Jul 16, 2020
Jupiter Ascending (2015): a recap (part 3 of 12)
Previously on Jupiter Ascending: Eddie Redmayne as Lord Balem paid a visit to Jupiter, the planet, which might as well have been Random Alien World #15,776 based on how much it resembled Jupiter. Back on Earth, Jupiter, the character, hung out with her friend Katherine Dunlevy, who was nearly naked and got probed by aliens, which wasn’t nearly as exciting as it sounds. And then Jupiter mom’s threatened to shove potato pancakes up several different asses, and well… that was pretty exciting.
And now we return to (per the sign out front) the VOLO Inc. Women’s Health & Fertility Clinic, which you may recall as the scene of our first (and so far, only) action scene, where Channing Tatum got ambushed by those three bounty hunters. Jupiter is in the waiting room, looking nervous and tapping her iPhone on her knee, and all the other women in the waiting room are staring at her, either because she’s being annoying or because they know she’s the Chosen One of this particular Hero’s Journey.
She then opens up her phone, where she finds her picture of the gray aliens probing her friend Katherine, which she doesn’t remember taking due to their advanced mind-wiping technology. And upon seeing a genuine photo of actual extraterrestrials, she just looks… mildly perturbed.
A nurse enters and calls out the name Katherine Dunlevy. Jupiter says that’s her, meaning she used a fake name on her egg donor release form, and the name she picked was one of the women she works for, which is basically what led the aliens to probe the real Katherine Dunlevy in the previous installment of this recap. And I have to say, this little plot wrinkle with the fake name adds absolutely nothing to the story besides mild confusion, and it’s almost completely dropped after this, so I don’t get it. And it also means that Balem’s people are able to instantly traverse galaxies and (spoiler) splice human and animal DNA, but they’re not able to figure out when someone fakes information on a medical form.
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Cut to Jupiter on an operating table and a nurse putting a face mask on her to give her anesthesia. But Jupiter is starting to freak out, and I’ll just cut the film some slack and assume it’s a delayed reaction to the photo on her phone. Jupiter panics and says she can’t do this, but a nurse assures her it’s just the “hormones” and she’ll be fine, and a doctor tells her to relax in a rather sinister tone of voice, adding, “I can do this procedure with my eyes closed!” He aims a light at her, and for a barely perceptible moment, his eyes turn huge and black, which is a nicely creepy moment.
The doctor nods to the nurses, who proceed to strap devices to Jupiter’s arms and legs that cause her to levitate in the air. Wow, fertility clinics sure have upgraded their technology. Jupiter is flipping out while getting flipped over as the doctor says to “get a sample. Make sure this is the right one.”
A nurse sticks that same anal probe-like device into the back of Jupiter’s neck, and this time, it glows white, indicating that “it’s her”. In response, the doctor says, “Good. Kill her.”
The nurse starts turning dials, I guess to either poison Jupiter or to cut off her oxygen supply, and the nurse’s eyes momentarily turn a solid black when she does this. And that’s when Channing Tatum bursts in with his holo-shield, riding his hover-boots to the rescue, as he blasts away at the doctors and nurses with his laser gun.
When he shoots them, it causes their human forms to dissolve, revealing they were really the Grays all along. So, why did the Grays feel it necessary to disguise themselves as humans this time? Especially since they can apparently just barge into any room they want at any time and knock people unconscious.
A big battle breaks out inside the operating room, as Channing hover skates across the walls, and it also turns out that for some reason, the Grays can crawl up walls and across the ceiling like Spider-Man. Channing shoots them with his laser gun, spraying alien blood on the walls. Eventually, he takes them all out except for one, who escapes and presumably lives to tell the tale.
Channing picks up Jupiter, and rips off her face mask as he holds her in his arms. A completely groggy Jupiter regards this handsome stranger with his stupid looking elf ears and flesh-colored beard and asks who he is. “Caine Wise,” he replies. “I’m here to help you.” Jupiter passes out, end scene. And I guess “Caine Wise” isn’t the worst name ever, but it’s almost like after coming up with “Tskalikan”, the Wachowskis completely ran out of creative juice. Also, I’m not a huge fan of blatantly “heroic” names like this. Does Caine Wise hang out with his friends Frank Justice and Steve Compassion?
Cut to space, and a great-looking shot of a ship rising up through the icy rings of a planet, as we hear the sound of ice particles hitting the ship’s hull, and yes, there’s sound in space here, but this film is obviously not trying to be the next Gravity.
