Mar 9, 2021
Jupiter Ascending (2015): a recap (part 2 of 12)
Previously on Jupiter Ascending: We met Jupiter Jones, an unassuming Chicago maid who, like most unassuming sci-fi/fantasy heroes, is destined for greatness. We also met Channing Tatum as the unnamed half-man, half-dog destined to protect her. But will these two star-crossed lovers finally meet, or will the douchey Abrasax clan, rulers of the galaxy and failed Eurotrash fashion models, come between them?
Hot on the heels of Channing escaping from those three bounty hunters who looked like rejected henchmen from Matrix Reloaded, we cut to an alien CGI landscape of ornate domed structures, waterfalls, and red foliage.
This appears to be the palace of Lady Kalique, still done up in her unconvincing old age makeup as she converses with a guy named “Maledictes” who looks like an owl, which we’ll find out soon enough is no coincidence. During their conversation, we learn that even though the three bounty hunters are working for her brother Balem, they’re wanting to strike a deal to work for Kalique instead. She’s interested, but she doesn’t want Balem or her other brother Titus to “suspect” she’s involved.
As they walk through the palace, we see many robot-like servants standing at Kalique’s beck and call. She grabs what looks like a glowing marshmallow off a servant’s tray and eats it as she wonders if the hunters “can be trusted”. Maledictes is a bit more philosophical about the situation. He thinks “trust is an illusion”, and only believes in “mutual self-interest”. He says the hunters want “another life”, and Kalique has the power to give it to them. She simply says, “Make the deal.”
Cut to Jupiter. By which I mean, the planet. A giant, ornate spaceship materializes nearby, and somewhere onboard the ship, Eddie Redmayne as Balem emerges naked from a pool in front of a giant window that shows Jupiter in all its grandeur, in one of those “we really need a ‘cool’ shot for the trailer to sell this turkey” kind of moments.
The ship then heads for the Great Red Spot. Also, I should note that the ship, like all of the alien vehicles seen in this movie, has detached pieces that somehow float along with the rest of the ship because they’re held in place by magnetism or gravity or unobtanium or something. And sure, it’s an interesting look, and you could argue that the design of this particular ship is mostly decorative in the first place, but later on, we’ll see that even warships and fighter craft have these floating, detached pieces, which doesn’t seem all that practical.
The ship plunges directly into the Jovian atmosphere, as Balem continues to cavort around naked in his pool. As the ship descends, it flies through huge storms and lightning. Finally, they reach a massive city and Balem’s ship docks with a floating platform.
A guy with a blond ponytail walks along the platform, and he has features like a mouse. Are you sensing a pattern here? And he’s got a group of bipedal winged lizard people following behind him, who are of course entirely CGI. And even though Jupiter has gravity 2.5 times that of Earth, the movie obviously couldn’t care less, because everyone moves around normally here and in every other scene on Jupiter.
Balem emerges from his ship in a golden hovering chariot, and there’s a golden woman embedded in the front of the chariot, so I guess she’s supposed to be some sort of human/chariot hybrid. He’s also got rows and rows of red-clad soldiers nearly goosestepping behind him, because that’s subtle.
Rat-Face Guy welcomes Balem back to Jupiter, saying it’s “been too long”. Balem instantly shuts him down, saying he didn’t “cross the vastness of space” to listen to his “pleasantries”. And it’s revealed that Rat-Face’s name is “Mr. Night”. Which is weirdly pedestrian given the other names in this movie, but whatever.
Mr. Night, however, has “unfortunate news”. He says they’ve “verified the geneprint”. Balem remarks that “Titus is aware of the Recurrence,” but is miffed to find out that they even though they have a “print”, they don’t have “her”. So Mr. Night turns to one of the winged lizard people, who he addresses as “Mr. Tskalikan”.
Tskalikan says they’ve traced the “print” to a medical clinic, and they now have a name: Katherine Dunlevy. No surprise, Balem wants this Katherine Dunlevy found and killed.
Smash-cut to the actual Katherine Dunlevy, a skinny blonde running around in her underwear as she prepares for a date. Just then, Jupiter enters to say she’s all done, so it would appear she’s Katherine’s maid.
But Katherine wants Jupiter’s help to pick out a dress for tonight, because she thinks her boyfriend is going to propose. She’s beside herself, because he’s “the number eight richest bachelor under thirty in America” and was also “an alternate on the Olympic curling team”. Jupiter is less than impressed by his credentials, but Katherine thinks marrying him “sounds totally… Cinderella, doesn’t it?”
Jupiter halfheartedly agrees. But Katherine doesn’t understand why she feels like throwing up. Jupiter helpfully mutters, “I just don’t remember Cinderella puking.” She also says, “Kind of remember her dancing with a bunch of mice.” Okay, now she’s just babbling.
Katherine wonders if Jupiter has ever been in love, but Jupiter says that according to her mom, “love is just a fairytale for little girls”, and it’s really all about “urges and obligations”. Katherine thinks that’s a bit “harsh”, but Jupiter advises her to tell her potential fiancé that she’s feeling “overwhelmed” and just needs more time.
However, Katherine still needs something to wear tonight, so Jupiter runs into the walk-in closet to get either the “red McQueen” or “this little Ricci” (is it just me, or does Jupiter seem a bit too acquainted with the contents of her customers’ closets?). And just as she enters the closet, she hears Katherine’s screams.
