Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, who portrayed married geniuses Stephen and Jane Hawking in The Theory Of Everything, are sharing the screen once again; again, in a historical setting, even if this one is rather more heavily fictionalized than the account of the Hawkings’ life.
The first trailer for Amazon Prime Video’s new film, The Aeronauts, has just dropped, giving us a first look at the usually mild-mannered Redmayne and Jones as toughened meteorologists and pilots fighting for survival high up in the atmosphere. Redmayne, technically speaking, is playing a real-life person, James Glaisher, but it doesn’t seem that much of Glaisher’s actual life experiences are being transferred over to the medium of film. The Aeronauts follows Glaisher’s famous 1862 ascent in a hot-air balloon to the height of…well, nobody knows for sure how high he went, because he actually passed out on the way, but it could have been anywhere from 8,800 to 10,900 metres above sea level. This film, however, is embellishing the story with incidents like unforeseen storms, freezing temperatures, and possibly even an explosion judging off how tattered the balloon looks by the end of the trailer, when we see Redmayne slipping from his perch and (possibly?) tumbling into thin air. Leaving all that aside, they didn’t even attempt to make Redmayne physically resemble Glaisher at all: where are the enormous sideburns? Where is the beard that wraps around the underside of the chin for whatever reason?
Additionally, the film has taken the liberty of inventing Felicity Jones’ character, pilot Amelia Wren, entirely. Female representation is never a bad thing (unless done badly), and this movie is already so fictionalized, it doesn’t really matter. Wren could be based on Glaisher’s eventual wife, Cecilia Belville, a well-educated woman who pursued a career in the sciences, specifically as an artist. As far as I know, however, she never stepped foot in a hot-air balloon in her entire life. In reality, it was Henry Tracey Coxwell who accompanied Glashier on most of his flights, but he appears to have been excised from this adaptation.
All this is not to bash on the movie: the film, regarded on its own, actually looks quite good, and the focus on just two characters, trapped in dire circumstances at the top of the world, running out of oxygen and food, will surely create tension and chemistry between these incredible actors. I also love history and historical fiction (in doses), so this movie looks like something I might enjoy greatly, even if it does play loose-and-fast with some facts. I hope others will give it a shot, and make this another win for Amazon Prime Video.
Will you? Does the premise of The Aeronauts interest you, or is it too fictionalized? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
I debated for a long time whether to title this “Jupiter Ascending Review” or “Two Hours Of My Life Wasted On Space Monopoly”. That should tell you something about what this movie is like.
I only decided to watch Jupiter Ascending, a movie I had never previously seen, because Netflix was promoting it on their social media as a “wacky space opera” that needed to be seen to be believed. The only thing I knew about it was that it starred Academy Award-winner Eddie Redmayne, someone who I have loved in previous movies like The Theory Of Everything and the Fantastic Beasts franchise. I now feel like I am well within my rights to sue Mr. Redmayne for emotional damages caused by this particular film, which is less like a “space opera” than it is like ” Wagner’s entire Der Ring des Nibelungen but with spaceships”.
This movie is long. So long, in fact, that I had to physically force myself to keep watching at multiple points, but I made it: well, technically there were three or four unnaturally long action-sequences that I had to fast-forward through, and I can’t even say that I’m ashamed. Action-sequences are supposed to be exhilarating and fun – but for some reason, these ones were bizarrely quiet (like Redmayne, but we’ll get to him), and also incredibly dull. There are lots of films out there that get bombarded for having good fight-scenes but a boring, convoluted plot: Jupiter Ascending doesn’t even have halfway-decent fight-scenes, and its plot is structured similarly to a labyrinth. I have to wonder how anyone actually convinced themselves this movie was a good idea – that this movie was even an okay idea. In my opinion, it doesn’t even count as a bad idea: abysmal is nearer the mark. And while I don’t like ranting, I have to make an exception in this case: mostly because I’m going to use this as evidence for when I sue Netflix, Eddie Redmayne, the Wachowskis, and everybody else even remotely involved in this film’s conceptualization, production, release and distribution.
