Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Jupiter Ascending, big idea is boring when framed as a wedding

So... Jupiter Ascending...

The Wachowskis had a pretty cool idea for Earth's purpose. A damn interesting idea. But instead of making their story about that, they chose to focus on a Bella Swan character who does nothing through the movie but fall from tall buildings and get kidnapped!



Somehow Bella--er, Jupiter has the same DNA as a royal woman on another planet who's been dead for thousands of years, and this royal happens to be the rightful owner of Earth. The same DNA pattern happens to emerge on Earth, and that makes her, legally, the same person as the deceased royal. What? She's not the daughter of a royal; her DNA just happens to match exactly? How does that work?

Somehow, someone notices her DNA is a match, and several people send bounty hunters to either kill or capture her before she can claim her birthright--no, that's not it. Uh, her title... because she's a reincarnation and legally the same person, so she has to go somewhere to claim it.

I lost track of how many alien species were after this woman. The greys, the bounty hunters, the reptiles (who do have a very cool design), the soldiers... Who was working for whom? The greys had her once, and they didn't test her DNA then? Why?


The dialogue is tiresome. There's about five minutes of action, then 10 minutes of dialogue, then ten minutes of action, followed by another dialogue scene. Filmmaking tip: Phantom Menace is not a good example of structure! There's so much dialogue I was twitching by the end of the first hour, dreading when the action would stop and characters would start talking again. I was begging for it to be over! I'm all for exposition, but when half of what they say makes no sense, or serves to further a forced romance with a man she just met, I cringe.

Yeah, there's a forced romance here. Bella/Jupiter falls in love with one of the bounty hunters after her. He's working for someone who wants to keep her alive. She just met him a few hours ago, and she's in love with him only because he saved her life. Oh, and he happens to have been spliced with wolf DNA, making him an excellent hunter. Yup, she's Bella.

All of these people are after Bella so she can never claim the Earth as her property, and they are legally free to own it. Bella's rescuer takes her to a planet to make her title official, and the Earth legally hers.

The Wachowskis made it impossible to take this universe seriously thanks to this bureaucracy sequence. It's something that belongs in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, not an epic sci-fi action thriller about the real human civilization, and their reason for creating the human colony known as Earth. The idea that royalty has a bureaucratic procedure is ridiculous, and in any other movie it might have been funny, but here it just adds to the mishmash of stuff that never comes together into a cohesive whole.

After numerous, pointless dialogue scenes that make up most of the movie, we finally hear the grand revelation the movie was building up to: the Earth is one of many "farms" created by the real human population that lives on other planets. These farms are allowed to grow until the population reaches critical mass, and then they are harvested for genetic material. This is refined into a chemical that revitalizes cells and keeps other planets' populations immortal. It's actually a really cool idea. Trillions of people die so a few million can be immortal. This is the big business of the universe: buying more time to live.

It's explained in the most boring way possible, and framed in the most trivial way possible. We don't see it. We see a lot of action, but none of it furthers the story. Most of the dialogue goes to furthering the forced romance between Bella and her rescuer, not the bigger idea that's way more interesting. All of the action also goes to further this weak, forced romance, not the grand sci-fi idea it should have.

The big concept behind the movie is very solid, but the movie isn't about this idea. It's about Bella being kidnapped and pressured into marrying or abdicating so someone else can claim the Earth as his own property to harvest so he can make more profit. This should be epic, but it seems trivial when framed from the point of view of marriage, and that's Bella's only role in the situation. She possesses the Earth, so everyone wants to marry her, or force her to abdicate.

Had the movie focused on the harvesting idea, it would have been cool. Instead it's about Bella! ...who loves dogs. Come on, if her rescuer has more DNA in common with a dog than a man, why does he still look human? Someone quips they're beauty and the beast, but the guy doesn't look or act like a beast! And why does he get wings at the end?? Bird wings... That's random.

And bees? BEES are genetically programmed to recognize royalty, so they obey Jupiter?! What the fuck. Male bees are also programmed to mate with the queen and die; does that have significance?

Bella/Jupiter almost redeems herself at the end, but her sole act of heroism is saying no, I won't abdicate. After everything leading up to that point, it's not enough.

The Wachowskis tried to make the next Dune. This is either bold, or misguided. It's such a big movie with a big idea and big action, and instead it's about marriage and rescuing a damsel in distress. What a waste of great potential. I would have cared more about Jupiter/Bella had the movie been about these human farms, and if she had a more active role in deciding the fate of the one we call home, instead of wasting so much time interrupting weddings or abdications.

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I get the feeling I'm being way too critical of late. Maybe the movie pissed me off because the reptile things reminded me of something I already wrote :-)

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