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Does It Matter if the Plot of 'Jupiter Ascending' Is Any Good?

Mar 27, 2014 | 2:30pm EDT

Space dragons, giant planets, Channing Tatum with elf ears. The new trailer for Jupiter Ascending has all of that and then some. The first original film from the Lana and Andy Wachowski since the Matrix trilogy, the film is set in a future where the universe, and the humans who live in it, are ruled by gods. Tatum's character Caine is a hunter who has been sent by the Queen of the Universe to kill Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis), a janitor, who she believes is a threat to her rule. However, once they meet, Caine recognizes that Jupiter has the same perfect genetic makeup as the queen, which means that she could be the next ruler of all things intergalactic... if they can keep her alive long enough to get her to the throne.

None of the trailers realeased for the film so far have taken the time to explain the plot, choosing instead to highlight Jupiter's ability to make bees swirl around her and Eddie Redmayne's planetary infinity pool. The Queen who is so central to the story of Jupiter Ascending is barely made mention of, and there's no hint of what kind of role Sean Bean's character plays, despite being given a decent amount of screentime in the the clip.

The Wachowskis have thus far kept many of the film's details under wraps, so the Internet at large doesn't seem to hold any more answers than the trailers do. While much of this secrecy is likely to keep spoilers from being revealed ahead of the film's release, the lack of details makes the plot look somewhat flimsy. Instead of setting up a compelling story, the trailer gives off the impression that whatever story there is exists mostly as a framing device for all of the crazy effects and big-name stars. However, the lack of answers doesn't make the effects appear any less stunning, or the action seem any less intense, which begs the question: does it actually matter if the plot of Jupiter Ascending is any good?

Jupiter AscendingWarner Bros.

Certainly not in terms of attracting audiences to come see it. Based on the the trailer, it's clear that the selling point of the film is the flashy effects, and exciting action sequences rather than any kind of complex plot or intense world-building. It's much more interesting to watch the weird demon-baby/splice-creature climb the walls of the hospital than to sit through the backstory of what it is or why it exists in the first place. Similarly, it's worth cutting down on showcasing why the Queen is after Jupiter in order to highlight all of the stunts and fighting that the film will contain.

In addition to all of the visually stunning effects and intense action sequences that the trailer highlights, Jupiter Ascending also benefit from the presence of big-name stars like Tatum, Kunis, and Bean, all of whom have proved themselves to be big box office draws. Plus, the story, regardless of how well fleshed-out it is, is interesting and original, which will go a long way in terms of attracting audiences. Those who are looking for something different in between the glut of superhero films, sequels and remakes will likely be drawn to Jupiter Ascending, especially since the last time audiences took a chance on an original Wachowski film, they were rewarded with the Matrix trilogy.

But once you've enticed those moviegoers into their seats, you need something to entertain them with, and effects and stunts can go a long way in smoothing over any issues with a film's storyline. Take the Matrix films, for instance: despite the detailed world-building and complexly layered plot, there were plotholes and issues where the storyline was sacrificed in order to create a film that compelling and entertaining, and a few slow-motion fights went along way in keeping the audience happy, and it seems as if Jupiter Ascending would be more than able to do the same.

In the end, filmmakers want to create an experience for their audience. They want to convey a point of view or transport them to another word for a few hours, and that seems to be exactly what the Wachowskis' intention is with this film. If Jupiter Ascending transports us into a new universe, if it lets us experience the rules and limitations of such a universe as if we, too were a part of it, and it gives us a movie-going experience, then the actual story might be less important. The story might just be a framing device that gives us a way into Jupiter's world, but if the time we spend there is memorable and interesting, then the experience is still intact, and we will have gotten our money's worth. The plot of Jupiter Ascending could very well be more rich and layered than a two-minute clip is able to convey, and if we've learned anything from the Wachowskis' films, it's that there's always more there than meets the eye. But if it is just a flimsy frame to hold a more immersive, cinematic experience, that could be just as rewarding.

Jupiter Ascending arrives in theaters on July 18.


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