On Wednesday morning, when the Razzie nominations for the worst films of the year were announced, I noticed with disappointment that one of my favorite movies of the year, Jupiter Ascending , received multiple nominations. The film’s star, Mila Kunis, was nominated for Worst Actress, walking six-pack of abs Channing Tatum was nominated for Worst Actor, literal chameleon Eddie Redmayne was nominated for Worst Supporting Actor, and the film itself was nominated for Worst Film, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Direction by the Wachowskis. Suffice it to say, my reaction to Jupiter Ascending receiving so many Razzie nominations was, “Oh hell to the NO!”
For those unfamiliar, Jupiter Ascending follows the story of Jupiter Jones, played by Kunis, an undocumented child of Russian immigrants who rises at the wee hours of pre-dawn to spend her days cleaning houses for the rich and successful. When her life is threatened, a wolf-human hybrid space hero named Cain Wise (Tatum) reveals to her that she is, in fact, the genetic reincarnation of a former intergalactic royal who owns the Earth. Her entire life changes as she’s thrown into a complicated but incredibly fun space opera involving vampire siblings, sentient bees, ninja dinosaurs, and some really freaking cool space ships.
But listen, Jupiter Ascending did not do well at the box office, nor with most critics. Except for a few who embraced its joys, not just its flaws, the film was mostly condemned by fans and the media. I don't deny that some parts of the film are ridiculous, and that many audience members surely left the theater wondering just what they heck they had just seen. But am I the only one who views that as a good thing? For a long time now, the world of science fiction cinema has cast originality aside in favor of sequels, reboots, and adaptations. The success of Marvel Studios has had a major affect on the industry as a whole, and studios are happy to shell out hundreds of millions for movies about comic book characters rather than risk that amount on an original story.
In fact, the alleged “failure” of Jupiter Ascending led some to believe that despite the Wachowskis' success with The Matrix or V for Vendetta, studios would become even more hesitant to support original sci-fi. But as Wired wrote, “The Wachowskis releasing something new, even if it’s derivative, is more refreshing than a movie based on IP that’s been around for decades" — which is one reason why Jupiter Ascending should be applauded, not derided.
Sure, the film has its moments that don’t make sense, hammed-up villains, and convoluted plotlines, but those attributes can be applied to just about any sci-fi property that’s been successful or earned a cult following over the years. The film that Jupiter Ascending mostly reminds me of is Luc Besson’s 1997 wackadoo space story The Fifth Element. Besson infused The Fifth Element with weird aliens, goofy costumes, and complex storylines just like the Wachowskis did with Jupiter Ascending, and The Fifth Element has, over the years, become a cult classic with cosplayers in Leeloo Dallas Multeepass costumes hitting up every con. Eddie Redmayne was criticized for going over the top with his villain, Balem Abrasax, but have you seen Gary Oldman’s Zorg in The Fifth Element? They’re both wonderfully out of this universe, and they act their butts off. Actually, I’d give the edge to Redmayne in this instance, for his ability to go from whispering creeper to full out psychopath within the same seven word sentence.
I can’t help but wonder if the vitriol that Jupiter Ascending has received has something to do with the fact that it’s been embraced by so many women. As The Daily Dot noted, “This movie turned out to be catnip for a certain subset of geeky, self-aware young women, which is why it's going to enjoy a long life as a staple of boozy sleepovers and costumed indie theater screenings.” After years of sci-fi films catering to the whims and fantasies of teenage boys, Jupiter Ascending changed the game. First and foremost, there’s its female protagonist, Jupiter, who isn't just a “Strong Female Character” seen in many sci-fi works. She’s a bit incompetent and doesn’t always make the best decisions. As Hitflix put it, “Women don’t always want superhuman robots to look up to. We want to be the same klutzy nobody who is cosseted and petted and told we’re special — despite all evidence to the contrary. We want that the coming-of-age story boys have starred in a thousand times over a thousand years.”
After seeing Jupiter Ascending, one Tumblr reviewer asked, "Is this how straight dudes feel at the movies all the time????" Indeed, having such a female-driven fantasy film has been a long time coming. This year, women sci-fi fans were lucky to experience, embrace, and love Rey, the female protagonist of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Jupiter is another woman of space to love. And speaking of Star Wars, much like that franchise, Jupiter Ascending also manages to be tons of fun. It is the very antithesis of the dark, brooding, male-centric comic book blockbusters like the Batman series or Man of Steel that have been swarming the big screen over the years. Guardians of the Galaxy succeeded by turning its back on that trend and embracing the potential power of silliness; Jupiter Ascending should be as well.
With a relatable main character, a Cinderella fantasy, elaborate fashions, and a hunky hero, it’s no wonder why so many women fell in love with Jupiter Ascending. If the movie had only aimed more at this demographic, perhaps it could've had a less brutal impact upon its release. The studio may not have realized that young girls who loved movies like Labyrinth when they were five would love Jupiter Ascending when they were 30, but thankfully, we’ve found it and embraced it for ourselves. And I'd bet, in time, you’ll be seeing Jupiter costumes at conventions alongside Padme Amidala, Rey, and Leeloo.
Images: Warner Bros. (2), Giphy (2)