Mar 9, 2021
Jupiter Ascending (2015), a recap (part 12 of 12): Jupiter and Caine earn their wings
Previously on Jupiter Ascending: Jupiter finally met Balem, and he was his usual evil, overacting, “switching from barely audible groan to over-the-top shouting on a dime” self. Jupiter saw her family in the Premium Abrasax Processing Machine underneath the translucent floor, and almost gave away the Earth to save them. But then Caine crashed the scene and convinced her otherwise.
And now, our final installment of the latest (last?) disappointing, underperforming big-budget film from the Wachowski Brothers… I mean, Wachowski Siblings… uh, I mean, Wachowski Sisters, at least as of a few weeks ago! I mean, wow, what were the odds of that? And, uh, Bound sure takes on even more added subtext in retrospect, doesn’t it? But in all sincerity, I wish nothing but the best for Lilly, and Lana. Unfortunately, their movie still sucks. Now let’s get to it, and get this over with!
Down below the translucent floor, Jupiter is still using those glowing bracelets/anklets to push her family to safety. Suddenly, Balem jumps out of nowhere and comes at her with a knife. So she pulls out the gun that Caine gave her and points it at him, but Balem knows that “you’re just like her” and she’s not going to kill him. So she lowers the gun and shoots him in the knee.
Suddenly, a huge explosion shatters the windows of the chamber up above. They see fire raging over their heads, and then a piece of a beam comes crashing down, creating a huge hole in the floor that sends both Balem and Jupiter falling down into the zero-G beam that presumably takes people to be processed into Premium Man-Goo.
Caine tries to use his hover-boots to go after them, but gets attacked by one of the lizard guys (I’ll just guess it’s Greeghan), who wraps his tail around Caine’s throat and starts flying him up into the air. Caine is soon high above the refinery, where he grabs a pointy piece of a structure and stabs Greeghan in the tail, causing him to let go, and now Caine is plummeting back down to the ground. Naturally, he activates his hover-boots and goes skating off.
Jupiter and Balem are still being carried along by the zero-G beam, but they both manage to grab onto stuff and stop themselves. In fact, they happen to end up right next to each other, holding onto opposite sides of a destroyed catwalk. Jupiter looks at Balem and says nothing as she runs off.
Meanwhile, Caine and Greeghan are again fighting in the air. Greeghan bites his neck, but Caine is able to climb on his back and pull on his wings and send them both spiraling down to the ground. They land and have a big knock-down, drag-out fight where Greeghan picks Caine up by the leg and slams him down on the translucent floor of Balem’s chamber.
He’s about to deal the death blow to Caine, so Caine maneuvers around, and judo-tosses Greeghan through the hole he created in the floor. He then uses his walking-through-doors device to close up the hole around Greeghan’s neck, choking him to death, and that’s the end of Greeghan.
And now Jupiter is running around the refinery, seeing flames and destruction everywhere she goes. She finds a zero-G beam and gets inside and floats up to a catwalk, where she stands around and witnesses more explosions. The catwalk then neatly splits apart like she’s on the Backdraft ride at Universal Studios, and she has to jump to safety. She then begins climbing a ladder on the outside of a building, and I have no idea where she thinks she’s going.
And then the Aegis Cruiser shows up above the refinery, and they’re able to get in touch with Caine, who says he has Jupiter’s family and needs to be extracted.
Jupiter is still climbing that ladder when it suddenly separates from the building, leaving her hanging for dear life above all the flames. She’s able to jump over to another platform, and she continues running. No, I still have no clue where she’s going. She’s basically just running around randomly at this point.
The whole refinery is blowing up as Caine carries Jupiter’s family one by one into a zero-G beam that takes them up to the Cruiser’s sickbay, or whatever they call their infirmary. And then he goes to find Jupiter, who’s still aimlessly running around somewhere.
And somehow, in all this pointless running around, she happens to run directly into Balem. Oh, come on! There’s no way in hell they could have both ended up in the exact same place after all that random running around.
