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Yes, Your Majesty: how Jupiter Ascending FINALLY gave girls a sci-fi movie all their own

Jupiter Ascending was the best Valentine’s Day present I could give myself.

Understand, my romantic/sexual interest in Channing Tatum is a flat zero. But I would still gladly accept him, in his wolf-eagle-hybrid incarnation, as my personal bodyguard. The eyeliner is also a must, because I believe all men should wear eyeliner.

Compared to my last sci-fi movie infatuation (Interstellar), Jupiter Ascending is a shallow movie. And that is just fine. Some movies are just meant to look splendid (and boy, does this one ever) and also be a two-hour bundle of a certain demographic’s lifelong inner fantasy.

For once, that target demographic is not male. This movie is, dare I say, completely unconcerned with pleasing any men in the audience.

As in my Interstellar review, I am trying to capture what made this movie just so wonderful; why, as I watched it, I thought, “I need to buy this the second the DVD is released” even though I never thought with Interstellar. I just want to leave it running on my TV in the background while I do chores. That would bring joy to my life.

Jupiter Ascending embodies several time-tested tropes popular in stories beloved by women, particularly by young girls. Tropes such as:

  • Rags-to-royalty
  • The sexy, devoted bodyguard
  • Amazing dresses and clothes and opulent buildings
  • A glamorous wedding WITHOUT any of the downsides of actual marriage
  • Sci-fi magic that basically gives you the ability to FLY
  • An entire species (such as bees) lovingly attuned to you

Also, it contains sci-fi tropes that are bulletproof for me, including:

  • A sleek device that, once again, gives you the ability to effortlessly fly
  • Futuristic shields
  • Creative imaginings of alien/futuristic societies that have quite familiar, recognizable features (like mind-numbing bureaucracy and those golden Roman-esque statues)
  • Theories that seem radical, convenient, and entirely plausible all at once (like that the human species didn’t originate on earth, thus allowing for “aliens” who look just like us but have better technology)
  • Answers provided for really big yet often ignored questions, like “why didn’t anyone notice us destroying half of Chicago’s skyscrapers”

Now I’m going to step aside to someone who’s already captured what makes this movie such a gift for girls and women: Toast user braak, who provided the reason I decided to see this movie after the trailer left me cold:

A thing that I think is super-fascinating, and that I hope someone at some point writes about, is this idea about Jupiter Ascending as a sort of Tumblr-centric movie. Someone pointed that out to me, “This movie was basically written for Tumblr”, which is very much the same as “Fanfic, the movie,” and also someone else has pointed out that the audience is sort of split with women really liking it and men being confused by it (though I am myself a man, and other men I know also like it — possibly because of my aggressively contagious enthusiasm for it, I have also perceived this schism).

I think this is also related to descriptions of it as “garbage”, “trashy”, or people acting like they feel “guilty” for liking it.

The thing is, Fanfic and Tumblr aren’t, like, alien attitudes towards story or something. Tumblr and fanfic are just these avenues of story where people (often women) are able to make the stories that they want when they’re being excluded from control over mainstream storytelling, and all of the marginalizations of stories like this are a part of the broader marginalization of sort of…well, I won’t say “feminist” exactly, but I think feminine stories might be accurate.

This is a Space Opera Romance Novel, as opposed to a Space Opera Action Movie, and it’s just confusing the hell out of people — like, they can’t understand how Jupiter can be a character who does things and makes decisions but also just is not good at fighting at all and never becomes good at fighting, they don’t see any appeal in the explicit and impicit feminization of Channing Tatum’s avatar of masculinity (i.e, his quest for companionship, accepting his feelings, that part where she treats his wound with a maxi pad), the fact that the movie isn’t about her destiny to destroy the space empire or kill the space dragon or something but instead embraces traditionally “feminine” virtues like humility, family, and home.

That says everything I could possibly say about it, but better. There is nothing left to say but these other highly illuminating points (by the same writer):

Eddie Redmayne whispers like a cut-rate Voldemort for the entire movie, except for the times when he explodes in high camp melodramatic screaming.

Mila Kunis’ extended Russian family that seems like someone was at least 1% interested in what the immigrant experience in America was like.

Sean Bean is a man with the genetics of a bee so that he has the loyalty of bees. At one point, he musters up every ounce of working-class Yorkshireman gravitas to deliver a monologue on the virtues of bees.

Consistently eroticizes male nudity but de-eroticizes female nudity.

Space alien humans who believe that “genetic recurrences” are basically reincarnation, and so they include their future selves in their own wills.

One of the villains has a spaceship adorned with gold statues on the outside, and whose hangar bay is lit by crystal chandeliers.

Sean Bean and Channing Tatum flying winged robot battle armor through ten million geometry space-mines to stop a space-wedding in which an evil aristocrat tries to marry the reincarnation of his dead mother.

Oedipal space-wedding is attended solely by an audience of robots.

When given the choice between saving her family and preventing earth from being harvested (i.e., everyone gets killed and turned into bathwater for vampire space-Bathorys), Mila Kunis is straight up ready to let her family die.

Ruthlessly anti-capitalist Marxist parable that includes genocidal space-vampire capital class and the working classes being LITERALLY DEHUMANIZED by getting spliced with animal DNA so that they can perform their jobs more effectively.

The movie is basically the same plot as an old-fashioned Regency Romance.

This is all true. True and wonderful.

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