Mar 19, 2020
Jupiter Ascending (2015), a recap (part 8 of 12): Aquarela do Bureaucracy
Previously on Jupiter Ascending: Sean Bean wasn’t dead! Humanity is capable of many miracles, including giving a man an elephant’s face. Jupiter revealed she’s really and truly a dog person, then journeyed to Ouros, the oozing birthplace of humanity. Upon arrival, Intergalactic Advocate Bob made his grand entrance and began to prepare her for the “Ascension Process”.
We see rejected Capitol extras from the Hunger Games movies as they stand in a long line that snakes through a building that looks like a government office that hasn’t seen a renovation since the 1920s. Jupiter and Caine are at the front of the line as Advocate Bob rings a bell on a tall desk. A bored woman types away on a little keyboard and tells him, “Sheave”.
Bob lays a sheet of thick black plastic on the desk, while announcing Jupiter as “the authentic Recurrence of her ladyship the Abrasax Sovereign!” He says they’ve come to claim her “Title”, and the bored woman looks even more bored, and tells him he has to file an “Inheritance Petition”, as well as a “transfer of Title”.
And now they’re in a fluorescent-lit office full of metal file cabinets as an old woman with a British accent tells Bob they need to file a “Quit Claim through Central Services”. Cut to them in Central Services, as a guy with a turtle shell-like forehead tells them they need a “Title Survey and geneprint identification from Wills and Trusts”.
Over at Wills and Trusts, another office drone tells Bob he needs a “Tax Number from the Revenue Review”. I’m sure you can see where this is going, and yes, for some reason, this film has ground to a halt so that we can watch Jupiter get some sort of extended bureaucratic runaround. And you know, I get the joke, in that claiming her Title to the Earth requires dealing with the same sort of red tape we have to endure here on Earth, and sure, that’s sort of funny, I guess. The problem is, the joke goes on about ten times longer than it takes us to actually get it (and decide we don’t want it).
They head for Revenue Review, where they find a robot that looks similar to Bob standing in front of a card catalog. However, the other robot informs them that this is actually “Revenue Request” and not Revenue Review. As they leave, Bob and the other robot give each other catty looks which make it clear these are supposed to be gay robots.
At the actual Revenue Review, they’re told they need a “title number” (and the guy is speaking in an alien language called, according to the captions, “Smegese”; I guess they realized “Ballchinian” was already taken). And this apparently means they’re now trapped in a catch-22, because Bob says through clenched teeth that that they can’t get the title number without the Tax ID. The guy refuses to help, until Bob figures out he needs to offer him a bribe of “10 Cs”. Bob sticks out his hand, which swings open like a Pez dispenser, shooting out a clear card-like object that must be the bribe.
And so, the bureaucrat has Jupiter put her thumb on a tablet-like device, which spits out a small disc. He hands over the disc and triumphant music plays as… he tells them to take it to another office, specifically “Seals and Signets”. And that’s where they meet another bureaucrat played by Terry Gilliam, who obviously has a cameo here because Brazil was the inspiration for this whole bizarre sequence in the first place.
He climbs up a stepladder and drops the disc in a machine, and turns a crank, which causes light bulbs and flash powder to go off. Then he has Jupiter place her arm inside a machine with a bunch of needles that give her a glowing tattoo that’s a cartoonish drawing of, let’s say, Ouros.
Gilliam then gives her a “Code and Conduct Guide”, as well as her “Royal Ways and Means Commission”. He also hands her a smaller sheave that she has to file with a “Legion Administrator”. Finally, Gilliam offers his “congratulations”, and then his expression turns grave as he also offers his “deepest condolences”. Jupiter looks bewildered and says “Thank you?” as Gilliam just laughs and goes back to eating a sandwich. So I guess becoming queen of the Earth secretly sucks or something.
And there you have it. Two writer-directors basically said to each other, “let’s bring our action/sci-fi movie to a screeching halt to show a bureaucratic nightmare”, and then actually scripted and filmed that sequence, and then actually thought it was good enough to leave in the final cut of the film. I mean, they could have easily reduced this whole thing to a quick, wordless montage that ends with the Gilliam bit, instead of spending almost 10 minutes on this crap. If it comes to pass that the Wachowskis are never trusted with another $100+ million budget ever again, just watch this sequence and you will clearly understand why.
Cut to Caine and Jupiter in some nondescript corridor as she says she’ll never complain about the DMV again. Caine tells her she’s now officially “Entitled”. So… she’s a Millenial? Jupiter wonders if this means she’s entitled to “free parking? Key to the city?” Caine reiterates that “Your Majesty’s life is gonna change”, and then Jupiter confesses that she gets really hot and bothered when Caine calls her “Your Majesty”.
She talks about how Caine has an “instinct” about Entitleds, and wonders if he’s feeling anything now. “Does any part of you wanna bite me?” Jesus. Is she… is she really trying to seduce him by talking about the time he murdered a guy by ripping out his throat?
They get even closer, and she asks why Caine is still here, helping her out. He backs away and says he’s only doing it because of Stinger, and Jupiter looks disappointed. And then Stinger himself shows up, holding a gun on Caine, and it would appear some sort of reluctant double-cross is now in progress.
He says he’s sorry, as Famulus (Titus’s assistant, the one played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw in doe ears) enters, with a whole bunch of armed bounty hunters in tow. Caine pulls out his laser gun, but Stinger tells him to put it down, and warns him not to make this any more difficult than it needs to be.
Cut to space, as another ship comes out of a wormhole. The vessel then enters Titus Abrasax’s huge mothership, by passing through a forcefield into a spacedock. Jupiter floats down from the ship in a zero-G beam and comes face to face with Titus, as well as long rows of expressionist stormtroopers. Titus kisses her hand as he introduces himself.
But Jupiter has been reading up on the “Entitled Code” and she knows being held here is a violation of “Statute 27b stroke 6” (another Brazil reference), and she could file a “tax grievance” against him for this. Oh, good, let’s hope she does that and the movie can spend ten minutes on her waiting in line at the Tax Grievance office.
She says she wants to go “home”, so Titus simply turns to Famulus and tells her to “set a course for Earth”. And then he invites Jupiter to have dinner with him in the meantime.
Cut to Caine being led around by stormtroopers. He walks into wherever Famulus is, and says the Aegis will be coming after them for “detaining a Royal”. But Famulus insists Jupiter is not being detained, and then pushes a button that causes a hole to open up below Caine. He floats down into a chamber, and then bars slide in place above his head. She looks down and gives him a taunt and a wink and then exits.
Jupiter meets Titus for dinner, now dressed in a sexy black gown. She enters a room full of archways and Stargate-like dog statues, and Titus says she looks “ravishing”. Uh… Isn’t she supposed to be an exact genetic duplicate of his mother?
Titus tells her that he and Caine had a “contract”, but now that he’s broken that contract, Titus intends to return Caine to “the Deadland”, which I guess is some sort of prison. But Jupiter, as you might expect, would like to “negotiate” for his release.
Coming up next: The dinner continues, as we finally get a full explanation of the Abrasax Spooge, which is actually called—are you ready for this?—“ReGenX”, and then we inch a little bit closer to finding out who killed Mama Abrasax. And if all that’s not enough for you, get ready for one of the weirdest marriage proposals ever.