yet again to join him, because it’s like 90 minutes into the movie and he’s really overdue to die.
Back on Bro’s ship, Jupiter hoverboards into the Norte Dame Cathedral wearing a headdress made from Christmas ornaments and a dress that looks like a repurposed Tournament of Roses float. It’s beginning to feel as if she’s having a Joan Crawford/Bette Davis-style feud with Natalie Portman’s Queen Amidala to see who can rule space while looking like the winner of Ru-Paul’s Drag Race.
Channing interrupts the wedding, just like in The Graduate, except the social satire and Simon and Garfunkel score is replaced by CGI explosions and lame furries. But Eddie, who hasn’t been in the movie much for the last hour — to what I suspect is our mutual relief — has his hybrid hench-rabbit kidnap Jupiter’s annoying Russian family and issue an ultimatum: abdicate, or he’ll kill them and steal their telescopes.
Rather than accepting her abdication on the spot, Hench-Rabbit drags her to the planet Jupiter, where the factory that renders humans into hand lotion is located in the Great Red Spot, so Eddie can chew each piece of scenery 32 times.
Channing flies into the Red Spot to rescue Jupiter, but Sean remains on the ship because he notices he’s still alive and likes it that way, and apparently he cares nothing about protecting a streak. It’s just as well there’s no Simon and Garfunkel music, because Sean is clearly no Joe DiMaggio.
Jupiter abruptly decides not to abdicate, because if her family dies she’ll finally get her own room. But Channing ruins that by Dorothy Hamilling in and killing all the iguana-eagles. It’s a sad day in the Raptor/Reptile aisle at Hybrid Petco.
Also, the factory starts blowing up so characters can fall, shinny up pipes, fall again, and get singed by random gouts of flame and white hot plasma. And yet despite these multiple and serious workplace hazards, Donald Trump appoints a CEO from the Human Skin Cream industry to head the EPA.