‘Jupiter Ascending’ Debuts to Muted Crowd at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival isn’t a typical launchpad for studio blockbusters, but Warner Bros. surprised theater-goers on Tuesday night by unveiling the Wachowski siblings’ “Jupiter Ascending” at a “secret screening.”

The invitation-only event, which was not billed as a premiere, was the first time “Jupiter Ascending” was shown to the public. Variety broke news of the screening on Tuesday afternoon, but there were other clues the audience wasn’t about to see a typical Sundance indie.

When attendees with tickets arrived at the Egyptian Theater in Park City, they were handed 3D glasses.

Despite the hype of a secret screening, clusters of seats inside the 300-person venue remained empty, and a handful of patrons walked out of the two-hour-plus space epic starring Mila Kunis as a princess and Channing Tatum as an intergalactic soldier tasked with rescuing her.

The Wachowskis’ flair was fully on display, with sequences reminiscent of “The Matrix” or “Star Wars.” But when the film ended, the usually gracious Sundance audience didn’t clap at the closing credits.

“I hated it,” said one of the festival’s volunteers, who asked not to be identified for fear of irking Sundance. “It’s just ridiculous.”

Her husband was more forgiving. “It’s a combination of a whole bunch of things wrapped into one,” he said.

Neville Kiser, a screenwriter, thought the movie was hurt by the fact that it was debuting at a venue for highbrow films. “I actually liked it,” Kiser said. “But the Sundance context is weird. There were so many people in the audience scoffing and sneering. They are forgetting they are watching a movie targeted primarily to teenage boys. I’m sure those 15-year-old boys, and hopefully girls, will like it.”

The film’s co-directors and stars were not in attendance. One industry expert speculated that the discombobulated story would mean that Warner Bros., which spent $175 million on the film, would lose a significant chunk of money.

“Jupiter Ascending” was originally scheduled for a summer release, which was later postponed. The movie now opens on Feb. 6.

Critics were not invited to the screening, and a festival programmer reminded critics who had snagged a ticket that their reviews are embargoed until Monday night.

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  1. Jonnie says:

    saw it .. me and 5 other theatre patrons. The premise of the flick was not big enough to carry it. Too much flying whimsical space junk; a brit female that harkened Viola Davis in Ender; flashes of Soylent Green; MIB etc… and even Guardians of the Galaxy. Some bad acting by several including Eddie Redmayne… what was that huh? I could not even stay through the credits (which I normally do). I generally enjoy what I see, this was not one of them. and Channing, just phoned it in. Oh well, Onward … into the past!

  2. Simon Simon says:

    Oh, it sucks. Terribly.

  3. Stal Ker says:

    Let,s call bad movie *bad movie*. sorry for the wachowski. they are sleeping on the laurels of the *Matrix*. *Cloud Atlas* was something which gave some small hope, but the *Jupiter* is a real flop.

  4. Wired for Wisdom says:

    The article is not about the movie, but the choice to show it at such a ill-matched venue and in a “private” form to boot. Glaringly ignorant decision made by lame marketing tools. dumbdumbs

  5. TONY says:

    SUNDANCE SNOBS: Get over it. Its only a popcorn movie. Go have fun…

  6. Francis says:

    It also had the french premiere at the Gerardmer International Film Festival yesterday. It bombed. The theater (600 seats) was not even packed though it was massively advertised. And the movie was jaw-droppingly bad. Mila Kunis has to be nominated at the razzies next year : her performance is stunningly appaling. An OMG Redmayne : what have they done to him? What were they thinking? Who green lighted this at 175 millions $ ? This will be a giant misfire at the box office, there’s no other way.

  7. Watch the film then comment, but dont judge by the trailer.

  8. brandy says:

    Laughable performance from Redmayne. Hilarious to think he might win an oscar when he’s so appalling in this.

  9. Ano says:

    I’m real people and have no intention of watching that pile of excrement.

