Leonard Nimoy dies and the world is not the same. To honor the great man who played an even greater character, Spock, what could be more fitting than to go watch a space opera? As it turns out, just about anything else.
I sat in the theater Friday night thinking, “This can’t possibly be happening.” I almost asked the stranger next to me his opinion to confirm my sinking suspicions; Jupiter Ascending has to be one of the dumbest movies ever made. Might be the dumbest I have ever seen, and I saw Lucy last year, so that is saying something.
I have tried to explain to anyone who had the misfortune to ask, what exactly was wrong with the film, then a sentence like this comes out of my mouth:
“…it is when the half-lycan runt of the litter, who lost his genetically enhanced wings due to biting out the throat of one of the ‘privileged’ swoops in to rescue the girl, Jupiter, from the little grey aliens disguised as doctors who are trying to kill the reincarnated genetic duplicate of a dead Queen, whisked through the room on flying combat boots that it occurs to me, ‘I think this movie might suck.’”
When the movie started, Mila Kunis says, “I am an alien.” Excellent, good to have that straight right off the bat. But then she clarifies that she is an illegal alien because her father is not a citizen of her mother’s country. Okayyy. Got it, clever play on being an alien from outer space, not really, just kidding. Hah Hah. It is the only attempt at humor in the entire movie—even the writers knew this one couldn’t be saved by clever one liners. After her father is brutally murdered, her mother leaves Russia to sail on a cargo ship bound for who-knows-where and gives birth to a daughter mid-voyage—who she names Jupiter because it had been her husband’s final words to her before he dies.** And this is the last time anything in the movie makes anything approaching sense. Yeah, I know.
What follows is a quick flash of Mila Kunis’s life in Chicago as a household drudge—Jupiter Jones waking up six or seven times at Oh-God thirty in the morning, schlepping to various houses to clean and covet rich people’s stuff…and hating her life. Then, after a few paltry lines of creepy dialogue from the cousin from ‘seedy central casting’ about making some money selling her eggs, Jupiter goes to a fertility clinic where she faces every woman’s nightmare—wearing the paper gown that never actually covers any pertinent body part. But due to the magic of Hollywood, this one manages to not only stay on, but also not move when she is hoisted by alien technology, rolled over in the air—for no reason I can think of—and then the aliens, I mean doctors, determine she is the genetic match they were hired to kill. And so they proceed to kill her…slowly…by pushing a button that apparently is going to administer some kind of agent through an oxygen mask, thus giving the hero time to locate the girl, shoot up the room of little grey men who have dropped their concerned medical practitioner façade to reveal the truly gruesome reality beneath.*** This must have been a signal of some sort because, after this, the movie really goes off the deep end.
The rest of the story is a blur of the half-lycan, half-whatever, wingless soldier on air-hockey skates, played rather heroically by Channing Tatum—heroic due to the fact he never once lets on how exactly terrible he thinks this movie really is—constantly bailing Jupiter Jones out of every stupid decision she makes. After the dashing rescue from the murder clinic, Tatum’s character, Caine Wise (who makes up a name like that?), skates away from three or four bounty hunters, holding onto Jupiter still wearing her magic paper robe. (Maybe they glued it onto her?) Using his flying skates and a small shield, Caine somehow prevents any laser weapons from hitting him or his shrieking companion. Caine also managed to hang on to Jupiter despite some truly unbelievable stunts that had CGI teams up to all hours trying to make them look even remotely believable. (Warning: they failed.)
Jupiter and Caine escape to meet up with a former comrade of Caine’s, played by Sean Bean. Sean immediately tries to kill Caine but then bees descend and buzz around Jupiter’s head, signaling that she is reborn royalty. The rest of the movie devolves into a series of over-the-top battles wherein Jupiter is dragged before genetic kin on three different planets. The first time, a daughter of Jupiter’s former self warns her that she is about to enter a new world (duh) and hopes that ‘this time’ they can be friends. Then she bathes in a mysterious liquid and strips off all of the excruciatingly applied aging make-up the cosmetics team spent hours applying. Caine fights his way to Jupiter and takes her off to claim her inheritance. Next comes the most exhausting battle yet—navigating the red tape of the galactic central offices.
Claiming Jupiter’s rebirth-right involves the bane of all universes—standing in line at various different governmental departments and finally bribing their way to the office where Jupiter is tattooed with her royal seal. The clerk who tags her offers Jupiter congratulations and then condolences…but does Jupiter take a hint? No. When someone offers to make her a queen of the universe, she goes along with it. Relative number two hijacks her and spills the secret about the source of their eternal youth. (Spoiler: think Soylent Green in a blender.) Battle, battle, fight scene and Sean Bean betrays his old friend and delivers Jupiter up to relative number three—Balem—the son of the former queen. Balem is a less fun, more psychotic version of Loki from the Avengers, but with a sore throat because he has a hoarse whisper the entire movie. The Loki-Wanna-Be shoves Caine out an airlock and then casually proposes a marriage of convenience to his mother/Jupiter so he can ensure her inheritance is properly managed. Right. Jupiter, learning she has lost her lycan love connection, says yes. Meanwhile Caine survives the vacuum of space long enough to slip on an emergency air bubble suit. (I can’t explain it any more than that.) Help arrives and, between Caine and the reconciled, contrite Sean Bean, the two men face a gauntlet of laser-guided war hammers to rescue Jupiter, yet again. Somehow, Caine manages to make it through, and nearly rescues his almost-girlfriend when she slips through his fingers because he is too busy fighting off the flying lizards. Oh, did I forget to mention the toothy Sleestaks with wings? How silly of me.
I think you can image how the rest of this disaster of plot contrivances ends. Laser tag, explosions and a minor impalement pretty much wrap up the bad guys. Jupiter finally finds a backbone, informs Balem, “I am not your mother” and then bashes him on the head. The lycan and the faux queen find each other and escape in the nick of time, swept along in the jet stream of the departing ship’s escape velocity. The next thing we know, Jupiter is back to being a charwoman but this time she is grateful and happy to clean toilets for a living. Oh, and she flies off into broad daylight with her one true, half-lycan love, only this time she’s wearing the gravity defying combat boots. Her lover has finally earned back his wings.
I have been a long-time fan of science fiction, but Jupiter Ascending may have ruined that for me. Somewhere along the line, my brain lost the ability to suspend disbelief beyond the breaking point. Whoever thought taking Twilight, removing the vampire, adding in leather-winged lizards from space and assorted bad guys with increasingly psychotic motives and blending it with the plot of Maid in Manhattan was a good idea, really stepped over a line…a few galaxies back. (The film badly went where no one had gone before—for good reason.) It almost seems appropriate that the same day Leonard Nimoy died is the same day my love of science fiction was irreparably damaged. But I will recover from this devastation. I will not allow one truly awful film to ruin me forever. As Spock might have said: “It would be illogical.”
Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:
*I’d give you a Spoiler Alert warning, but honestly, I think I’m doing you a favor if you go in knowing what’s about to happen to you.
**Fifty shades of Finding Nemo.
***I will not be able to face my next gynecological exam without remembering this scene. Damn their souls.