Where do we begin? Can I even try to make sense of the…hmm, it’s not a plot – what’s the word I’m looking for? It’ll come back to me. Anyway, the thing-that-isn’t-a-plot begins with a young Russian woman named Jupiter Jones (the fact that she’s Russian has no impact whatsoever on absolutely anything, but you would at least expect it to influence her name: yeah, no), played by Mila Kunis, who, to give her credit, tries her level best to act with all resources available to her, including, but not limited to: an oversize blanket, a hand-gun, toilet-brush, space-iPad, cloud of CGI bees, wedding-ring dispenser, and eyeliner. Unfortunately for her, everybody else in this film is also trying to act with their eyeliner – and everybody, including Kunis, is failing. Jupiter Jones just so happens to be obsessed with astrology (wouldn’t have guessed it from the name or anything), and her entire motivation throughout the film is…to buy a telescope. She has no interest in playing the Game of Thrones with Eddie Redmayne, and she’s only temporarily intrigued by the laws and customs of Jupiter (for whatever reason), but getting home to her telescope is her primary goal. And, look, I’m not here to judge you (I’m judging you), but who in their right mind actually approved this script? While trying to make money to buy this telescope, Jones gets kidnapped by aliens disguised as fertility clinic doctors (I’m not making this up), before being suddenly rescued by a werewolf/human/alien/angel hybrid bounty hunter with flying boots named Caine Wise. And basically it’s Channing Tatum with eyeliner, pointy ears, a ridiculous chin-beard, and wings (or, rather, horrific scars where his wings used to be, before he was thrown out of heaven or whatever for biting somebody: I’m not joking). Then they blow up most of Chicago, but somehow it gets rebuilt within a day. And that’s it. That’s the plot of this movie.
Don’t make me continue. Please don’t make me.
After being rescued by Channing Tatum and his Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jupiter Jones is whisked off to a farm in the middle of nowhere, where she meets Sean Bean – sorry, “Stinger”, who happens to be a human/alien/honeybee hybrid bounty hunter. You read that correctly, he’s part honeybee. And yes, his name is Stinger. It gets worse from there. Stinger has a lot of helpful exposition to share with Jupiter Jones, and thankfully she has all the questions in the world, including ones that we really didn’t need answered, like “who killed the dinosaurs?” – (it was aliens, by the way). Stinger then tells her everything there is to know about Caine, except for the crucial stuff like; why is he a werewolf? Why did he have wings? Why does he own flying boots? Why did Channing Tatum willingly do this to his career? And when Jupiter learns that she can control bees, Stinger immediately realizes that means she’s the one true queen of the earth, because…because…(don’t make me literally write these words)…bee-cause bees are genetically disposed to recognize royalty, and because bees don’t lie. Remember, somebody actually wrote this script. Jones is then taken captive by a different gang of bounty hunters working for Lord Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne), until it turns out that some of them are actually working for Lady Kalique Abrasax (Tuppence Middleton) – if only I knew or cared who either of those people were, I might actually be somewhat interested in this plot twist. Unfortunately, the movie then decides to try and force me to care by carrying our bee-dazzlingly boring protagonist off to an alien planet where Kalique decides to give another long expository speech about how Jupiter Jones is actually the reincarnation of her murdered mother, before losing Jones in another boring, eerily quiet action-sequence that features Channing Tatum once again swooping in (literally) to save the damsel in distress. Good thing the Wachowskis decided to use that overdone trope a few hundred more times in this movie! Because not only does Jones need to be rescued from Kalique (flying boots do the trick there), but she then needs to be rescued from Lord Titus Abrasax (handy-dandy spaceship battle and incredibly slow-moving wedding ceremony saves the day), and finally from Lord Balem Abrasax (Eddie Redmayne’s incompetence combined with Channing Tatum’s flying boots get Jones out of this one), as various planets and civilizations crumble around her. Thankfully, I couldn’t care less about any of them. Spoiler Alert!, Jupiter Jones eventually ends up with her werewolf alien boyfriend; Eddie Redmayne falls to his death; thousands of innocent human beings are saved by one magical pair of flying shoes, proving that practical footwear is the answer to all of life’s problems; Sean Bean don’t die and the bees don’t lie. Oh, and did I mention that deep inside the planet Jupiter there’s a giant factory where flying lizards transform human souls into a nectar which keeps rich and famous intergalactic bureaucrats eternally youthful? But that, for some reason, the hair-and-makeup team didn’t get the memo and decided to make Eddie Redmayne look like he was sixty?