  10. Jesse Rothbeind says:

    Give me a freaking break!! So the super-douchey Sundance crowd was too cool to enjoy a Wachowski sci-fi nerdfest?!? Not too shocking really, I’m sure all the real people that relate and enjoy “fun” movies will dig it!

  11. Mark says:

    If I watch a trailer and still don’t know what the heck the movie is about (and I am quite the movie buff), that makes for a guaranteed BOMB.

  12. Aaron Steckman says:

    So its a flop because some guys wife at an indie fest thought it was ridiculous? The screenwriter liked it so I will trust his opinion more. Im sure most women didnt like the matrix or brazil or star wars or the fifth element (which is ridiculous in a great way). Lets see what real critics say. I was kind of hoping for ridiculous anyway. As long as its not boring im good. Was anyone really expected an emotional kick to the head here? Its a dystopian futuristic space opera. And arent all operas just a little ridiculous?

    • Anne P. says:

      You do realise that it’s 2015 and making grand proclamations about 50% of the human race has fallen slightly out of favor, right? Those are several of my favorite movies.
      Signed, a woman.

      • Wired for Wisdom says:

        Ditto Anne. What planet are YOU on Aaron?

      • Tel... says:

        Oh for a society that will get us to where we can say..”you do realise that saying what year it is as a reason to not say something has fallen out of favor right?”.

      • Ellen says:

        Don’t take his comments out of context. He was saying that the success/failure of a film doesn’t depend on what a person who likely isn’t a part of the target audience thought of it. Please leave your ideologies at the door and quit picking fights over your perceived sexism. We’re here to discuss film.

  13. Robe says:

    Does Sean Bean get killed again, or does he survive?

    • Tel... says:

      Sean Bean is one of those actors that you want to see in a bigger role but he never seems to get them. God rest Peter O’Toole’s soul but the most inspired casting in “Troy” was Sean Bean as Odysseus. THERE’S YOUR MOVIE AND LEAD ACTOR…The Illiad and the Odyssey! Not a pouting Brad Ptt and a juvenile Orlando Bloom.

      Imagine Sean Bean with a movie like Taken to work with? And stop killing off his characters for crying out loud.

      • Nublian says:

        Hah! Absolutely right about Sean Bean. And hey, there’s a sequel already written. Just imagine Sean Bean picking it up with the same character in “The Odyssey.” Could pick up right where Troy left off.

  14. jason says:

    Who really want’s to pay 30$ for tickets….another 25$ on popcorn and coke and the hassle of dealing with a crowd of snot nosed teenager to watch this and traffic? And they wonder why these movies fail.

  15. Brian Fejer says:

    You right wingnut imbeciles and your support for Bush, McCain and Palin are responsible for the destruction of our financial system as well as several unjustified wars…

    And you drone on about these movies?

    Idiots.

    Campus LGBT rights Coordinator
    University of New Mexico

  16. Richard William says:

    The movie is probably not freaky and ungodly enough for Sundance.It should play well for normal people in flyover states

  17. Parkour says:

    ‘Jupiter Ascending’ will find its audience.
    Looks too good.

  18. Pat says:

    Mila Kunis carrying a blockbuster big budget film? Maybe if it’s a 2 hour sex scene. Channing Tatum? He has all the charisma of a lobster pinching your toe. Those two would be better in a re-boot of I Dream of Jeannie.

  19. Mark Ebner says:

    Sundance has been a dumping ground for dubious studio fare since its inception. I know, because I was there. Now, get off my lawn – all of you.

  20. KPierson says:

    It is sundance. Typically the crap they like is the worst B movies in the world.

  21. Rick soria says:

    I know a lot about movies with trailers out I would see this movie several times over and recommend to all my friends to see it especially all my syfi friends about 200,00 friends of friends watch the movie it worth watching.

  22. LOL says:

    At least it’s an original blockbuster, man.

