Film critics, moviegoers and social media are all in agreement: Jupiter Ascending is a rancid pile of exploding bollocks. We can't remember the last time a sci-fi flick was so brutally and comprehensively eviscerated. (Hell, even After Earth had some fans.) If Jupiter Ascending was a band, it would be Nickelback fronted by Fred Durst. If it was a disease, it would be necrotizing fasciitis (don't Google Image that.) If it was a yoghurt lid, it'd be one of those bastard defective ones that refuse to tear off properly and then cut your tongue when you lick 'em. Or so the snarky Twitterverse would have us believe...
But y’know what? I’m here to tell you that the entire world has got it wrong. Not only is Jupiter Ascending passably entertaining – Channing Tatum plays a hover-skating dog, for Christ’s sake! – it’s also a perfect distillation of everything that makes BioWare games great. It is Mass Effect for idiots and it's bloody glorious.
Think about all the disparate elements that make BioWare games so great. There's the roster of nuanced party members, each with their own backstory and personal scores to settle. There are the stunningly realised environments that are slowly teased out over the course of the game. There are the tough intermediary dialogue choices that could spell death and ruin for one side or the other. And of course, there's the combat and romance.
Jupiter Ascending has all of this junk in spades. If Mass Effect's campaign had been capped at two hours and all the writers suffered brain aneurysms halfway through production, the results would look a lot like this movie. Is it perfect? Hell naw. Is it entertaining and fun? Unequivocally.
And I'm not even joking about the BioWare stuff. Because it's Friday and I really couldn't be arsed doing actual work, I've decided to break down precisely how Jupiter Ascending is like a sci-fi RPG from those award-winning Canucks. [Warning: Stupidity/spoilers ahead.]
Meet the implausibly monikered Jupiter Jones. She is the chief driver of this freaky-arse vehicle which essentially makes her the player character/FemShep in Jupiter Ascending's universe. She's also closely modeled after Mila Kunis — like pretty much every female BioWare character I've ever created.
As with most BioWare heroes, her backstory isn't particularly important: all you need to know is that she's the "chosen one" who must save our planet from destruction. This mainly involves embarking on a bunch of fetch quests and stealth missions while sussing out which NPCs are boneable. Sounding familiar yet?
Jupiter Ascending boasts plenty of astrophysical space candy for technogeeks to salivate over — just like a certain action RPG I could mention. This baby looks like a cross between a stealth aircraft and a Dune-like ornithopter. In fact, whole swathes of Jupiter Ascending's mythos have been lifted wholesale from Frank Herbert. (There's a Westwood Studios joke in there somewhere but I've given up trying to find it.) Incidentally, how "Mass Effect" is that background? Phwoar, eh?
Like Mass Effect, the movie depicts a menagerie of sentient alien races; some of which are more successfully realised than others. If this guy appeared in Mass Effect, he'd either be stuck behind a merchants' stall or saddled with a shitty side-quest that 99 per cent of gamers would ignore.
The film shares BioWare's penchant for lovingly rendered statues dotted about the place. If this really was a game, there'd be a little plaque on that statue which force-feeds the player sixteen paragraphs of tedious lore. I'd stake my genitals on it.
At around the halfway point, the film gets dragged down by a tediously protracted subplot where Mila has to file some tax papers before she can be crowned queen of Earth. No really. This plays out EXACTLY like a fetch-quest, with Mila and her party running around the landscape chatting to various nobodies and carrying McGuffins to different locations. It's the kind of unnecessary filler that BioWare RPGs are infamous for.
Intergalactic lurve/Gratuitous lady bits
Like every Mass Effect player ever, Jupiter opts for a freaky inter-species romance instead of one of the more conventional (read: boring) human options. This guy is a half-man, half-dog "splicer" which probably means he has a retractable sea cucumber-shaped penis. Sadly, we aren't treated to a clunkily rendered love scene like in Mass Effect 3.
Naturally, there's a handful of other "romanceable" NPCs on the menu. This guy wants to marry the shit out of you: he treats you to a succulent starlit dinner and everything. If I'd been controlling Mila I totally would have jumped his bones and broke doggy-boy's heart. You need to "Captain Kirk" these situations. It's what the game writers want.
Does anyone remember that scene in the first Mass Effect when the Asari oracle Sha'ira stopped mid-conversation to implausibly take all her clothes off? There's a bit in Jupiter Ascending where a character does exactly the same thing. It's one of the best parts of the movie.
Know Thy Enemy!
These guys are called Keepers and they fulfill the same role as Mass Effect's low-level Reaper husks. They are the first foe Jupiter encounters and are pretty easy to dispatch. Also, tell me those identikit faces/poses don't look like a video game!
This flying bounty hunter is more like a mid-game boss. In classic BioWare style, the party clashes with her several times throughout the course of the movie. Annoyingly, nobody gets to steal her bitchin' see-through hover bike.
This big ugly mug is basically Saren, but even scalier. Like the rogue Spectre agent, he is initially tolerated by the party despite clearly being a villainous lizard man who wants to kill anything that moves. He's the penultimate baddie who takes a hell of a kicking to beat. If this really was a BioWare game, his whiplash tail attack and tendency to fly away from projectiles would really start to burn your custard. Time to switch to casual mode, methinks.
Jupiter Ascending presents its FemShep with three possible game endings: she can save the lives of her family which will condemn Earth to obliteration, she can save the Earth by sacrificing her family, or she can fark all that noise and fight the bad guy with a metal pole. Amusingly, Mila attempts to do all three in quick succession.
It's like she kept reloading her last save until she found the dialogue option with the most satisfactory outcome. Tch. That's like, the worst way to play BioWare games.
In conclusion, go and see Jupiter Ascending this weekend: you probably won't regret it much. Just pretend that shit with the bees didn't happen and you should be okay.
Jupiter Ascending is currently playing in cinemas and on illegal streaming sites around the country.