He’s carrying a pipe, and he starts beating the crap out of her, while asking if “some part of [her]” can remember this happening before. He says this is how it began the last time, when they were “fighting”. Jupiter sticks her finger into the wound on his leg and he screams in pain, and Jupiter gets the pipe and now she’s the one beating the crap out of him.
Balem says he remembers what she (meaning his mother) said when he killed her. “You told me you hated your life!” Which is likely a callback to Jupiter repeatedly saying “I hate my life” in her opening spiel, as if anyone would remember that at this point. According to Balem, she “begged” him to kill her. Then he works a little more of that good ol’ Redmayne scenery-chewing magic as he screams, “You begged me to do it!!”
Jupiter replies, “I am not your damn mother!” She throws away the pipe and is about to walk away, when suddenly the platform they’re on collapses.
Balem plummets to his death, and Jupiter plummets right after him, going into slow-mo as she falls. To no one’s surprise, Caine swoops in on his boots to save her. He then uses another one of those pods to create insta-spacesuits around both of them. They hug as he tells her that her family is safe. And as for Balem? He’s dead, I guess, because that’s the last we ever see of him. Well, that sure was anticlimactic. I suppose they could have been planning to bring him back in the sequel (LOL) but that’s still no excuse for not bothering to give your primary villain an actual death scene.
Meanwhile, the Aegis Cruiser is taking heavy damage, but the captain is staying put, and keeping her word to give Caine every second she can. Caine sees that the ship is beginning to create another one of those wormhole/portal things to escape, and he puts Jupiter on his back and races to get there in time.
They skate past flaming debris, while it seems the destruction of the Cruiser is imminent. Jupiter and Caine burst through flames, and the portal is open, and Stinger stands… somewhere… and says, “Come on, Caine!” And they make it just in time to get pulled into the portal along with the Aegis Cruiser, and there’s a flash of light and the Cruiser is instantly hovering above the Earth.
The Aegis Captain gets a call from Caine, telling her to “take a look out your window”, where she sees Caine and Jupiter have made it out alive, and now they’re holding hands as they float around in space, and Caine tells them to “open the door or something”. Everyone on the Cruiser cheers as Caine and Jupiter float in their insta-spacesuits, looking down at the Earth.
Next thing we know, an alarm clock is going off at 4:45 AM, much like in the opening montage. Jupiter’s mom is once again telling her to get up and make the coffee. But this time, Jupiter is already wide awake, and has a full breakfast ready for both her and Aunt Nino.
And now we find Jupiter… cleaning yet another toilet. That’s right. She now owns the Earth, and presumably has access to untold riches and eternal life, and she’s still working as a maid. Look, I’m all for staying true to yourself, but who in the hell would clean toilets every day if they didn’t have to?
She takes off her rubber glove, and sees the glowing Ouros tattoo on her wrist, and smiles.
Cut to Jupiter having another meal with her family, who have presumably had their memories wiped so that they don’t remember seeing winged lizard guys or being held captive by Balem. Uncle Vassily says they have a surprise for her, and Cousin Vladie walks out with something wrapped in newspaper. She rips it open, and is delighted to see it’s the big brass telescope she always wanted. Her mom tells her that her father “was good man”, so she should have a telescope just like his.
But then Jupiter says she has to go, because “I actually have a date!” They give her the third degree about the guy, asking if he’s Russian, if he’s rich, and Vladie wants to know if he needs a “big television”, because, you know, he’s still got one he needs to unload. Vassily asks how he is with a mop, and some other relative wants to know his “sign”. She says she doesn’t know, and everyone laughs.
And now Jupiter is on her date, and of course it’s with Caine, and they’ve reunited at the top of the Sears Tower. Jupiter is talking about her “complicated” family, and Caine wonders if she’ll ever tell them the truth. “What, that I own the Earth?” She says they’d have her “locked up”, and she doesn’t really know what it means to own the Earth anyway. That makes two of us.
Caine says it means the Earth now has a different future, presumably free of being harvested. He calls her “Your Majesty”, and Jupiter gets hot and bothered all over again. “That really works for me.”