  23. I’ve attended Sundance many times and this was a completely tone deaf choice by the PR team for Jupiter Ascending. The Sundance audience is craving quirk, naturalism, grit, diversity, progressive values and small budgets. Their “we hate big budget action films” pump could not be more primed.

    • Dennis says:

      My thoughts exactly. Whoever on the Jupiter Rising PR team thought this would be a good idea should be fired. For Sci-Fi blockbuster films the phrase “There is no such thing as bad publicity” definitely doesn’t apply.

      • Nublian says:

        Actually I’m beginning to see the strategy and it’s a lot smarter than you may think. There are few more striking signs that a movie is a piece of garbage full of maudlin, angst-ridden, self indulgent, evil crap than an endorsement from Sundance or a bunch of Palmes D’or from Cannes.
        Oh yes. The campaign is already starting to emerge. “Looks cool, hot guy, hot girl, wild special effects, explosions, outer space… AND THEY HATED IT AT SUNDANCE! Now you know you’ll love it!” I wonder if they can get a “thumbs down” from Cannes too. Then it’ll make a billion dollars. Incidentally, I have no idea if the movie is any good at all but if the Sundance crowd hates it, the Warchawskis must have done something right.

  24. drldeboer says:

    An original story film that happens to be set in space. What made this out of place? Cheers to The Wachowskis for continuing to push out boundries & support massive creativity!

    • Jeremy Quid says:

      As stated above by Curtis:

      “I’ve attended Sundance many times isd this was a completely tone deaf choice by the PR team for Jupiter Ascending. The Sundance audience is craving quirk, naturalism, grit, diversity, progressive values and small budgets. Their “we hate big budget action films” pump could not be more primed.”

      That seems like a pretty clear explanation of why it was thought of as out of place.

  25. Luci says:

    What happened to Sundance? It started out as a film venue and film lab for aspiring filmmakers to promote the talented “unknowns” and possibly have their film picked up for distribution. Then “names” started creeping into the films and then “stars” started knocking off short films and docs to go and pose as directors, and the films were not the ones financed by maxing out Dad’s credit card but by using studio money that isn’t accessible to a newbie – then Sundance got sucked into that whole star-studded, post holiday season, pre Oscar festival circuit and the aspiring talents are an afterthought.

    • MinistryofFear says:

      It’s like the little kid in a room full of adults jumping up and down wanting attention. That and a chance to get laid by C string celebrities.

      • myself says:

        Sundance is what Cannes used to be and Cannes is what Hollywood used to be. And Hollywood now is what you get when you cross an old fashioned cattle markets with sparkle factory.

  26. BruddahNui says:

    Introducing a SciFi movie at Sundance? They’re lucky all the snobs did’nt
    Walk out. This is a movie for real people not uppity self centered Sundancers.

    • Jo Hayne says:

      “Real people”? So the fake Sundance people like a different sort of film than you do so they are just automatically bizarre. You do see the irony here right……..

    • guest says:

      I bet 2001: A Space Odyssey, or something of that quality, could do well. But, no hollywood blockbuster type movie is ever going to appeal to the snobs at Sundance.

  27. SAS says:

    The critics make up a reflection of 2-3% of the population, most were on the edges in high school and college. They do not reflect most social norms. They create a bubble in their social circle and surrond themselves with like minded people, which helps create the closed mind.

    Examples of last years movies that should have won awards, Rush and 42. I hate car racing but Howard did a wonderful job and I loved the acting. 42 was probably Harrison Ford’s best work, he did the research and pulled it off. Like I said the critics don’t realize they live in bubble of like mindedness!

    • Alex Walker says:

      So you rail against critics for being out of touch, but then you cite 2 films (Rush and 42) that should have won awards but were also highly praised (almost unanimously so) by the critics. Critics loved Rush and 42.

      You’re not making the point you think you are.

