Jupiter Ascends, But Doesn’t Quite Leave Orbit

So.

Jupiter Ascending. Quite a bit of hate for this movie.

First thing’s first. It’s not the horrible piece of shit everybody says it is. Not even close. It’s actually a pretty decent movie, standing on the precipice of being “good”.

I’m just not sure the story the Wachowskis had in mind was meant to be turned into a two-hour movie.

Watching this movie evoked the same feelings I had from watching Trinity Blood, in that I was being shown only a fraction of a grand, sprawling saga (with a shit-ton of backstory and world-building only hinted at and never explained). In the case of Trinity Blood, that was exactly the case: the 24-episode anime being a shitty Cliff’s Notes version of the 12-volume novel series.

Also it was boring as fuck.

I feel the same way with Jupiter Ascending (minus the “shitty” and “boring” parts). Whatever we’re shown on screen seems to be a painfully compressed adaptation of a massive, sprawling space opera, choppily edited and rushed through to fit a two-hour runtime.

In fact, it feels like a live-action adaptation of a 26-episode scifi space opera anime series. Thing is, the anime doesn’t exist. But maybe that’s what Jupiter Ascending should have been in the first place.

The pre-requisites are there. As I mentioned before, you have the massive space opera storyline. There’s so much backstory for the main characters waiting to be explored, potentially turning them into complex and believable personalities with their own motivations and beliefs.

You have an intricate mythology in place. You have the world-building (the whole universe is basically a big marketplace, with its own set of economic rules and bureaucracy). You have the main character waiting to grow out of the shell of timidity and become a power player in this game of intergalactic chess.

You have imaginative technology, intricately designed and used effortlessly in real-world situations. You have insane ship designs (that look like an evolution of the mecha designs from RahXephon).

You also have the two staples of space opera anime: hokey and borderline facepalm-inducing dialogue, and psychotic villains teetering between scary and campy.

You have an amazing musical score by Michael Giacchino, sounding like the love-child of Hiroyuki Sawano and Yoshihiro Ike. The action scenes look like something Studio BONES or Production I.G might’ve come up with. And the cinematography… dear lord that was GLORIOUS.

Jupiter Ascending feels like an anime. It could have been good anime, even a great one. It’s frustrating to realize how much potential it had to be so much more. The Wachowskis should have taken this world they developed and co-produced it with Sunrise or Studio BONES or Production I.G. They should’ve collaborated on the screenplay with Dai Sato.

But instead we got a 2-hour movie. Pure technical and artistic wizardry saddled with a crippled narrative (and Mila Kunis). Still, it kinda sorta works, and I’m very happy that I watched on the big screen.

But man, what it could have been.

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