Spacey sound effects emanate from just outside the closet as Jupiter sees partially cloaked figures run past the doorway. She looks out into the bedroom and sees gray aliens. As in, the stereotypical gray aliens from UFO and alien abduction lore, and they’ve got glowing devices strapped to Katherine’s arms and ankles that cause her to float in the air.
They turn her unconscious body over, and one alien sticks a device into the back of her neck that glows red, causing the alien to look somewhat flummoxed.
Meanwhile, Jupiter stands in the closet, looking oddly relaxed for a person witnessing her friend being poked and prodded by extraterrestrials. She calmly takes out her iPhone (making sure to give us a clear view of the Apple logo) to take a photo of what’s happening. And right at that moment, Jupiter’s mom calls, alerting the aliens to her presence. They all immediately turn in her direction. They run toward Jupiter, and flash a bright light in her face, and then…
And then the next thing we know, Katherine is waking up on the bed. There’s a knock at the door, and it’s her boyfriend, and she says she’ll be right out. Jupiter walks out of the closet holding a couple of dresses, and then gets a look of consternation on her face like she knows something is amiss, but can’t quite figure out what. Neither she nor Katherine remembers what just happened, so I guess the aliens in this movie have access to the technology from the Men in Black films.
Cut to that night, where we meet Jupiter’s family as they have dinner together, and of course, they’re a virtual smorgasbord of lazy Russian stereotypes. The patriarch of the clan is a red-faced guy named Vassily wearing a track suit and a wife-beater, who turns out to be Jupiter’s cousin. He seems to be in charge of the whole housecleaning operation, and he wants Jupiter’s mom to take on an extra house on Wednesday.
She protests in Russian, and he yells back that in this house, they speak English. Jupiter’s Mom then compares him to Stalin. Are his balls about the same? Vassily says if she doesn’t need the money, he’ll happily give the job to “Gleb’s crew”, and we see Gleb at the table, another slovenly guy drinking a beer. Jupiter’s mom finally relents.
Then Jupiter calls Vassily “cousin” and starts to ask a favor, but he already knows she wants an “advance”. He thinks she only wants the money for something like “shoes” or a “new phone”. She promises to pay it back, but Vassily knows she’s only going to spend the money on something she doesn’t need, in an attempt to make herself “feel better”.
Jupiter responds, “So, what, instead of feeling better, I should save my money and feel worse?” What? Was this dialogue written by humans? Vassily says that’s exactly what she should do, then calls her a “smart girl” and suggests “that’s probably the reason you’re not married!” He’s convinced that men don’t like smart women.
Jupiter’s Mom takes umbrage with the backhanded compliment, and tells him to stop talking like that, or else she’ll “ram that latke so far up your ass, you won’t crap for a week!” Hey, easy there, I don’t think Andy Kaufman wants to be up there for a whole week.
Vassily’s wife jumps into the fight, defending him in Russian, and then some old woman at the table gets involved, and Jupiter’s Mom yells at her in Russian, giving us the surreal subtitle, “I’ve got a latke for you too, bitch.” Damn, does she kiss her mother with that mouth? Well, that’s assuming the woman she’s yelling at isn’t actually her mother. Finally, Vassily yells at everybody to stop fighting. They quiet down, and he asks Jupiter what she wants the money for. But she just says he’s right, and it’s “nothing I need.”
Cut to Jupiter down in the basement, where she’s perusing eBay. And it looks like what she wants the money for is a big brass telescope, just like the one her dad owned (because she of course is strongly taking after a man she never actually met). A close-up reveals that the one she’s interested in has a starting bid of almost $4,000. Holy shit! Well, at least it’s got free shipping.
Then one of Jupiter’s relatives comes downstairs, a guy by the name of “Vladie”, played by an Australian actor who’s not doing a great job of covering up his accent. He’s worried that Jupiter is having “second thoughts” about something they discussed earlier.
She indicates a pamphlet on the desk and says, “Why do they have to use words like ‘harvesting’? It’s just creepy!” And yes, this does tie into the egg donor release form previously seen at the women’s fertility clinic, as well as giving us more allegedly clever wordplay with a callback to the “harvest” that wiped out all life on the planet Zalintyre.
But Vladie crumples up the pamphlet, assuring her that donating eggs is “not a big deal”. He says, “You go in, cash comes out!” Indeed, the money pours straight out of your hoo-hah. Like a slot machine. Vladie’s got “real plans, serious plans” for that money, which could be “life-changing for both of us!” Jupiter stares at the telescope on her screen and finally agrees to do it.
But she wonders why she only gets five grand, while Vladie gets ten grand, since it’s her eggs. He says that that’s “capitalism”, adding, “Shit rolls downhill, profits flow up!” Ah yes, the shit trickle-down theory. He leaves, and Jupiter places a $4,000 bid on that telescope.
Join me next time, as we learn that using a fake name on a medical form is all it takes to confuse a vast alien civilization advanced enough to rule the galaxy. Also, we get our first big action scene, and the two main characters finally meet cute in the same way most couples do: while hovering hundreds of feet in the air outside of the second tallest building in North America.