Mark A. Carter

A study in greed, narcissism, and

World famous Canadian Science Fiction writer Mark A. Carter rethinks his initial film review of Jupiter Ascending entitled: "Jupiter Ascending: stink, stank, stunk."

I was extremely harsh in my February 06, 2015 review of the 2015 space opera Jupiter Ascending, directed by Lana and Andy Wachowski, and Grant Hill, and produced by Village Roadshow, as were so many other critics after its release. But upon seeing it again, I would like to comment on what works in the film and what doesn't.

Without a doubt, the initial release delay was well worth the wait to get the special effects just right. And the CGI is truly amazing. The spaceship designs were out there like Pluto so far in advance of anything seen on screen before that it makes the Enterprise of Gene Roddenberry's original Star Trek series look embarrassingly amateurish and the Enterprise of the J.J. Abrams 2009 Star Trek film as well as the 2013 Star Trek into Darkness film look predicable and unimaginative. The designs in JA were varied from battle cruisers to flying motorcycles. But the most elegant and impressive ships were the vessels with moveable wings resembling bird feathers. They were truly remarkable.

Abrasax bird-like starships from Jupiter Ascending

© 2015 Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved.
But the brief concepts that were introduced were utterly mind blowing. We have all asked the questions: why are we here; what is the purpose of life; where did we come from; and are we alone in the galaxy? All four questions are answered in a perfunctory manner in JA. Human beings originated on the planet Oris a billion years ago and were seeded on Earth one hundred thousand years ago by the Abrasax Industries. The Earth is literally a farm and human beings are a product, a literal crop to be harvested when they have exceeded their resources. Why? Every one hundred people can be refined to produce a liter of liquid sometimes called Regenix, or Recell, or Nectar that instills extended life, which is used by the House of Abrasax. It is mentioned that the now deceased Matriarch Seraphi Abrasax, who was killed by her son Balem, had extended her life for over ninety thousand years.

In fact, the whole purpose of Abrasax Industries is to garner the refined product of human beings to extend the lives of the House of Abrasax. It raises the question: is this business model sustainable; or, are there others whose lives are also extended and who have to pay handsomly for the privilege? The film does not answer these questions.

Needles intrude into the body everywhere to suck out precious liquids.

Human harvest from Jupiter Ascending © 2015 Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved.

 The psychology in the film is narcissistic and oedipal, if not outright sociopathic. This is the perversion that surfaces in an old dynasty. We see absolute power corrupting absolutely. And we see carnal pleasure running rampant. Kalique loved her mother and wants her genetic recurrence installed as Matriarch once again, but to what ulterior motive? Balem is narcissistically in love with himself. He killed his mother for the pleasure of it, although he insists that she begged him to do it. And he desires to kill Jupiter Jones because she has claimed the Matriarch's wealth. We witness Titus narcissistically having sex with a dozen female aliens simultaneously. It is he who wishes to marry the genetic recurrence of his mother, and nonchalantly kill her to inherit her wealth. But what seems sicker still about Balem, Kalique, and Titus, is the notion that the harvesting of a human crop doesn't bother them in the least. They are utterly self-absorbed. When they visit the harvested alien world Zantar near the outset, they show no pity or remorse. There is only the notion of a cash crop harvested and the wealth it garners. There is no altruism. There is only narcissism. There is only the idle speculation that the humans feel no discomfort while they are being harvested, which is a polite euphemism for killed and processed.

Titus to Kalique:   Have you ever seen a harvest?
Kalique:   Oh no ... but I've heard they feel no pain. It's all quite humane from what I've been told.
Titus:   There are marshals and administrators to make sure everything is done to code but still ... it can be rather affecting.
Kalique:   Now you sound like mother.
Balen:   Most of them are miserable in their lives and what we do for them is a mercy.

Two interesting things were mentioned in the film about the House of Abrasax and two were shown. We are told that the Abrasax Industries is responsible for the death of the dinosaurs sixty-five million years ago. And we are told that one hundred thousand years ago Abrasax Industries seeded Earth with human beings that were gene spliced with an indigenous species. We see the two Rings of Oris upon which the Abrasax family lives in space orbiting their home world in some unknown part of the galaxy. And we see Balem's Regenix refinery hidden deep within Jupiter's Red Spot, in our solar system, close to his crop of human beings on planet Earth.