That’s the plot. That’s Jupiter Ascending. Sadly, it doesn’t end there: this movie relies heavily on some of the most pathetic dialogue ever written, so much so that it deserves a special shoutout for lines like:
“I CREATE LIFE! And I destroy it…” – Lord Balem Abrasax (delivered in a high-pitched scream followed by gravelly whispering, in what I suspect was meant to be an artistic decision).
“I love dogs. I’ve always loved dogs.” – Jupiter Jones (delivered while trying to convince her gravity-defying werewolf buddy that he and she are meant to be together: Tatum’s glassy-eyed silence in response is possibly the only time this film tried to make its characters’ dialogue logical: by not having them speak).
“Does any part of you want to bite me?” – Jupiter Jones (not taking no for an answer, Jones hounds (haha, a canine joke) the werewolf and again tries to make this relationship seem even remotely interesting. I have to hope and pray that this line is only in the movie because someone left the cameras rolling while Kunis was making fun of the script, but didn’t cut it out of the finished product because unfortunately it could easily be misconstrued as intentional: then again, this is the same film that informed me that bees don’t lie, so I don’t know what to bee-lieve anymore).
Now that I’ve shared those gems with you, it’s obviously time to talk about performances, or what little remains of them once you dig through all the exposition, Random Dialogue About Bees, and several layers of hurricane surrounding the planet Jupiter (don’t worry, Channing Tatum does). Eddie Redmayne could have been the highlight of this movie, the one thing preventing it from totally collapsing into a murk of space-ooze. He could have been the sole remaining survivor of this catastrophe, the one member of this cast who could hold his head up high after making this film and point to his performance as the one thing that kept Jupiter Ascending from descending into the never-ending bleakness of the void.
Thank goodness he didn’t do any of that. Instead, we get to see the Academy Award-winner gliding around in a shimmery space-bathrobe before Jeff Goldblum made them cool, alternately screaming at the top of his lungs, whispering so softly you can barely hear him, or drawing breath. The fact that he was still breathing was quite possibly one of the most interesting things about his performance, because I, for one, don’t know if I would have had the strength and perseverance necessary for that role. Alongside Redmayne is screen legend Sean Bean, desperately clinging to his dignity for as long as humanly possible, until he finally just gives up, betrays the good guys for unexplained reasons, develops a moral compass out of nowhere, redeems himself, and…doesn’t even die. The Wachowskis got Sean Bean for their movie and did not kill him: what kinds of filmmakers are they?
I’d rather not talk about Kunis and Tatum, if it’s all the same to you. I’d rather just stop now.
So what can I say for this film that isn’t negative? It’s wacky, that’s undeniable, and it doesn’t let you forget it once during its incredibly long runtime. But its wackiness isn’t good: it’s the sort of scratching-the-bottom-of-the-barrel that leads to extended sequences spent watching Jupiter Jones walk back and forth between desks at the space DMV, or gives aspiring talent like Gugu Mbatha-Raw a bad name by forcing her to wear giant prosthetic ears. It’s boring, once you’ve seen all that space has to offer, and even Jupiter realizes that halfway into the movie: she couldn’t wait to return to earth, and nor could I. Sadly, there isn’t a place in the universe where I can be far enough away from Jupiter Jones and the flying werewolf angel, because they’re permanently scarred into my brain now. If you want more scathing satirical analysis of this film’s many faults, I will refer you here and here – I don’t even particularly like CinemaSins, so me recommending them says a lot about how bad this movie is.
But if Jupiter Ascending taught me anything, it’s this: