Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Movie Review: Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter (Mila Kunis) is a typical girl on Earth who earns a living swabbing toilets. Caine (Channing Tatum) is a furry-looking alien who constantly tries to save her from inter-planetary aliens who want to kill her, marry her, or dissect her for their own devious reasons. That’s pretty much the plot.

What is outstanding about the movie is the visual effects. Incredible planetary scapes and enormously complicated spaceships fill the screen, evoking awe. The battle scenes are also elaborate, but hard to follow. Just to let you know, critics panned the movie for reasons having to do with my first paragraph, but the people who did choose to see it enjoyed the movie.

And now for some literary analysis.

Jupiter Ascending references Cinderella early on. But really, it’s a version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (the movie version). Caine is the Cowardly Lion who never passes through a cowardly phase, and who appears early in the story. But then it pretty much follows suit. Jupiter, as Dorothy, goes up in a way that blows her mind, then comes back down. She encounters the forces of a wicked witch (Balem, one of three evil siblings). Jupiter then meets a wise Scarecrow (Stinger played by the ever-reliable Sean Bean). She then encounters a good witch (Kalique, one of the siblings). This is out of order, but it’s a matter of whatever serves the flow of the story.

She is captured by an evil witch who prepares for the precise moment to kill her (Titus, one of the siblings). Jupiter is helped along the way by an intrepid Tin Man of a starship captain (Captain Tsing). And the sibling Balem changes roles from wicked witch to Wizard in the ultimate battle scenes, where he unexpectedly flips personalities.

Am I saying they copied The Wizard of Oz on purpose? Maybe, maybe not. With three evil siblings, maybe they wanted to put a twist on Cinderella and ended up imitating another familiar story on accident. But the overall series of characters seem so strongly to identify with Oz that I think they mentioned Cinderella at the start to throw us off. If nothing else, it shows the lack of originality in Hollywood.

I think what disappointed the critics was the lack of connections and growth. Dorothy had to retrieve the witch’s broom for the Wizard. And each of her companions experienced character growth. Nothing like that happens in Jupiter Ascending. But I did like it, and the 12:30 matinee I went to was packed.


Stephanie Faris said...

A writer at a workshop once pointed out how George Lucas followed The Writer's Journey when writing Star Wars--VERY closely. When she read all the stages, it was amazing. It's like he didn't know what he was doing so he used that book as a blueprint!

Mark Murata said...

Lucas was pretty open about using the archetypes. Not really much original going on out there. What makes the difference is the quality of execution.

Carrie Butler said...

Hmm... sounds like something I would eventually watch on Netflix. :)


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