Why Jupiter Acsending is like the Fifth Element on steroids (is Channing Tatum the new Bruce Willis but with more hair?)

We are in the midst of a rather merciless winter here – which for us is anything under 5 degrees. (We live by the ocean, people – we all know it’s supposed to warmer, closer to the ocean!) So all out door activity has been forthwith curtailed. I’m not sorry – it means that instead of pretending that I enjoy pruning 8 metre pear trees that are COMPLETELY out of control, I can instead hunker down, and hibernate with large amounts of chocolate, and glom on books and movies – like any sane and normal person should.

Musings are forthcoming on a movie…so if you entered the post looking for things-about-books, I am upfront shattering those illusions.

Sorry, not sorry.

Also: there be spoiler-ish water ahead.

I just watched Jupiter Ascending (2015, DVD) — and I am a little ashamed of my original dismissiveness when it was first released.
Can I say Mea Culpa?

And that’s not to say it’s not a hot mess – cos it totally is – BUT it is an AWESOME hot mess – which is a different elephant altogether…


For those of you unfamiliar with the plot:

Jupiter Jones suffers through a dissatisfied life as a cleaner with her mother and family. In an attempt to make some extra cash to buy a telescope, she agrees to sell her eggs (I know, right?) with the help of her cousin. It is during this procedure, that she is both attacked by, and rescued by, extraterrestrial agents.(Different ones) Jupiter learns that as a direct identical DNA match to nobility, she is actually an heiress of intergalactic nobility, owns earth (I KNOW RIGHT?) and must fight to protect the inhabitants of said Earth from an ancient and destructive industry.

Yeah — even as I try to summarise it – it sounds nuts.

This is before I tell you that the main hero (Channing Tatum) is actually a gene-spliced wolf hybrid creation called a lycantant; before I explain that the way Jupiter (Mila Kunis) is recognised as a royal is because the bees psychically smelt/sensed her; before I even attempt to rationalise the idea that the human species on Earth and countless other planets were established for the purpose of later “harvesting” to produce a type of youth serum for the elites, allowing them to live for millennia.

See? The more you try and grapple with the plot, the more it eludes you.

But the special effects are stunning, the costumes all kinds of awesome and the music so space opera-y in pitch – it is (if not perfect) then at least very enjoyable viewing.

I realise I am in a slight minority here, (25% on rotten tomatoes, with an average 4.2/10 – which is just kind of OUCH), BUT Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element is one of my top 15 favourite movies ever — and this movie is like Cinderella, The Wizard of Oz and the Fifth Element, had a DNA Splice with Battlefield Earth – and this was the result.

Jupiter Ascending (JA) is big, baroque and its few ideas of considerable import and serious points are all happily drowning in luminescent swarovski crystals and kinky leather costumes. But this is SPACE OPERA people – if there is ever a place for humanoid aliens, planetary destruction, power-mad despots and the idea that a single person can own earth? It’s in a space opera!

What struck me most was the parallels between The Fifth Element (TFE) and JA. Whilst the references and homages to practically every movie The Wachowskis ever watched abound so thickly, its like an overladen Christmas tree, there are these very distinct similarities between both films that intrigued lil ol me and I am posting to try and solidify them in my mind.

Aesthetically, the look is only slightly similar. Both have countless layers of crazy, over crowded worlds, elevated, multi-surfaced streets and cities, a seemingly unfathomable scale of buildings and technology, teeming ant-like peoples and space ships that buzz about every where.

But there are some dramatic differences: the planets of JA are rich in gothic arches, huge cathedral-like spaces filled with glass, overlooking burning orange vistas of their as-far-as-the-eye-can-see cities. They’ve had millennia to build, improve and create architectural beauty and it shows.

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Jupiter Ascending
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Jupiter Ascending

TFE, on the other hand, has a neon euro-centric aesthetic that happily embraces, incorporates and reuses the old with the new. Things are messy, space junk is everywhere; people are dirty, teeming with vermin and the streets are most definitely not paved with gold.

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The Fifth Element
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The Fifth Element

But both worlds are meticulously built, filled with glamorous excess and teaming with weird alien life forms and very bizarre creatures, their only function often being to add to the body count and blow up spectacularly.

Costumes are exquisite and completely over the top.

In TFE, designer Jean Paul Gaultier had his wicked way and unleashed over a thousand costumes onto the unsuspecting world. His designs tied the entire movie together – there was thematic colour coding, underwear as outer wear, and tongue-in-cheek references to actors pasts, other movies and the clothing often acted as a short-hand into what this futuristic society placed value on; all sewn up with synthetic rubber and plastic accents.

There is a fascinating post about Gaultier and the Fifth Element which delves into loads of geeky cool detail.

(click on below pics for close ups)

Sadly, although they tried, JA was just not as clever. Sure, it is complete costume porn and if sweeping framed shots of a good wedding dress is what floats your boat – then you should just watch the movie for this.