We learn this is the ship of Titus, one of the Abrasax siblings, and he’s currently in the midst of a PG-13 orgy as he floats in some sort of zero-gravity beam and cavorts around with fully clothed women who look like Cirque du Soleil acrobats. And I think one of them has wings like a bird, and another has wings like a dragonfly.
One of Titus’s minions enters. She’s played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and her name is “Famulus”, though, let’s face it, they could have used “Gugu Mbatha-Raw” as her alien name and no one would have been the wiser. And it would appear that they have her wearing an unfortunate pair of giant… rabbit ears?
She clears her throat to get Titus’s attention. He says, “Only good news is allowed in here, Famulus!” Luckily for him, that’s just what she’s bringing. She says they just received an “FTL” from “Mr. Wise”. Wow, how’d he send a floral bouquet all the way out into space? It seems Caine works for Titus, and he’s just sent word that he “has the girl”. Titus call this “brilliant”, and tells her to “send the transport immediately”.
Back on Earth, Jupiter is coming around to find herself in an unfinished suite in an office building. She sees Caine standing there, monkeying around with some futuristic device that looks like the perpetual motion engine from the Atlas Shrugged movies. Jupiter notices Caine left his laser gun sitting next to her and grabs it. Naturally, he immediately senses she’s awake and has the gun without even turning around, and tells her he left it there intentionally to make her “feel better”. He even informs her which switch to flip to activate it.
So she immediately activates the gun and Caine gets nervous. He puts his hands up and turns around and informs her she’s been asleep for 12 hours, but she’s still in Chicago. And then there’s a bit where she wonders how she’s fully dressed, and Caine starts to say she was still in her “paper clinic gown” when he rescued her, but Jupiter doesn’t want to think about some strange dude doing things with her naked unconscious body.
He’s got her wallet and he knows her name is Jupiter, and that she used a fake name at the clinic. Apparently, the clinic’s tests “tripped the Monitor to your geneprint!” Jupiter is totally confused, so Caine says that when he was in the “Legion”, they gave him “Protocols” for just this sort of scenario. He knows it can be difficult for “Terrsies, or people from underdeveloped words” when they find out theirs isn’t the only inhabited planet in the “Verse”. The “Verse”? What clever lingo.
Jupiter thinks this has to be a dream, and Caine says that according to the “Protocol”, most Terrsies will say this has to be a dream. She asks if he’s an alien, but he’s really a “Genomgineered human. They cut my DNA with the DNA of something like a wolf,” which makes him the aforementioned “Lycantant”. Caine also explains that the gray aliens at the clinic are the “Keepers”, who have been “genetically repurposed” to act as “watchdogs and monitors”.
She doesn’t understand why they’re trying to kill her. She says, “What if I say no? What if… I don’t go with you?” Except, he didn’t actually ask her to go anywhere with him, but he assures her that if she goes home, the Keepers will come after her again.
Back on Jupiter, we see Tskalikan (the winged lizard guy) as he runs to see Balem, who’s now just hanging out in some big empty room with some of his servants. Tskalikan says they’ve received their own “FTL”, and there was a “problem” at the clinic, and a “former Legionnaire was involved.” Was it Lightning Lad? Because he’s my favorite.
This means that the “girl” is still alive, so Balem orders Tskalikan to “double our security deployment. Destroy any ship that comes near the planet.” And I guess Tskalikan isn’t moving fast enough, because Balem immediately yells at him to “Go!” Though, that description isn’t doing justice to how Redmayne suddenly goes from near-comatose to sixty, completely losing his shit and screaming a big hammy “GOOOOOOOO!”
Back in Chicago, it turns out that the office building that Jupiter and Caine are hanging out in is Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower, because it’s the only landmark in Chicago, at least based on what the movies tell me. Jupiter is enraptured by Caine’s device that he uses to walk through doors and walls, which he’s currently using to create a portal in a window that Jupiter passes her hand through.
Then he shows off what Jupiter refers to as his “flying boots”. He says they “use the force of gravity, redirecting it into deferential equation slopes that you can surf.” Yes, according to the subtitles, that is the actual line, and no, it’s not supposed to be “differential”, though that wouldn’t make any sense either. Of course, all this science-y talk flies over Jupiter’s pretty dumb head.
He then declares “our ride’s here”, and he wants Jupiter to walk through a window with him while they’re a hundred stories up, and float up to his spaceship, which is currently cloaked and hovering above the Tower. She’s hesitant, as well she should be, but eventually he picks her up and carries her through the window. And now the two are in one of those zero-gravity beams, being levitated up to Caine’s ship. And contrary to Caine’s name, this doesn’t seem smart at all.