  28. pancake rachel corrie says:

    another useless crappy hollywierd movie to entertain and keep people as stupid as possible

  29. Climp Jones says:

    can’t wait for its release

  30. Bill B. says:

    The previews look awful, Tatum looks ridiculous and the switching of release dates from the summer till February indicate trouble. Sundance is a real odd place to debut this. Info flies fast on the Internet. This will open with a cloud of doubt hanging over it. Add in some inevitable bad reviews and you have the makings of a mega-flop.

    • Tel... says:

      Agreed Bill. I also noticed a distinct change in the way the trailers are selling Jupiter Ascending. The first time I saw a trailer for it, it tried to sell the same tired tweeny banalities stolen from “adult” films adn dumbed down that we’ve seen used over and over and over lately:

      Tatum style character: “You’re not who you think you are…you’re the chosen one who will lead our people to prosperity. You were born to this”.
      Kunis style Character: “What are you talking about? I’m just a girl from (insert nondescript town or city here). Stop following me (but you are cute and strangely compelling clearly we’ll be making out and falling in love at some point in this picture)…where’s my dad?”.
      Kunis style Dad (after being confronted by Kunis Character with irrefutable evidence of her “chosen oneness”): “He’s right…you’re the chosen one. We didn’t want to tell you so as to protect you from the evil guys that would kill you if they found out who you really were”
      Kuni style character: “This can’t be happening” Cut to “chosen one’s new digs at (insert location of chosen one’s new locale of destiny). I can’t believe this..this is mine?”.

      Cut scene to cookie cutter villian with reptillianesque movements, speaking in low volume, malevolent voice wtih not a lot of change in tone, and slicked back hair: “Our time is at hand…we will not let this chosen one stop our seizing of power. Find her and kill her.or you’ll all pay” .

      Not unlike the whole “Neo-Matrix” premise is it Bill?

      But now? The trailers are editing out the insipid tweeny “you’re the chosen one. I’m here to protect you..we’ll be a romantic item at some point in the film” tweeny dumbness that appeals to little girls’ vanity and just trying to sell it as a space action flick so as to try to bring in a young male audience that would normally stay away from this type of movie.

      I’m predicting it will flop in a big way. It’s just more drek from a creatively bankrupt hollywood that can’t grasp the idea that you make a movie to tell a good story, not to promote the actors and sell books, toys and video games. All that other stuff happens organically if the audience falls in love with the film. You can’t formularize it.

  31. Barbara says:

    I’m not a teenage boy or girl and based on the trailer…. I will definitely see it. I like the concept.

  32. They aren’t going to like it. Much like Mordecai, Strange Magic, and Blackhat before it (this year), this movie screams monster flop.

  33. The fact the audience at Sundance does not like it makes me want to see it even more. I usually find the “professional” critics have no clue what they are talking about when it comes to entertainment. Remember “Out of Africa”, what a pathetic movie.

    • Dennis says:

      Here, here. They tried this demonization with Mordecai but I love Depp and went to see it anyway. Loved it! The more whining I hear from the elitist the more I’ll want to see it. (Ditto for American Sniper…take that and shove it libs.)

    • cpangracs says:

      I agree. Anything that pisses-off the self-annointed elite makes me want to hug puppies and dance through fields of wildflowers…

  34. Bob Barker says:

    The siblings are one of the very few people that are making original thought provoking science fiction. At least they are trying to put something out there new that isn’t a sequel or a rehash of 30 year old comics or other scifi franchises. History will be kind to kind to their films.

    I don’t put too much stock in what the Hollywood crowd thinks when they see a visionary science fiction film. Rock Hudson walked out of 2001 saying “Can someone tell me what this movie is about?”

    • Zoey says:

      Have you forgotten about ‘Speed Racer’? It’s also telling that Keanu Reeves turned down a role in that movie, even though they have a history with the ‘Matrix’ franchise.

