Jupiter Ascending is like the dream you might have, if you fell asleep on the couch after a heavy meal, probably involving alcohol (not beer, though; or even wine–too common. Absinthe or chartreuse), in a room with an Art Deco book on the coffee table and a Matrix poster on the wall, where your roommate was marathoning science fiction movies like Dune and The Fifth Element. Which is a pretty specific set of circumstances, come to think of it.
What I mean is, like a dream it lacks all coherence, you can’t recount what happened in it once you wake up, and though it looked pretty cool (my dreams always look cool, don’t know about you guys), you can only enjoy it because you were asleep. It’s terrible in a way that we don’t even have words for, so terrible that even now, having seen it, I’m not sure what I saw or if I actually saw it. As in dreams, characters come and go without explanation or purpose, conversations occur that seem to their participants to convey meaning but are actually nonsense, the scene jumps from place to place with no explanation so that a new nonsense conversation can take place.
And then, at the end, Channing Tatum has wings. Because at this point, why not. (Actually, my favorite part of watching this film was when Tatum’s character ripped his shirt off, and one of the teenage girls in the front of the audience gasped audibly. It was almost as great as the shirtless scene in Thor 2, when a woman in the audience actually yelled, “OH MY GOD!”)
It’s like the worst YA book* you’ve ever read, and the most frustrating, because it seems full of interesting ideas, ideas with a lot of potential for a cool story, but none of them are fully thought out or employed effectively, and then there are so many elements thrown in because why not? They are just cool. So what you have is idea salad, but no story, and that’s a shame, because Art Deco Vampire Space Royalty, and a beautiful Space Princess and Wolf Angel Boy who have to Put A Stop to their Evil, sounds like a really cool story, doesn’t it? Or maybe just a dream.
*Just to make it clear, I’m not bashing YA. I love YA, and many of my favorite books are marketed as YA. But even the most ardent YA fan has to admit that there are a looooot of terrible books on the shelves in the YA section, and that terrible YA has a different flavor than terrible SF or terrible romance or terrible fantasy. Some books–and some movies–are just terrible, and that is fact, but that fact doesn’t condemn a whole genre. Cool?