Saturday, July 04, 2015

Honourable Mention: Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter Ascending was the 2015 space opera by the Wachowskis and I was very tempted just to run a review as vampirism (in a form) is at the core of the film and the main antagonists could all be said to be vampires (indeed the V word is mentioned in film). Ultimately, however, it is so undersold that I just went for a mention.

That the Wachowskis had a vampiric theme in their film is to be expected – they had one in the Matrix sequels also. That assertion may cause an initial look of consternation but remember that the other media they released at the time was meant to be cannon. The hint we got was in the Matrix Reloaded when the Merovingian guards are watching the Brides of Dracula. However, expanding on this, in the video game Enter the Matrix (that runs parallel with Reloaded) you actually battle those guards and they must be staked when subdued as they are vampires.

Mila Kunis as Jupiter
So, previous connections aside, Jupiter Ascending is about a young woman, Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), whose family are illegal aliens in the US, and who works as a cleaner. She finds herself targeted by the secret off-world elite, including the current owner of the Earth, as she is set to inherit the Earth and much of the known universe. She is helped to survive by one of the persons originally sent to capture her, Caine Wise (Channing Tatum). We are in a universe where the earth is a colony, unaware that it is a colony, and humanity's reach is across much of space. Genetics are all, and a person's will often has a clause set within it for recurrences – people born with absolutely identical genetics to the person who left the will. Jupiter is the recurrence of the (murdered) matriarch of the Abrasax family.

Kalique and Jupiter
So, vampires? Jupiter first meets Kalique Abrasax (Tuppence Middleton) who tells Jupiter that she is millennia old. Jupiter asks if they are some sort of vampire race and Kalique denies it, only suggesting that they are the source of many of the myths. She bathes in a glowy liquid and, when she emerges, she is younger. This is the product that the Abrasax family produce and Kalique suggests it offers more time (by revitalising or recoding genes, which naturally have built in expiration).

essence of human - bottled
Later, with Titus Abrasax (Douglas Booth), Jupiter sees a room full of vials of the product. It is here that she learns that the core ingredient of the product is people, roughly 100 people making one vial. The colony planets are farms, where the humans are left to grow and evolve and – when at a point that the planet can no longer sustain them – they are harvested. The bathing in human essence to maintain youth and longevity, the consumption of others to maintain the self, is clearly a form of vampirism (and, whilst bloodless, reminiscent of the legends of Erzsébet Báthory). There is also a Marxist element as Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne) suggests that the inhabitants of earth are just there to be exchanged into capitol.

the Abrasax children
The film itself is a fun, visually impressive space opera – so long as too much thought was not put into it by the viewer, for instance the common use of English is not explained via a “translator” explanation despite language being mentioned (Jupiter’s family often fall back to Russian and the head of the household insists they use English) and the unknown intergalactic elite being the root of an Earth legend. However, when some 2015 movies realised the heroine didn’t need to be reliant on the male lead (Mad Max: Fury Road), this had Jupiter front, centre and in the title but absolutely reliant on rescue by Caine all the way through.

into the Eye
As I first watched it I was left less with a sense of it being its own vehicle but more that it was an impressive test reel to persuade the world that the Wachowskis could remake Flash Gordon – especially the effects as a space craft enters the Eye of Jupiter (reminding me of the Imperial Vortex). The look of many of the guards, the fact that Mila Kunis reminds me of Ornella Muti and even the idea that Jupiter had to be rescued, by daring flight through weaponry, from a wedding, all fed into this feeling.

The imdb page is here.

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