And now, they’re going for a flight, because as promised, Caine has gotten his wings back, and he takes off his jacket and lets them unfurl. Jupiter says, “That ain’t bad either.” They embrace, and he wraps his wings around her, and she says she could “get used to this,” and they kiss again.
Caine asks if she’s “ready” and Jupiter says, “Watch this!” She then takes a running jump off the Sears Tower, and is now skating around on her own set of hover-boots. Caine smiles and flies off after her. They swoop around the Chicago skyline for a while (in broad daylight, of course, so I guess they’ll be spending the rest of the date doing door-to-door memory wipes), and then they both fly past the camera, and that’s the end.
After all the craziness we’ve endured, that was a pretty pedestrian ending. But I suppose the Wachowskis just wanted to get this over with as quickly as everybody in the audience.
Overall, this was an unremarkable riff on the same old Chosen One/Hero’s Journey-type story we’ve seen in a thousand other sci-fi and fantasy epics, with the only real twist being that the Chosen One is extremely passive this time around. Despite becoming the Queen of the Universe, I can only think of two decisions Jupiter makes that actually influence the plot: deciding to marry Titus, and deciding to sacrifice herself instead of abdicating her Title to the Earth. The rest of the time, she’s being carried along (or carried around, as the case may be) by forces beyond her control, and one has to wonder if the plot would have been any different had they replaced Jupiter with a mystical amulet or a super-powerful alien artifact. For most of the movie, Jupiter Jones is a human MacGuffin.
But with all of the vague motivations and unexplained plot points on display, it’s obvious a lot was cut from this film, and maybe that included more big character moments for Jupiter. Whatever was cut, it certainly left us with little else besides a series of bland action sequences and the bare minimum of dialogue needed to connect them. Just look at the sheer number of characters who disappear from the movie and are never mentioned again after they fulfill their role in the plot: the three bounty hunters, Stinger’s daughter Kiza, the Advocate Bob robot, and most noticeable of all, Kalique, who’s introduced as a major player but only gets mentioned once or twice after Jupiter leaves her planet.
I still have no idea what Kalique was even trying to accomplish here. I suppose it’s possible she only wanted Jupiter to claim her Title to the Earth so that Balem wouldn’t get it, but to what end? She certainly didn’t seem interested in stopping the inevitable harvest of the Earth or shutting down the whole ReGenX industry, considering she openly bathed in a big pool of people. Maybe Kalique was hoping to steal the Earth away from Jupiter at some point down the line? Who knows.
And while it’s obvious that Balem wanted Jupiter dead so he could reclaim his inheritance, the whole thing was rendered moot when Jupiter revealed that if he killed her, he wouldn’t be able to claim the Earth. Which still makes no sense whatsoever.
So clearly, a lot of this movie ended up on the cutting room floor. But on the other hand, it’s hard to imagine an extra 30 minutes of this silliness actually being an improvement. Regardless, Jupiter Ascending barely broke even at the box office (a huge loss when you factor in marketing costs), and was one of the worst reviewed movies of the year (later earning six Razzie nominations, and one Razzie “win” for Eddie Redmayne), so don’t count on a sequel to address all the unanswered questions.
When the Wachowskis were doing interviews to promote Jupiter Ascending, Lana made a very telling remark about their career: “We’ve been lucky. People at studios have been interested in our crazy, strange brand of complexity. And we’ve been allowed to keep making them. Will that continue? Probably not.” And then Lilly/Andy chimed in with, “But it was a good run.” Whether or not those comments were made with tongue in cheek, it seems the siblings were well aware that after three or four movies with lackluster box office returns, their odds of getting to direct another big budget blockbuster were becoming slimmer by the day.
Netflix has already announced a second season for their series Sense8, and perhaps this is where their future lies: in long-form storytelling on a TV-sized budget. That’s probably the best place for their “crazy, strange brand of complexity”, which, for a variety reasons, doesn’t seem to work all that well on the big screen.