Rings of Oris from Jupiter Ascending

© 2015 Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved.
Despite Kalique's efforts to save Jupiter Jones and see her receive the inheritance of Seraphi Abrasax, the plot does not progress much beyond the attempts to kill Jupiter. We witness the initial attempt to kill her from the outset at the Volo Women's Health & Fertility Clinic on the orders of Balem. We see Titus attempt to trick her into marriage, with plans to kill her soon after the ceremony, and inherit her wealth. And we witness Balem attempt to kill her directly, in a repeat performance of his mother's murder, within the damaged confines of his red spot complex near the end.
The cybernetic being named Gemma Chatterjee and the robot lawyer named Advocate Bob invoked feelings of strangeness known as the uncanny valley. But the aliens were another matter. Alien greys, known as "Keepers, from the Dioride System, genetically repurposed to act as monitors and watchdogs," according to Caine Wise, were first seen in Katharine Dunlevy's home. Next, masquerading as human doctors and nurses via screen memory, these terrifying aliens attacked and attempted to kill Jupiter at the fertility clinic. They are revealed as aliens when human/wolf hybrid Caine Wise begins his attack to free JJ from their grasp.

The marriage ceremony between Titus Abrasax and Jupiter Jones

from Jupiter Ascending © 2015 Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved.

But the feather-faced owl alien, the spoon-eared female alien named Gugu Mbatha Raw, and the elephant-faced alien named Nesh seemed puerile and as far-fetched as the aliens in the bar scene from the 1977 sci-fi film Star Wars, now renamed A New Hope, directed by George Lucas. But the most unrealistic aliens were the flying reptiles which were better suited to a sword and sorcery film than to sci-fi and were merely a larger version of the flying monkeys from the 1939 fantasy film The Wizard Of Oz, directed by Victor Fleming and King Vidor. Plus, did anyone really believe that such bulky lizards could fly on skin-thin bat wings ... really? Remember, sci-fi has to make sense.

The costumes were elaborate, elegant, seductive, and utterly impressive. They were designed in a style befitting a futuristic dynasty with good artistic taste. In many ways, the costumes were stylistically similar to the formal attire worn by the Emperor Shaddam IV and his entourage in the 1984 sci-fi film Dune, directed by David Lynch, although in the latter the costumes appeared antiquated to match the archaic architecture, and the clunky and simplistic spaceships.

Balem, Titus, and Kalique Abrasax wearing formal attire

on Zantar: a world that has been harvested recently

from Jupiter Ascending © 2015 Warner Bros. All Rights Reserved.
Two parts of the film were "oh come on' moments. The first should have been reduced. The second should have been cut altogether. The first was the eight minute long fifty-two part chase scene that shows Jupiter Jones and Caine Wise fleeing from aliens shortly after he rescues her from the clinic. It took six months to film, was way too long, and should have been edited for time. But the most tedious part of the film was the bureaucratic red tape that JJ is forced to endure to be certified as the genetic recurrence of Seraphi Abrasax and rightful heir to her wealth. It is meant to be funny and even includes a scene with Terry Gilliam as the Seal and Signet Minister, but ironically the irony doesn't work. It falls flat, is boring beyond belief, and should have been left on the cutting room floor.

I was originally disappointed in the lack of further plot and continue to be. But at least now I can appreciate that JJ chooses to return to Earth to live and to work with a family that she almost lost, to cleaning toilets by day; and to cavorting with human/wolf hybrid Caine Wise over the skies of Chicago by night; all the while being the secret owner and protector of the human race and of planet Earth.

What this film needs desperately is a sequel in which Jupiter Jones embraces her full status as Queen Abrasax and not merely morning coffee maker to her mother, toilet bowl cleaner in the family business, and the potential future mother of a litter of puppies.

Oh my ...


The 2015 film Jupiter Ascending by Andy and Lana Wachowski is copyright © Village Roadshow Pictures and Anarchos Productions and is distributed by Warner Brothers and Roadshow Entertainment. All Rights Reserved.

Read: Cry havoc and let slip the cans of apocalypse
Ex Machina
Jupiter Ascending
The Martian
2001: A Space Odyssey
Artificial Super-Intelligence
Can a machine think?
Conceptual Breakthrough
Doomsday Revisited
Future War
IBM Builds Brain
Killer Robots
Robot Takeover
We May Exist in a Simulation

Now you know.

from the imagination of Mark A. Carter - writer

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