      • jgaz says:

        Speed Racer was a true-to-the-source homage to a very particular cartoon show, and the Wachowskis nailed it in that respect. The original show was full of zany, psychodelic visuals and caricature bad guys, ala Dick Tracy, and the film stuck with those visuals. The kid brother, the chimp, racer X, Inspector Detector, the over the top vehicles with the crazy weapons (beehive launchers!), all part of the original acid trip show. Yes, it is not Doctor Zivagho and its probably the sibling’s least successful film, but its not terrible and certainly loads more entertaining than say the Star Wars prequels, After Earth, and many other crap SF/fantasy films of the last few years.

  35. Gc says:

    Jupiter Descending!

    Not planning on seeing it. I love my eyeballs too much. Anyway, I’ve already seen The 5th Element, why see this monstrosity again.

    • daveescaped says:

      Completely agree. Channing Tatum looks woefully miscast. When the preview don’t even work you just know that a flop is coming. And I love scifi. I love exactly this type of movie. But you can just tell that it takes itself way to seriously. Matrix was the same. Beyond a very original idea it didn’t have much mojo to sustain it. It was like they developed a concept but not a story.

      2001, Gattaca, Blade Runner, Primer, Planet of the Apes were great. Other films like Serenity, Dune and 12 Monkeys were good as well. But big budget scifi rarely works for me. They try way too hard to impress with the visuals and make the story way too mainstream. Scifi should seem strange; like a Jodorowsky movie. It SHOULD appeal to the snobs at Sundance. It doesn’t do well as a mainstream genre. I mean sure, Star Wars can be fun. But today it feels like all Hollywood knows how to do is make spectacle. But real scifi works better if it is intimate and a bit bizarre. Otherwise it becomes something else; it becomes an homage to the original. Like American pizza is to Italian food.

  36. CitizenKane says:

    The pic above is not from the movie…its of Kunis when her agent told her the movie stinks and her career may suffer….

  37. JJ says:

    Well, Sundance audiences usually lose their oxygen over movies that end up making like a dollar during theatrical release so I wouldn’t base anything on their reaction to this. And Sundance is as much a commercial, sell out thing as a big studio feature.

  38. rjflorida says:

    Sundance? Where they specifically call these movies “Cultural Genocide?” Sundance is one of the only places in the world where indie directors can showcase their work. That was the POINT of creating it, to showcase movies that can’t get made by the studio system.

    I can’t even…how many slaps in the face this is to the attendees at Sundance.

    • Nobody forced the film on them. It was an “invitation-only” screening, not a “compulsory attendance” screening. One is always free to turn down an invitation, a right invoked by many invitees, as evidenced by the fact that “clusters of seats inside the 300-person venue remained empty.”

  39. and you are???? says:

    Says all the people that have never made or even worked on a film. The internet propagates such vitriol based on jealousy that its easy to see the thin vail that you think cloaks you as someone that actual can critique based on your own achievements. They make some great films and some bad ones. Everyone that works in this biz does that. I don’t know one single person that actually works on a film who is batting a 1000. So yes it is fair to say this is not a good film, but to attack the filmmakers and say they have no talent and they are one hit wonders is ridiculous. Most of you would give a kidney to have one hit.

    • OMGHatedIt says:

      Tarantino, Scorcese, Kubrick, Linklater, etc… there are alot of great directors and filmmakers out there, the problem is this garbage gets greenlighted while the newbies are never given a chance.

  40. Mike Branson says:

    Sundance is not the right crowd for this film, what was WB thinking?

  41. Jim Harlow says:

    I’ve been looking forward to this for months. I thought Cloud Atlas was phenomenal. I can’t wait!

  42. mj says:

    Well, considering the venue, I’d consider that a ringing endorsement.

    It is what it is. No one expects high art. They expect an action film that entertains.

    Set a graphic novel next to a Rembrandt and no doubt you’ll get high art pretension. Doesn’t mean the graphic novel isn’t good. It’s just different.

    On another note, horray for Channing Tatum. From Foxcatcher to Jupiter Ascending. There are a lot of people in Hollyweird that would love to have his career.

  43. Manfred Powell says:

    Why isn’t Variety reporting on the plethora of positive reviews?

    Strange.

  44. lyta says:

    the only reason i really care if the movie is good or bad… is because i don´t want to hurt Eddie Redmayne chance to win the oscar… it would be realise right about voting time and if it is a pile of crap maybe cold hurt his campaying

  45. Glenn C. says:

    Crazy to have shown this at Sundance. Duh!!!!!!!!

  46. Bark Star says:

    How many more millions of dollars of loss does it take for studios to realise that the Wachowskis are talentless wannabes ? They had ONE good movie in them and that was “Bound”.

    • Manfred Powell says:

      Nonsense. The Wachowskis have plenty of great films and cult classics under their belts: ‘Bound’, ‘The Matrix’, ‘V for Vendetta’, ‘Speed Racer’, ‘Cloud Atlas’ and – from what I’ve heard – ‘Jupiter Ascending’.

      • Zoey says:

        They didn’t direct ‘V for Vendetta’; James McTeigue did. They appear to be better at scriptwriting and producing. At this point, it feels like all of their best ideas were conceptualized in ‘The Matrix’. The sequels were long-winded and disappointing.

      • jdshFLKjdhflksjfhlkasjdhflkajsdhf says:

        While the Matrix takes its rightful place as an iconic action/scifi flick, everything else they’ve done has been from mediocre to unwatchable. JA actually looks kinda fun, in a Dune, Flash Gordon sort of way.

    • michael Anthony says:

      Their hundreds of millions that the Matrix series brought in, gave them massive studio cred. Now, with a couple of disappointments, they’ll gave to start over, and on a smaller scale. Studios could care less what you think, since they have done Boffo BO in the past.

      • Manfred Powell says:

        @ Holly Hobby:
        There’s a glut of sci-fi/fantasy authors who want to take credit and money for ‘The Matrix’ – including Sofia Stewart.

      • Holly Hobby says:

        Just to clarify the script for the matrix was actually written by someone else….Sophia Stewart. Based on a book of hers titled “Third Eye”.

  47. djpetemarriott says:

    I’m still going to support this film…

    • wayne klein says:

      Um, no.She didn’t write the screenplay and the W’s had been shopping it around for some time. If you want to “credit” previous books, Phil Dick came up with these type of twists in the 1960’s.

    • LiLRed says:

      No she didn’t. She tried to sue the Sibs and James Cameron for Terminator and the judge threw it out. It’s urban legend and she didn’t even have a case.

  48. Joe says:

    Really odd forum by Warner Bros. for a picture like this.

    Anybody who actually goes to Sundance is so far up either their own, or somebody else’s ass that the 3D glasses aren’t going to fit.

    I think it’s a really bad move.

    • “I think it’s a really bad move.”

      Not if it embarrasses Redmayne whose PR is reportedly working on distancing him from this movie. Apparently, he’s so bad in it. Now, I don’t believe for a second that Norbit alone sunk Eddie Murphy’s Oscar chance but it’s so quoted as such that WB probably though “what the heck, lets try to Norbit Redmayne and help our guy, what can we lose? Nothing since American Sniper is making enough money for both movies.” This is just a new form of smear campaigning. And very smart to cause few people are seeing through it.

  49. OMGHatedIt says:

    Well that does it, one person said they hated it…$200 million down the toilet. Well thought out H-Wood. :-) I’m sure whoever did this will be fired or maybe an entire team…but seriously I bet all those tweens will come a running if nothing else to see Channing topless again.

  50. chloe says:

    “starring Milas Kunis as a princess and Channing Tatum as an intergalactic soldier tasked with rescuing her.”

    “tasked with rescuing her.”

    Because of course she needs to be rescued. That right there is why people won’t like it.

    • Jo Hayne says:

      Pretty much hate that part myself. Wtf.. I’ll see it anyway though as I love to ogle Channing Tatum with my male gaze ^ ^

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