When trying to coax my friends, relatives and strangers on the street into watching Jupiter Ascending, I sometimes find myself relying on descriptions as overblown as the visual effects used in the movie itself.
“Jupiter Ascending,” I tell them, “is a hot mess dipped in red glitter and flung into space.”
“Jupiter Ascending is a critique of capitalism with Eddie Redmayne in a tits-out sparkle cape.”
“Jupiter Ascending has lizard men and floaty spaceships and Channing Tatum is gratuitously shirtless for a third of the movie.”
“Jupiter Ascending,” I say my hands clasped to my chest and my eyes sparkling with delight, “is fun.”
Fun is very important here. I want you to remember that word, because along with that word comes the tie in ‘enjoyable.’ Jupiter Ascending is enjoyable. It’s fun. It’s a glitter-fest, bizarre, Terry Gilliam-esque thrill ride through a world we barely scratch the surface of, and Channing Tatum has rocket boots.
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[pullquote]Jupiter Ascending is a critique of capitalism with Eddie Redmayne in a tits-out sparkle cape. Jupiter Ascending has lizard men and floaty spaceships and Channing Tatum is gratuitously shirtless for a third of the movie.[/pullquote]
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is not fun. Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 is the kind of movie squeezed through the sphincters of various film executives until not one shred of creativity or intelligence remains. It’s the kind of movie that groups the population of the world into one giant, homogenous, flesh-coloured blob that chuckles gurgily at jokes revolving around flatulence and fat-shaming.
If I had some sort of measuring stick, Jupiter Ascending (a gorgeous, ambitious feast for the eyeballs) would be on one end, and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 (a tired piece of cinematic crap) would be on the other. Yet both these movies have been placed in the same category by this year’s Razzie awards. Jupiter Ascending has been nominated for Worst Picture, Worst Actress, Worst Actor, Worst Supporting Actor, Worst Director and Worst Screenplay. It shares four of those categories with Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2.
Perhaps you enjoyed Jupiter Ascending. Perhaps you agree with many professional critics and found it to be unstructured, bizarre and Just Plain Terrible. Either way, this movie absolutely does not deserve these Razzie nominations, and I’m donning my glitter-cape and sitting on my floating capitalism throne to tell you exactly why. In order to explain why this movie doesn’t deserve the hate it receives, I’m going to put aside my own bias and examine hard facts.
It’s no secret that Jupiter Ascending received a critical response that was below lukewarm at best – it’s current Rotten Tomatoes score is 26%. The film shares its Razzie nomination for Worst Picture with four other movies.
Let’s ignore 50 Shades of Grey for the moment because it ties in with a point I’m going to make later on – just bear in mind that both it and Jupiter Ascending have the highest Rotten Tomatoes score in that list. Now, let’s take a look at the Rotten Tomatoes scores of some different 2015 movies.
Where are the Razzies for these movies? Jupiter Ascending’s Rotten Tomatoes score is pretty crappy, but it’s not as dismal as Survivor’s meagre 7% approval rating, or even The Transporter’s 17%. Unfinished Business got an “honourable mention” by the Razzie committee at 11%, so why is Jupiter Ascending the one being nominated?
There were critics who had plenty of good things to say about Jupiter Ascending. In CinemaScore polls conducted during the opening weekend, audiences gave Jupiter Ascending an average grade of “B-” on an A+ to F scale. Polygon named Jupiter Ascending number 8 on the staff’s list of the top 10 films of 2015. Even the lukewarm comments conceded the film’s grandiose risk-taking, with David Blaustein for ABC news radio stating that “Jupiter Ascending is a campy visual sci-fi spectacle that could very well become a cult classic.”[pullquote]What I take from most of the criticism directed at this movie is that many people are of the opinion that “It’s Girly So It’s Stupid.”[/pullquote]
What I take from most of the criticism directed at this movie is that many people are of the opinion that “It’s Girly So It’s Stupid.” Things that women enjoy and engage in have long been derided by general society. Fashion is frivolous, makeup is vain, boybands are stupid.
Back when the majority of computer programmers were women, it was considered an ‘easy’ job like typing or filing. It was only when disgruntled male programmers strategically forced women out that the public perception of computer programming changed. With that in mind, let’s harken back to my previous point – I’m no fan of 50 Shades of Grey, it’s a creepy portrayal of an abusive relationship and it deserves a Razzie for that alone. But it also appeals hugely to women, and both it and Jupiter Ascending are the highest rated movies nominated for Razzie awards.
It can’t be denied that the movie seems to have resonated strongly with female fans. Something to take into account is the fact that 760 of the critics on Rotten Tomatoes are men, while only 168 are women. Regardless, women all over the world have launched themselves with gleeful joy into the Jupiter Ascending fanbase. Baker-Whitelaw described the film as “catnip for a certain subset of geeky, self-aware young women,” adding that it “is dumb, and weird, and beautiful, and it wants you to be happy.” In fact, much criticism stems from the fact that it has been labelled as “wish-fulfilment for teenage girls.” James Nicoll summed up all appropriate responses to that sentiment when he said:
I have seen this movie denounced as a fourteen-year-old girl’s space fantasy filmed on a nearly two-hundred-million dollar budget. Well, I can see how people would think that. But even if I grant the point, the result is firmly within the mainstream of science fiction, sharing themes and ideas with several Hugo-winning works. In any case, the film is a pleasant change from the usual SF movie fare: a fourteen-year-old boy’s space fantasies filmed on a nearly two-hundred-million dollar budget.
Let’s ignore the fact that there were other films more obviously deserving of a Razzie. Let’s ignore the fact that the Razzies seem to be playing for laughs, and it was funny to mock Jupiter Ascending when it came out so it’s (apparently) still funny a year later. Let’s ignore what looks to be a case of “Only Women Like This And That Doesn’t Count.” Let’s ignore the passionate fanbase that the film has inspired.[pullquote]50 Shades of Grey also appeals hugely to women, and both it and Jupiter Ascending are the highest rated movies nominated for Razzie awards.[/pullquote]
Instead, let’s take a second to agree that Jupiter Ascending was something we don’t see very often. At a time when studios are falling back on old hackneyed plot devices and storylines in a bid to generate profits, real risk-taking and ambition are rare. Whether or not you thought it was a good movie, you have to agree that it was out there. It pushed against the lines drawn in the sand and went for operatic levels of action, world-building and glorious visuals.
At the end of the day, Jupiter Ascending was a unique, individual film that took a chance.
But sure. Throw some Razzies at it.