Spend enough time on the horrors that are social media sites and there are two things you’re bound to see:
People complaining about remakes
People complaining about sequels
If you went solely on the voices of Twitter and Facebook, you could be forgiven if you thought CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR was a bomb, or that the 2016 GHOSTBUSTERS was an assault on humanity. People constantly moan over “endless sequels” or “another remake playing on nostalgia” as they hand over their credit cards to buy tickets for these “endless sequels” and “another remake playing on nostalgia”. Movie sites run yearly reminders that original ideas are dead in Hollywood surrounded by fifteen articles about an actor who expressed interest in being paid to appear in the next BATMAN flick. A fairly large portion of film fans seem to hate what studio movies have become, all while supporting them on a weekly basis.
And I get it. Sequels can get tiring, and some remakes do feel like cash grabs, but what can I say? I loved CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and I thought the GHOSTBUSTERS remake was pretty fun. I suppose that to the people who write 20 part tweets about the death of American cinema, I’m part of the problem. I do have a question to those people though, why aren’t you pushing originality? Instead of complaining about the sequels, why not push the new? Why not praise the different? Why not extol the work of those who are always pushing for the unseen? Why not, for example, celebrate filmmakers like Lana and Lilly Wachowski?
Love or hate the Wachowskis, you have to admit that they put everything into making a movie. Was JUPITER ASCENDING a bad movie? I don’t personally think so, though I wouldn’t call it a good movie either. I do think critics were a little harsh in their reviews, but the movie is hard to defend, and I don’t plan to do that. At least, not based on story.
What I do think people ignore is just how different every aspect of JUPITER ASCENDING is. The movie is clearly a Wachowski movie, and when you see a Wachowski movie, you know you’ll be seeing something you likely haven’t seen before. Lana and Lilly are visionaries in every sense of the word, but ever since THE MATRIX, critics and audiences have pushed them off, and it infuriates me to no end.
Talents like the Wachowskis and other filmmakers with strong visions should never be pushed off because in the least, when you enter that theater, you know you will see something rare – a product all its own. No one else could have made SPEED RACER, which I personally think is one of the most exciting and vibrant movies ever made. If you haven’t seen SPEED RACER, or if you haven’t watched it in a while, put it on. Pay attention to the use of color and the way the film is edited. Then remember that SPEED RACER is nearly a decade old, and you can see the influence it has had on filmmakers. No one else would have tried to tackle CLOUD ATLAS, and while they were rewarded with critical acclaim, the audience wasn’t there. Maybe people were too busy complaining about the bland sequels to take time and see something different?
Should we reward bad movies? No. But is JUPITER ASCENDING a bad movie? Well… I guess, but it is a bad movie that was worth seeing in the theaters. It is a movie that tries, that breaks from the norm and goes its own way. Yes, there are touches of STAR WARS and HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY in the movie, but the heart and soul, the overall look and feel and concept, is a movie all its own, and that needs to be applauded. That needs to be respected.
After the MATRIX trilogy, the Wachowskis could have easily spent their career making big budget sci-fi based on popular comics and best selling books that have already gained the acceptance of the masses, and no one would have faulted them. Like Shane Black on IRON MAN 3, they could have fit their aesthetics into the aesthetics of someone else’s vision, working in bits and bobs that stand out as Wachowski without alienating the studio, but, as with their private lives, Lana and Lilly haven’t played it safe, choosing instead to tread their own path and take some real chances.
And too often, others have slammed them for it. For JUPITER ASCENDING, terms like “disastrous atrocity” “pretentious, grandiose mess” and “ugly, noisy, and worst of all, boring” were tossed out by some of the best known critics in America. These are the same critics who lament the death of originality in film. Now, I don’t think they should have given JUPITER ASCENDING a good review, but to call it an atrocity? Or pretentious? I’ve been trying to figure out what in the movie could be considered pretentious, and I can’t find it. If you know, please fill me in.
Either way, a statement like that, calling the work of a filmmaker an atrocity does nothing aside from maybe making the critic feel like they got a good dig in and making the filmmaker question if they should try so hard next time. Or, in the case of the Wachowskis, it seems they may quit making films in general.
Luckily, we live in the age of Netflix, and Netflix took a shot and gave the Wachowskis a show, SENSE8. The show, if you haven’t seen it, has all the hallmarks of the Wachowskis; it is unlike anything else out there, and it isn’t afraid to try. The shame of it all is that, in my opinion, the Wachowski’s style, their essence, works best on a large screen. They are storytellers who revel in the large, sweeping concepts and details that best come across on sixty foot screens with the best sound possible. They tell epics unlike any we’ve seen before, and will likely never see again. Filmmakers like the Wachowskis, filmmakers who are willing to go into unknown territory and create something only their minds could come up with are rare. Aside from the siblings, I can only think of a handful of others that are out there; George Miller, Quentin Tarantino, and Kevin Smith (I personally haven’t liked a Smith film in ages, but I love that he makes whatever he wants). The idea that we, as a group, may have pushed the Wachowskis out of theaters, makes me nervous. If you’ll excuse the hoighty-toighty word coming up, we don’t have many real auteurs out there, and I think we need to support the ones we have far more than we do.
I want a lot of things from the Wachowskis. I want them to make a million movies because, even when the movie isn’t great, I get pulled into their world when I see their work. I want them to always have the ability to make what they want, because their voices are so distinct that any studio messing about can break the whole thing. Part of me wants them to make a LEGION OF SUPERHEROES movie, which goes against everything this piece is about, but fuck you I’m complicated like that.
Most of all, I want them to be celebrated. Because in this time of “endless sequels” and “cash grab” remakes, we need to remember what it is that made us all love movies; the people who tell the stories.
*Header Photo: SPEED RACER (2008) Warner Brothers