For you’re dancing where the dogs decay… Belated review of Jupiter Ascending

Why do we find stories about authentic, hidden selves appealing?  Harry Potter is a whiny, privileged white boy who lives in middle class England.  No, he isn’t!  He’s actually born with magical powers and he’s a chosen one and he has even more powers than usual!  Thomas Anderson is a whiny, privileged white boy who lives in middle class… Australia?  No, he isn’t!  He’s actually Neo and he was born with magical powers and he’s a chosen one and he has even more powers than usual!

Jupiter Ascending fits into the same category of story.  There’s actually a real you who exists behind the self that is presented.  This authentic you is special in a way that you aren’t.  It’s only when you become the person that you actually are that you are fully able to be amazing.

Yes, yes.  We get it.  Essentialism is the new black.  Your identity isn’t constructed; it’s all determined.  Goodo.

In the world of Jupiter Ascending, genetics is magic and people can be reincarnated by being genetically identical to somebody in the past.  [Sigh.]  Jupiter thinks that she’s a poor migrant child of Russian ancestry, but really she’s the reincarnation of a space queen who had exactly the same genetic sequence.  [Takes off glasses.]  The space queen’s children have inherited parts of a giant company that seeds planets with human life because they use the humans grown on these planets to make some kind of goo that makes the space humans live for thousands of years.  [Pinches bridge of nose.]  And because Jupiter has the same genetic sequence as the now dead space queen, Jupiter reclaims some of the property that her genetic predecessor’s children inherited but one of the children wants to marry Jupiter so that he will inherit the property back when Jupiter dies… and it’s all just so fucking stupid and unenjoyable.

Nuts to you all.  I enjoyed the space politics in Star Wars.  I wanted more goddamn Council scenes and Galactic Senate details.  I could have spent an entire movie watching Star Wars political intrigue where the lightsaber only came out once when the democratic procedures broke down — a classic statement of how the irrationality of ‘peacekeeping’ violence sits at the heart of incomplete political systems that abdicate authority.

Jupiter Ascending gives us nothing in the way of a coherent political system.  ‘Genetics is magic’ and ‘We’re harvesting human cells in the most inefficient, expensive way possible’ is not world building.  Even though Jupiter looks exactly like the old queen, none of the space alien people recognise her until the fucking bees start obeying her command.

[Breathes deeply]

This is a terrible film.  Think of all the independent film makers out there.  Think of all the talented young directors, writers, and actors out there.  None of them got a chance because we sank $176 million into this abomination.

The acting is uniformly terrible.  The dialogue is woeful.  Nothing is nice to look at.  The only redeeming feature was Tuppence Middleton.  Even then, you just felt bad for her being stuck is this horrible, relentlessly awful film.  The annoying prat dude from Les Miserables was in this film, and it made me want to rewatch Les Miserables just to see if he was as awful in that as he was in this.

At some point, we have to confront our fascination with the hero-by-birth trope.  Nobody’s born special.  There’s no ‘essential’ you who persists outside of socialisation.  Jupiter doesn’t give a single fuck that other planets full of sentient humans are being ‘harvested’ because at least her little corner of the universe is fine.  This would be okay if Jupiter had to claw her way up from the gutter to take over the space human society — look at what you achieved!  A whole planet!  Instead, she is born to immense power and shrugs off responsibility when her status quo is returned.

Such a garbage film.


Author: Mark Fletcher

Mark Fletcher is a Canberra-based blogger and policy wonk who writes about conservatism, atheism, and popular culture. Read his blog at OnlyTheSangfroid. He tweets at @ClothedVillainy

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