(Click on that wedding dress y’all, that is INSANE!)

Kym Barrett (of Strictly Ballroom, Romeo + Juliet, The Matrix, etc) was in charge of this one, but it was all just too much I’m-trying-to-impart-deep-wisdom-about-the-character-via-this-bias-cut-crystal-laden-leather-split-haute-couture-wanna-be.

It screams NOMINATE ME FOR A COSTUME AWARD DAMMIT!

JA looks like an excellent example of what happens when TOO much money is budgeted for costume. (Other excellent examples of movies that fit this bill: the whimsical and glittery turd that was Mirror Mirror, and the awkward potato that was Marie Antoinette…)

There is a little short by Swaroski, which is basically a promo for how nicely (and how much) they gave the movie – but it has some excellent shots of the clothes:

They also released a lookbook with all the costuming/world building details, which is definitely worth checking out.

The weirdest parallel is hands down the primary baddies. Eddie Redmayne in Jupiter plays Balem Abrasax;

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Jupiter-Balem

In TFE, Gary Oldman; Jean Baptiste Emanuel Zorg.

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  • Both are tall, thin and dark, with long faces and penchants for sweeping leather coats (although Balem prefers not to wear any shirts under his).
  • Both talk really really quietly and snap rage and scream at people for no reason at all. There are a lot of spitty phrases from both.
  • Both have crazy person eyes.
  • Both seem inherently fatigued by the work of being a unrepentant despot.
  • Both trace lingering (and creepy) fingertips across the heroine’s faces at inexplicable times.
  • Both have a down and out, get-dirty fight with the heroine and lose pathetically.
  • Both are bat shit crazy.

TFE and JA both feature female protagonists (Jupiter & LeeLoo) that start out dependent on other people (i.e the hero) to rescue them; they find themselves buffeted about by politics, paper trails and power; they are naive and almost die multiple times.

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Jupiter
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LeeLoo

Jupiter is more Cinderella and Dorothy, and Leeloo is kind of a hybrid Dorothy & Sleeping Beauty (perhaps crossed with a Little Red Riding Hood – you know, the one that ends up killing the wolf herself??)

Jupiter hates her life – hates its mundanity, its monotony, its desperate SAMENESS. She wants to escape, wants to be lifted up out of the anonymity and abject poorness. But when exactly that happens, all she really wants to do is go home. She bargains for the safety of her family, and the stars and space to which she always wished to escape suddenly become dangerous, and home becomes a touchstone.

She needs to save earth by fulfilling her destiny, but hers is through political manoeuvring first, and brute force second.

For Leeloo, also the saviour of the world, her touchstone is love. For her it is the driving reason behind saving a rather horrible humanity, and Korben Dallis (Bruce Willis) reluctant and world weary deliverer, is able to show her the reality of what that actually means.

Ahh – Bruce Willis – at his monosyllabic, jaded and down-trodden best. He is brutal when he needs to be, efficient in everything and manages to still look pretty hot in an orange singlet. (Harder than you would think).

Both Willis and Channing Tatum (who plays Caine Wise) rock unfortunate costumes throughout their movies. Between the bondage style rubber vests and straps, roller-blade-esque jet boots and guy-liner; neither one really escapes looking slightly ridiculous. But they both serve their roles as rescuers, heroes and reluctant caregivers over come by their tiny emotions for the beautiful heroines.

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KorbenDallis

They are focused, pragmatic and frown a lot at the camera to show their intensity of feeling; and though Tatum does have more hair, he doesn’t quite have the irreverent ironic-ness down pat.

Both movies are at their heart romances, with the obligatory saved-by-the-male and HEA (or at least HFN)

The thing though that makes TFE brilliant is that it spawned an entire sub-culture of references and quotes:

‘Are you classified as human?’

‘Negative, I am a meat popsicle.’

‘chiccken’

‘leelooo dallas mooltee-pass’

‘bzzzt! bzzzt!’

‘green – super green’

Unfortunately JA just isn’t quite there yet – but you never know, give it 15 or 20 years, and we may just be be calling it brilliant and cult-like as well.

BUT wouldn’t they make an excellent double feature?

The thing about both of these movies, which I love, is that there is no sitting on the fence with them – you either love them or hate them. You embrace them for their insanity, excess, convoluted-ness, complete lack of boundaries and sheer ridiculousness; or you don’t.

You might not like them, but they can not be ignored.

They are the platform boots, neon tights and permed hair of the movie world. They are obnoxious, completely caught up in their own fabulousness and think everyone should be JUST like them.

They have no logic, demand all of your attention and are of questionable taste.

BUT they are experiences, they are excess, they are insane, and, I think, they are almost masterpieces.

till next time kittens.

Valancy Blu: now craving astronaut bars from watching too many space operas

🙂

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