Cultural Taste Buds: Why Jupiter Ascending Isn’t Silver Screen Sludge

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I usually try to avoid reading or hearing reviews of movies before I see them. If possible, I try not to watch the trailer because, let’s face it, trailers ruin movies. Last Thursday, I was successful in staying away from any positive or negative assessments of the latest Wachowski siblings production, Jupiter Ascending. For the next two hours, I watched in awe as a tale unraveled before my eyes of grand scope, unbridled ambition, and unimaginable weirdness.

I loved every minute of it.

Eddie Redmayne is nothing short of brilliant as the whispering space prince who probably haunts the dreams of Stephen Hawking. Channing Tatum is intensely watchable as genetically-engineered hunter. He’s now someone I’m convinced is one of the best actors on the planet. Seriously, his last three starring roles prove that he’s mastered the craft in the three most important genres: Foxcatcher (drama), 22 Jump Street (comedy), White House Down (presidential abduction thriller). That’s not even to mention the antigravity boots worn by Tatum’s character throughout the film, which will assuredly become the next Hoverboard if America knows what’s good for it.

I left the theater shouting its praises to everyone I came across. Jupiter Ascending is incredible! It has a chase sequence where characters literally rollerskate through the Chicago skyline as if it were the Santa Monica Pier! It’s everything I ever wanted in a intergalactic space movie! Suck it, Interstellar!

And then I read the reviews. “Overcooked.” “Clunky.” “One wild, wacky mess.” WERE THEY EVEN WATCHING THE SAME MOVIE?!?!?!

I killed a solid hour reading reviews for Jupiter Ascending, which currently holds a wretched 22% on Rotten Tomatoes. I struggled to find a good article from a source I trust. I couldn’t.

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Gradually, it made me question why I loved the movie. Was I wrong about my convictions? Do I have bad taste? Was I cast under a Wachowski-induced hypnotic trance brought on by subliminal messaging in Channing Tatum’s half-human, half-wolf pecs?

And then it hit me. I liked Jupiter Ascending because of my personal taste. I like sci-fi space operas. I like Oscar nominees acting silly. I like seeing sexy British people trying to trick and/or murder Mila Kunis (that last one might be specific to this particular movie). I have my own cultural taste buds unique from everyone else’s and that’s okay.

As long as I’m able to recognize that Jupiter Ascending isn’t trying to be high art, it’s perfectly fine to revel in its visually charged pomposity.

There’s something to be said about reading reviews of movies to decide what to see. There’s also something to be said about not listening to the opinion of an overeducated swine monster who has nothing better to do than write reviews of movies he’s seen (that might have hit close to home).

What everyone should do is find reviewers whose opinions hew close to their own. It’s a mistake to take stock in Peter Travers’ review of Jupiter Ascending wherein he states the Wachowskis have laid “a planet-sized egg” if you don’t typically agree with his opinion on the cineplex’s other offerings.

In a time when most magazines would rather fire their film critic than pay for his or her lunch, it may be difficult to find one whose sensibilities match your own, but that’s precisely what you have to do if you want reviews to be useful.

So don’t listen to your coworker who, between bites of his egg salad sandwich, tells you what he read somewhere. Don’t listen to your friend whose cousin said his wife’s mother’s OB/GYN found something a waste of time. Trust your gut and try not to let other people’s opinions influence your own. That’s what building up your cultural taste buds is all about.

P.S. Go see Jupiter Ascending. A blogger I happen to know really loves it.

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