So my reaction to this movie was pretty similar to a lot of other reviewers’. Basically: “It was so awful, BUT I LOVED IT.” There were so many things wrong with the movie, but it somehow managed to keep me riveted and genuinely enjoying it for the duration, and I’m not sure why.
Things wrong with this movie:
- The romance is AWFUL. We’re supposed to believe that the characters have fallen in love with each other, in fact large parts of the plot depend on this, but like… it would be literally impossible for the characters to fall in love because they don’t know anything about each other because there’s nothing to know?
- Seriously, who are these people? I know nothing about them. I mean, I know that Jupiter is an immigrant maid and Caine is a disgraced soldier, but their personalities? Interests? Hopes and dreams? What do they do in their spare time? What do they think about… about anything? I got nothing.
- And it’s really, really not that hard to write a convincing romance, and flesh out the characters at the same time. All you have to do is take out five minutes of explosions, and add five minutes of the characters talking quietly, sharing some intimate details about each other while looking into each others’ eyes, because that’s how people fall in love!!
- The Wachowskis don’t have time for your “show don’t tell” bullshit. There are things happening! More things are happening! Explosions! Aliens! We can’t possibly slow down long enough to explain all this stuff to you by showing. Listen up while this character explains everything in quick soundbites, because that’s all we got time for. More things!
- Jupiter has no agency. I’m sorry, she doesn’t. She is dragged around, manipulated, she falls a lot, and is caught by Caine. She makes one very big decision at the end, but other than that, she’s basically a pawn.
- It kind of works? Jupiter is kind of every 14-year-old’s wish fulfillment. She gets to leave her boring, monotonous life and discovers that she’s a SPACE PRINCESS and omg everyone is paying attention to her and she gets to wear pretty dresses and go toe-to-toe with clever sparring diplomat-types. And there’s a mysterious, brooding guy with his shirt off a lot, and he’s a little scary and she probably shouldn’t be into him, but she is anyway, and no one can tell her no. Oh, and she gets a fancy glowing tattoo that shows that she’s a princess. SO COOL.
- The breakneck “this is the way it is, okay ACTION!” actually kind of works too? You kind of feel like you’ve already been here, like either you’ve already been introduced to this world, and the soundbites are just for the newbies, or else like this is just the way things are, and you should know about it because, um, you live here.
- Sean Bean is an alien bee guy, but also inexplicably northern (probably because “lots of planets have a north” x) He’s part bee, guys! SEAN BEE!
- Eddie Redmayne. I seriously can’t. He’s an ancient space capitalist with a tortured, evilpast, and I TOTALLY BOUGHT IT. I can’t even argue about this.
- There’s a space-ship with a plucky crew a la Firefly, and I’m not sure where they came from or why they’re helping Jupiter, but the captain is a badass black lady and I’m totally down.
- This film is BEAUTIFUL. It just is, it’s glorious. Rich sumptuous colours, lots of burnished golds and hardwoods, and then giant cathedral-looking factories on Jupiter (the planet) and a gorgeous planet that looks like Rivendell in space, and really cool, well-thought out space-ship designs, and the 3D is EXCELLENT. I actually flinched from something coming towards me at one point, because I’d forgotten I was wearing the glasses.
- The plot is actually really good too. A lot of people complain about it being predictable and/or confusing, but I really, really enjoyed it, and thought it was well done.
I mean, I could go on about it for ages, but the fact is, even though there were glaring issues with the film, I really did enjoy it. And I wonder if that says something about what we think a film needs to have to be a “good film” and whether or not it’s true. I wonder if it says something about our review culture that we can fill in a check box like, “this film did this wrong and this wrong and this wrong and therefore it’s a bad film” but it’s really not?
Or maybe movies lately have just been so bad that the bar is set really low. I don’t know. All I know is that I got genuine enjoyment out of this movie, despite my being able to tell, theoretically, that it was a “bad movie.” And I think that’s really interesting.
Also, the space-scapes are awesome.