Jupiter Ascending is either as awesome–or as terrible–as you’ve heard. It’s not the kind of movie that can be seen as middle-of-the-road, given its Wachowski Brothers spin that sees The Matrix mashed up with Star Wars in a way that only the guys behind The Matrix Trilogy, V For Vendetta, and Speed Racer could create. It’s over-the-top, CGI, and galactic, with a cynical female lead (Mila Kunis) who draws the powers of the universe into an epic collision while spouting lines (“I love dogs”) in the most ridiculous settings. Love it or hate it, you’re all in either way.
Jupiter (Kunis) grows up with a deep-rooted desire to see the stars. What she doesn’t know is that she’s part of a semi-eternal clan of aliens who rule the galaxy, of which Earth is just a small part. (I told you, it’s galactic.) Jupiter cleans toilets, deals with her extremely lame family (one of them suggests she have her eggs harvested to help him get a bigger TV), and wishes she was anywhere else. However, all hell breaks loose on Earth when one of her alien siblings discovers she exists and wants to kill her to get her inheritance.
Thankfully, Jupiter isn’t alone: she’s got Channing Tatum, er, Caine Wise, part-dog, part-human soldier on her side. And Stringer (Sean Bean) jumps in out of loyalty, too. So, it’s Jupiter, Caine, and Stringer against the galactic forces of the Empire, er, House of Abrasax, headed up by Eddie Redmayne’s Balem. [Ironically, Balaam is the name of the prophet in Numbers 22:1-39 whose donkey speaks to him. Does that have anything to do with the film? Probably not, but with this melting pot of a flick, it’s always possible. Seriously, Redmayne’s character is an ass.]
Balem thinks that Earth should be his, mostly because his an insufferable bad guy who drips evil and refuses grace to his reptilian sidekicks. It’s all uphill battle for the final fight between Balem and Jupiter, but we know that nearly from the moment it’s all laid out by the beginning. The film itself doesn’t care how direct or obvious it is: it’s busy taking shots at immigration, diplomacy, the DMV, and how much it stinks to be a house cleaning maid. There’s plenty of sociological exploration of entitlement and classicism, too, that reads like a much more on-the-nose examination than Neil Blomkamp’s District 9. The Abrasax definitely think they’re due, and everyone else owes them. Because Jupiter didn’t believe in all of this from the get go, she’s more of a commoner-turned-queen (think Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy).
Overall, I found Jupiter Ascending to be entertaining in a campy sort of way. It’s derivative but it knows it. And it plays Kunis and Tatum off of each other, quite well. It wants us to be entertained, but it also asks us how much we accept about the world because someone else says so. What do you believe? Who tells you what your reality is? How do you determine what’s right and what’s wrong? From a pastor’s perspective, there are plenty of voices (like the different Abrasax siblings) who want to tell each of us what to believe [Editor’s note: consider what news station you watch, and which one you believe is ‘right’.] How we determine truth, and what we believe to be undeniably, unalterably, absolutely true shapes the way we live.
I believe undoubtably that Jesus Christ was God’s one and only Son, who died on the cross for everyone’s sins and rose again (Romans 1:16!) I’ve studied and seen it worked out, I’ve experienced God’s grace. I’m still learning and I’m sure the ways I understand God’s grace will grow. But this is truth – and not just because someone told me. I learned it but I had to unlearn some things, and I had to grow.
Just like Jupiter. She starts out naive and blind to the way the world works. Sean Bean’s Striker tells her, “I don’t believe that most people want to know the truth.” Jupiter says, “I want to know.” The truth about the galaxy follows, and her eyes are opened: she sees, and seeing changes everything.