You’d think having two people hovering out in the open hundreds of feet in the air leaves them just a tiny bit vulnerable, which would be an issue when one of the evil rulers of the “Verse” is out to kill one of them. And then the movie instantly proves my point when several enemy ships materialize out of nowhere and fire on Caine’s ship, causing it to explode.
And now, Caine and Jupiter are falling to their deaths, but Caine activates his hover-boots and flies down to save Jupiter. Caine’s just surfing the deferential equation slopes, broham! As they fly away, we see the top of the Sears Tower is now being hit with flaming debris from Caine’s ship and exploding. The enemy ships pursue them, and Caine hover-skates across skyscraper exteriors while laser blasts penetrate the windows. And even though it’s early morning, all of the office buildings that get hit are currently empty.
And that’s the weird thing here: we see all sorts of mass destruction going on, and famous landmarks getting blown up, and yet, there’s not one single shot of anyone besides Jupiter and Caine reacting to this. We don’t see a single person on the ground or in a car or in any of the office buildings during this scene. There’s not even a cut to a TV news report about the attack or anything, even when the aliens use a huge beam to obliterate the top of a cathedral. It’s really quite strange. It’s like the entire city of Chicago decided to clear out right before this scene.
This massive explosion causes a shockwave that hits Caine and Jupiter, causing them to plummet and almost get hit by an elevated train, and then the train gets fired on, and again, there are no shots of anyone on the train reacting to this. Eventually, Caine and Jupiter end up flying down to street level, where Caine pulls a Marty McFly and grabs the back of a pickup truck, which takes them onto the lower level of a multi-level bridge across the river. There, the aliens blow up a couple of cars and trucks, which is pretty much our first indication that other people even exist in this scene, and we still don’t see any of the drivers.
To escape from the explosions, Caine hover-skates over the edge of the bridge, landing on one of the enemy ships below. He uses a setting on his boots to stick himself to the ship, and the ship is unable to shake him off, even though the craft is now blasting around the city at what looks like Mach 3 (while Caine is simply holding onto Jupiter by her hands).
Eventually, Caine points his gun at the Keeper pilot of the ship, causing him to eject. Caine commandeers the craft, and sends it plummeting into the lake at top speed. The other ships come along and blast at the spot where they hit the water. But Caine has evaded their fire and comes up from the water and they’re now flying along the river and the chase continues. And it would appear that these ships are able to change shape and configuration in mid-flight, sort of like Transformers (which also had massive destruction in Chicago going on in the last movie… and in the movie before that, actually. But even Michael Bay managed to include footage of people on the ground running away from all the carnage).
Caine takes out an enemy ship, and now there’s a dogfight going on through the Chicago skyscrapers. And all of this is presented in hyper-edited footage where it’s nearly impossible to tell what’s going on, but eventually, we get a moment where Caine’s ship and some other ship are flying directly at each other, and the two ships collide in slow-mo, which I think destroys the enemy ship, but now Caine’s ship is split in two. And the rear half of the ship is now falling to the ground with Jupiter inside.
Caine uses his hover-boots to race down and grab her hand, and pull her out of the ship in the nick of time. The ship crashes spectacularly into a hotel (and again, no one is around to witness this) and Caine hover-skates to the ground with Jupiter on his back. And just as they land, a piece of the ship slowly slides to a halt, just barely tapping a parked SUV, causing its alarm to go off.
All in all, it’s a bizarre sequence. Reportedly, this one scene was a massive undertaking, because the Wachowskis decided they wanted this sequence to take place right at the moment when the sun appears on the horizon, meaning they had to shoot this one scene every single day, for roughly 15 minutes a day, for an entire summer. So it boggles the mind that they could put this much effort into a scene like this and not even allude to all the people who would witness it and be impacted by it. And yes, later scenes imply that the aliens immediately cover up all the destruction by using their mind-wipe technology, but that doesn’t explain why no one is around to see all of it while it’s actually happening. As it is, it looks like they just took random stock footage of Chicago and haphazardly pasted spaceships and explosions over it.
But even without that glaring flaw, it’s just not a very good action scene. There’s too much quick-cut editing to really make sense of anything, and at no point do our two lead actors look like people who are flying/falling hundreds of feet in the air to their certain deaths. At best, the two of them just look mildly annoyed at having to do a lot of stunts on a greenscreen set.
Next time: Jupiter uses a maxi-pad as a first aid device while she learns all about the Abrasax clan and why they’re after her. And then she and Caine go visit Sean Bean as a guy named “Stinger” who… well, I don’t want to give away too much just yet, but through him, we learn the important lesson that “bees don’t lie”.