I’ve been seeing tidbits about this movie here and there for months, but I only just took the time to check out the trailer. To my surprise, it actually looks like promising sci-fi fare—although I guess since it’s coming from the Wachowski sibs, I shouldn’t be surprised.
I’m really intrigued by this movie on a totally basic level, in that it’s an original-premise sci-fi movie that actually looks like it’s going to be really good. (Hell, even if it didn’t look intriguing I’d still be excited that someone out there is making non-derivative media.) But more than that, I’m interested to see the actors do their stuff. While ‘action hero’ is certainly not a big stretch for Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis is more well-known for her comedy chops, and Eddie Redmayne’s biggest onscreen role so far was as the naïve and emotional Marius Pontmercy in Les Misérables. Watching them portray an action heroine and a maniacal villain respectively is going to be an interesting departure from their usual oeuvre.
The basic story of Jupiter Ascending appears to be a time-honored plot: bad guy sits on the throne; true heir to the throne is discovered and challenges said bad guy; adventures ensue. The interesting twist to this story is that the heir in question is a young woman. In a subversion of the multitude of stories in which a highly competent lady plucks some nobody dude out of obscurity and plays second fiddle to him as he becomes the hero, it looks like Mila Kunis’s character Jupiter gets to come into her own with an assist from Channing Tatum’s Caine. Furthermore, the trailer shows her getting to be a well-rounded character—someone with dreams, problems, desires, and self-doubt, who grows into the heroic role she’s been given over the course of the movie. And especially important, considering Mila is one of the most sexualized women in Hollywood, she does most of this either in a flannel shirt and jeans or an elegant floor-length gown. It’s almost like the Wachowskis think that a female-led action flick can draw audiences or something.
The movie even neatly sidesteps the “white people and aliens” problem that sci-fi often falls into. While most of the cast is pretty white, we do actually get a protagonist of color, as Mila Kunis is ethnically Jewish. The cast also includes Gugu Mbatha-Raw, whom Doctor Who fans may recognize as Martha’s sister Tish.
The only thing that could make the movie a little better would be a lack of heteronormative romance plots, or at least a queer romance with equal billing. There isn’t any suggestion of that in the trailer, but the trailer also doesn’t give us much information about anyone but Jupiter herself. Given that Lana Wachowski is one of the highest-profile trans creators in the film industry, and that she surely understands the necessity of positive representation, I’d hope that there is some sort of nod to the LGBTQ+ community in the story.
All that said, Jupiter Ascending looks like it’s going to be both a win for representation and a damn good movie on its own terms. Hopefully my hopes won’t be dashed when it hits theaters February 6th.