Thanks to the wonderful staff at Moviepilot, I was able to take a look into a pre-release Blu-ray of Jupiter Ascending, which comes out June 2nd on blu-ray, DVD, and digital HD. In all honesty I wasn’t sure what I’d be in for. It’s one of the biggest struggle of watching a film after so many reviews and spoilers have already been released. I always try my best to avoid the critics before I have a chance to watch any film, but alas I was spoiled before seeing Jupiter because of all the hype. Nevertheless, I did my best to enter into this film experience with as much of an open mind as I could, because honestly the reviews that I had seen weren’t, how should I say “overwhelmingly positive”, most were downright nasty, yet through it all I have to say that I liked it.
I went through the movie twice before I even started thinking about what I could write about. It was on the second view that I noticed something quite cleverly laced into the story. When you look at the overarching theme of sci-fi, what do you notice that most films keep in common? There are actually quite a few similarities that are pretty easy to pick out: many are based in another world/universe or at least a dystopian earth-like planet; most have some form of alien presence/sentience or even robotic intelligence; a few deal with time travel, interstellar travel or digital travel but the most common thread through any science fiction story whether it be; an original story or an adaptation is in the cast of characters.
In almost every sci-fi film, nearly every film genre actually, our main characters consist of the following:
- A male protagonist who ultimately comes to discover that he has the power to determine the cosmos. Often meek to begin with, discover his true nature through the progress of the story.
(Star Wars – Luke & Anakin, Matrix - Neo, Maze Runner – Thomas, Interstellar – Cooper, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - Arthur)
- A sidekick or mentor who helps the protagonist determine their destiny. More often than not pseudo-comical, adding levity to the gravity of the story they're a part of.
(Star Wars – Obi-Wan & Han, Matrix – Morpheus, Maze Runner – Alby & Minho, Interstellar – Brand, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - Ford)
- A love interest (or plutonic female) of which the main character struggles to fight for. Whether it's a love interest or a familiar relationship, this character is often cast as a fighter but still needs to be rescued and is not the solution to the story.
(Star Wars – Leia & Amidala, Matrix – Trinity, Maze Runner – Teresa, Interstellar – Brand & Murphy, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - Trillian)
There are usually tons of filler characters including the villains natural or super, but in essence most sci-fi films follow the same character development and inclusion, except for Jupiter Ascending. This movie breaks the mold when it comes to its character inclusion in only the way a Wachowski film can manage. By all accounts and preconceptions we are led to believe that Channing Tatum’s character, Caine Wise, is the main protagonist of the film as he fits the mold of the classic sci-fi lead, and it’s understandable to watch the film with that assumption. Yet, I believe that it is in fact Mila Kunis’ character, Jupiter Jones, who truly shines as the genre busting protagonist in the movie. Now, before you tell me that Mila isn't the first female lead in a sci-fi film understand that I am fully aware that both Hunger Games & Insurgent break the same mold and have a female character as the protagonist in their films. But what Jupiter Ascending does is different. Both Hunger Games and Insurgent introduce you to strong willed female characters who are by all rights warriors in their own unique ways. Jupiter Ascending takes the female protagonist and sheds a new light which is refreshing to see and here’s why:
She is innocuous and unassuming in her down-to-earth introduction.
We meet Jupiter as she’s cleaning the homes of her wealthy neighbors, completely unaware of the bigger universe that she is about to step into. She wishes for a different life but at the same time understands her place in the world where she is currently. She spends her days on her knees and her nights trying to remember her father and have the family that she always dreamed of having.
More often than not, when we come across a female lead in a sci-fi, a true lead protagonist, she is a fighter, a rebel, a warrior princess or something along those lines. Jupiter is none of those. She is a Cinderella of sorts, forced into a less than luxurious lifestyle cleaning after those more fortunate. She suffers from a series of bad breaks back before she was even born. Her father is murdered, her mother suffers and ostracizes herself, she grows up knowing only one life, a life of servitude and sacrifice. You would never know the truth of who she is by looking at her.
She learns quickly how important she is and chooses not to run from it.
Not even halfway through the film we discover the truth of who Jupiter is, she is royalty within one of the most powerful alien dynasties, the House of Abrasax. She has the opportunity to run and hide from it all, but she willingly chooses to go with Caine and accept whatever comes her way, only to discover the truth of how integral she is to the story. After she meets Stinger, an ex-legionaire who explains to her what her life truly means; that she is the most important woman in the verse as she has a vast inheritance to be claimed. Jupiter is told that she is in fact the previous matriarch of Abrasas reborn through an identical genetic code (which can happen over the millennia that this alien dynasty can live through harvesting of over populated planets).
The original matriarch of the house is murdered and she leaves her 3 children to quarrel over their inheritance unless she is reborn again, a unique clause to add to her last will and testament ( I may even in jest add it to my own will someday). So needless to say, the previous Matriarch understood the gravity of the situation and hoped that in fact she would be 'reborn' into a new vessel who could alter the powers that be in the universe.
She understands that her decision will affect not only her, but the entire universe.
Near the end of the film Mila’s character is faced with a choice that no one would ever wish to decide - her family’s survival, the only family she has ever known, or the survival of the entire human population. This is the epitome of what a main protagonist in a sci-fi film must come to terms with. Every protagonist in every film comes to a point where they must decide: do I fight for my own life or the lives of those to come? Luke had to kill the emperor even though his own father would die, Morpheus had to surrender himself to save the next generation, Dylan had to risk the maze to find an escape for the group, Cooper had to leave his family in hopes of saving the next generations.
The decisions that affect the universe are paramount to a protagonist’s rise to infamy, if you will. Jupiter begins to understand what the repercussions could amount to once she interacts with each of the quarreling siblings over their inheritance and the fate of the earth and how it profits them each, and she chooses to fight for the universe even if it means losing the only family she’s ever known.
She accepts her fate, but chooses to remain true to who she is.
Jupiter was introduced as unassuming as she leaves the film, sort of. Throughout the entire film we watch Jupiter grow and develop into a woman worthy of the throne she’s entitled to, only to find her cleaning the ‘throne’ that she started on. Jupiter acknowledges her destiny as royalty, as owner of the entire planet Earth yet she chooses to stay with her family, because ultimately it’s all she’s ever known.
She does what few protagonists are able to do. She finds a balance between her past and her future and lives in the current. Although we end the movie at a sort of transitional phase for Jupiter, it’s assumed that she remains the same woman that she was before the film, only happier with a greater understanding of life itself.
The Wachowski's have outdone themselves with this film. I absolutely loved the protagonist twist of bringing us a beautiful female lead who isn't a warrior but instead is very relatable and a genuine woman who happens to be entitled to a nearly infinite treasure trove of worlds and wealth, but through her progression of learning the truth, she chooses to remain unchanged and live her life as it is what she treasures most. Ultimately, that's something that I believe we all could use a reminder of. No matter the circumstance, our own lives are the real treasure and Jupiter Jones helps show us that. That's what makes Jupiter Ascending transcend the sci-fi genre and remind us of our reality and what is truly worth treasuring.