I spent a lot of yesterday morning watching videos of movie trailers for upcoming films. This is a ridiculous waste of time for many reasons (not the least of which is my free time for actually seeing films these days is next-to-zero), but mainly because, well, I could have been writing instead. But hey: I blame Jay over at Gamma World War! for his constant Man Max updates...you just know I love me some post-apocalyptic goodness, and after that I just "follow the links."
So it was that one link led me to a trailer for the space opera flick, Jupiter Ascending (latest release date sometime in February).
Now it's pretty ridiculous to "review" trailers of not-yet-released movies [*ahem*] but certainly I count on trailers to pique my interest...with the effort it takes me to get to the movies these days, something better really wow me (except in the rare instance when it appeals to some personal interest of mine). Strange as it may seem, given the overall geekyness of my blog, my general film interests only rarely run the vein of fantasy or space opera. Historical pieces like In the Heart of the Sea or quirky character pieces like Inherent Vice are much more my speed.
Having said that...
Watching this trailer for Jupiter Ascending, I found the premise of the setting to be very intriguing. I'm trying to remember if I've seen this particular "speculative fiction creation myth" in fiction before. Sure there's a lot of shades of The Matrix, here (as one might expect from the same dudes who wrote that trilogy), but while The Matrix was kind of a GenX take on Plato's Allegory of the Cave, this feels much more Flash Gordon-esque...which is something I really dig.
I don't know why (I dig it). I'm not of George Lucas's generation, did not grow up on FG serials or comic strips. But I've always enjoyed the idea of intergalactic empires operating "just beyond the ken of Earth knowledge." Secret space battles/intrigues on a titanic scale that only a few privileged Earth folks have discovered. Think of the Marvel comic character Corsair becoming embroiled in the Shiar Empire. In many ways it's similar to the "stranger in a strange land" sword & planet epics of Burroughs (John Carter), Moorcock (Michael Kane), and John Norman (Tarl Cabot)...yet the scale is so much larger, spanning multiple planets and systems and often including that "ship-to-ship" action that appeals to the pirate fetish so many of us have.
But it's not just the action. When you're dealing with the technology to deal deathblows to whole planets and star systems (whether we're talking Star Wars or the Lensmen), one hero's ability to wield a sword, laser or otherwise, scarcely matters (unless granted license by the author, that is). Instead, being able to navigate intergalactic politics...one's interactions with the people in power...is the important part of the equation.
And who doesn't love the associated difficulties with governing an interstellar empire? See Dune, Foundation, Star Wars, etc. for examples.
So that's cool. And Jupiter Ascending has been in development long enough that there are plenty of spoilers about the characters (like how they've been genetically spliced with various animals to make better warriors, trackers, etc.). Which is also cool.
Having said that...the over-the-top super-sci-fi action sequences on display in the trailer I find to be terribly uninteresting. So much so that it detracts from the things that ARE interesting. It's like the recent Hobbit trilogy...it's as if the filmmakers don't trust that the subject matter is interesting enough to engage audiences without bombarding them with complicated blue-screen mayhem. I don't know how many ways I can say it:
Including action for the sake of including action is BORING. It fucking-A is.
Sure, I'm an old geezer that has no idea what the kids want these days. Perhaps the market research shows that the only folks who'd be interested in such a film play too many high octane action video games and want to see the same kind of thing on the screen. I can tell you that after seeing the action sequences on display, and especially after watching this other trailer for the film, I'm actually turned off from watching the film, despite the cool setting. And sure, it's grossly unfair to judge a film by its previews alone...but isn't the preview the thing that's supposed to grip you and reel you in? I've spoken with a lot of folks who skipped an otherwise good movie because the trailer "sold them" poorly (or sold them on the wrong thing)...I know I'm not alone in that particular brand of superficiality.
Thus, unless I read some truly stellar reviews, I will probably not be watching Jupiter Ascending, unless it's available on one of those 12 hour plane flights that I seem to take with alarming frequency these days. I'm just shallow like that.