The Wachowskis’ Jupiter Ascending finally opens wide this weekend after being pushed back and delayed multiple times. It’s a movie you’re either going to love or hate—it premiered at Sundance recently and was brutalized—but either way, it’s a wingnut spectacle to behold. It’s like a pulpy, B-grade sci-fi flick from a bygone era, only with a huge budget and no restrictions, which is both an asset and a curse.
As filmmakers, the brother/sister duo wear their influences on their sleeves. There are obvious inspirations, like Star Wars, but you might references or nods any number of other, more obscure films. With that in mind, we thought we’d go ahead and make a list of some of the stranger flicks that might make a nice double feature with Jupiter Ascending, for a variety of reasons. For the most part, this is really a list of movies that, as I watched, I exclaimed loudly (at least in my own head, that would be rude to do in a theater), “hey, that’s just like movie X.”
The Fifth Element
The aesthetic comparisons between Jupiter Ascending and Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element are almost immediately obvious. Crazy crowded, stacked cities on faraway worlds bear a strikingly similar appearance, and they’re both equally filled with all manner of outlandish alien creatures, some humanoid, some, not so much, like the race that looks to be entirely made up of leather jacket wearing, lizard space bikers. But what’s most striking are similarities between the primary antagonists: Eddie Redmayne’s Balem in Jupiter and Gary Oldman’s Zorg in Element. Both have a penchant for going from still and quiet to screaming batshit insanity in the blink of an eye. It’s rare to see to performances shift gears in such sudden, jarring fashion, going from zero to ten faster than you ever thought possible. Someone on the internet needs to splice these two together, because that’s going to be a fun time.
You could easily pair up Jupiter Ascending with almost any of the Wachowskis’ other films. Thematically it’s similar to The Matrix, while the visuals in Speed Racer are likely most akin to their latest endeavor. Still, it’s their last feature, Cloud Atlas, which totally flopped at the box office, that shares the most DNA with their newest. Again, the sprawling, futuristic cities share some distinct resemblances, but it is the simple fact that both films are big, massive affairs, and they feel big in very much the same way. Jupiter Ascending is set in this expansive, sprawling universe with many different worlds, and Cloud Atlas offers a similarly extensive view of and approach to time.
Terry Gilliam’s 1985 classic Brazil may be my all time favorite dystopian anything, film, book, comic, whatever, and ranks damn near the top of my all time movie list. The Monty Python alum’s tedious, overly bureaucratic world, where nothing gets accomplished without forms and papers and procedures piled on top of each other is as convincing a futuristic nightmare as any you’ll ever come across. And the Wachowskis do their level best to recreate that for a montage of documents, signatures, and waiting in endless lines. You watch this unfold in Jupiter Ascending, as Mila Kunis’ character attempts to claim her galactic birthright, and you can’t help but be reminded of Gilliam’s film. And then, just to drive the point home, they toss in an explicit reference to form “26 B Stroke 6.” It made me happier than any other moment in the entire movie.
Q: The Winged Serpent
Like I said earlier, one of the many distinct alien races appears to be a reptilian extraterrestrial biker gang. They also happen to look quite similar to the titular monster in Q, also known as Q: The Winged Serpent, Larry Cohen’s crazy-ass 1982 fantasy adventure. Sure, they’re not the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, but they have similar wings, tails, facial expressions, and flying styles. Granted, these latest incarnations are rendered in much higher quality—you can do that sort of thing with a $170 million budget—and neither David Carradine nor Richard Roundtree show up in the Wachowskis’ latest opus, but we can let that slide. Both films are weird as shit, and definitely have the makings of one hell of an entertaining night at the movies.
Prayer of the Rollerboys
My first thought on walking out of the theater after watching Jupiter Ascending was, “so much space rollerblading.” If you’ve seen any of the trailers or TV spots, you’ve seen Channing Tatum’s Caine, a genetically modified, half-albino, man-wolf hybrid soldier (I’m not kidding) zipping around on what look like rocket boots. There’s a long explanation for this anti-gravity technology that includes Magic Mike talking about differential equations, but the important thing is that, when he uses them, it appears that he is actually rollerblading through the sky. All he needs are an oversized pair of JNCO pants to complete the look. And it really made me want to watch 1990’s dystopian teen rollerblading gang actioner Prayer of the Rollerboys. You can also justify watching this one these days because it features current Academy Award nominee Patricia Arquette, as well as Cory Haim. If nothing else, Jupiter Ascending will get you in the mood to watch teenage hooligans in trench coats and in-line skates blast each other with machineguns in the near future as envisioned by the 1990s. It’s a good time, so pop this one in when you get home.
There are bunch of others you could add to this list too. You get a few scenes where Channing Tatum and Sean Bean pilot giant mech suits that are reminiscent of the Jaegers from Pacific Rim. A running, citywide battle levels large portions of Chicago, which resemble the climactic clash in Transformers: Dark of the Moon. You could also pair Jupiter Ascending with any of the Men in Black movies as there’s a process very similar to the neutralizers that the MIB agents use to make people forget they just saw an epic battle that wrecked up the Windy City.