Jupiter Ascending, or, The 2014 Channing Tatum Initiative Revisited



The 2014 Channing Tatum Initiative wasn’t the most successful venture I’ve ever set out on, but where the Initiative failed me spiritually and ruined me financially it did prepare me mentally for the idea of going to see Jupiter Ascending, the latest big budget sci-fi spectacular from The Wachowskis. The movie was originally supposed to be released in 2014 before being pushed to the cinematic no man’s land of February.

It didn’t look great, but it looked fun enough, and because of The 2014CTI I’d already committed, in my head, to seeing the movie. So, with a cautious sense of adventure, I saw the movie.

Five minutes into Jupiter Ascending I found out the name of the main character, played by Mila Kunis, is Jupiter.


About half an hour later I found myself wondering how many people could have been fed by the film’s reported $200 million budget.

I know, I know, that’s not fair. That $200 million was never going to feed anyone. But Jupiter Ascending held my attention so poorly that that’s how far my mind wandered. Questions are what I kept myself occupied with during the movie’s two hour run time, and Jupiter Ascending prompted many, chief among them the gnawing inquiry “why is this happening to me?” Or more specifically, “how is this happening to me?”

Channing Tatum is a half-wolf man with anti-gravity roller blades that operate exactly like roller blades. Sean Bean is part bee and his name is Stinger. The primary antagonists in the film are pompous space aristocrats, poor, two-dimensional Joffrey caricatures that are so detestable you’d probably rather sit through a film entirely free of any conflict than watch another one of their puzzlingly performed monologues.

Don't worry about it.

Don’t worry about it.

So how did Jupiter Ascending get some $200 million dollars? I don’t know. I’m still trying to grapple with how it got my $10.

The film is at once imagination unshackled ($200,000,000!) and imagination constricted (rollerblades). There are a handful of cool ideas here, primarily genetic recursion and Channing Tatum, but they’re all taken in absurdly uninteresting directions with such precision as to feel intentional.

Perhaps Jupiter Ascending was born long after its own time. Maybe if it had been penned by Edgar Rice Burroughs in a pulp magazine before the First World War it would have thrived. I can picture myself reading it in a dusty old science fiction anthology and being charmed by its interplanetary romance, but on Friday night on the smallest screen at my local multiplex I felt like I was being purposefully antagonized.

Jupiter Ascending might have bewildered in 1915, but in 2015 it’s a movie with a dragon man wearing a leather jacket at which I had exactly no fun. An achievement of sorts to be sure.


If you’d like to have Jupiter Ascending recounted in full, obscenely, check out episode four of Beat by Beat, a Pony Tricks Podcast.  Also available on iTunes.


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