So…I saw Jupiter Ascending over the weekend. I enjoyed it as a whole, but there was one nagging thing that kept taking me out of the movie. I’m going to try not to ruin the movie, but there will be spoilers, so go see the flick first if you haven’t.
Mila Kunis’s character, Jupiter, was the damsel in distress THREE times throughout the film. I get that it’s supposed to be something of a sci-fi fairytale, but even Disney has princesses that can take care of themselves now.
Caine, Channing Tatum’s character is her knight in shining elf ears throughout the film. When they first meet, it’s as he’s saving her life. She gets into two other pinches that he has to rescue her from throughout the film. I can’t help but wonder…why? There are a few breathers while the two are on the run from the bad guys. Why not take a scene or two to do a training montage? Then you have not just Mila Kunis as a sci-fi fairy tale princess, but Mila Kunis as a BADASS sci-fi fairy tale princess. Hell, they could have even just reversed the roles. How awesome would it have been to see Channing Tatum as a clueless space prince, and Mila Kunis as a hardass Emily Blunt-in-Edge-of-Tomorrow type sent in to rescue him?
What really did it for me were hints of potential for the Jupiter character. An earlier scene in the film has Jupiter discover that bees are loyal to her because they can “sense her royalty.” When she’s attacked, the bees defend her briefly. I would have loved to see her take advantage of this and just start bee-bending everyone. The last scene of the movie has her learning to use the tools Caine used in all the badass fights throughout the film.
This happened in the Book of Eli as well (which is also an excellent movie. Go watch it too, because I’m about to spoil the hell out of it). Denzel Washington’s Eli takes Solara (Kunis’s character) under his wing for most of the movie, and at the very end of the movie, it’s hinted that she takes over his role as a wandering badass.
This is a problem I have with how Kunis is treated in movies. It seems she’s been typecast as the “almost-badass.” She didn’t have an action role, but she did take out Natalie Portman after she transformed into the monstrous Black Swan (I’ve only seen the trailer for Black Swan, but I’m assuming this is the plot). I think it’s time we gave her a full-on action role. Scratch that. Let’s make her a goddamned superhero.
Kunis has definitely earned her stripes. She’s been protected long enough. Let’s get her some martial arts training so she can finally open up that can of whoop-ass she’s been hanging onto since That 70’s Show.
Both DC and Marvel have female-led superhero films in the pipeline (finally), and Kunis would be a great fit for any of them. I could see her as the Jessica Drew version of Spider-Woman, light up the stage as Dazzler, kick some ass as Donna Troy, or take to the sky as Hawkgirl.
She could easily take over as the Kate Bishop Hawkeye. If Jeremy Renner gets a solo Hawkeye flick, introduce Kate Bishop as a wannabe archer he takes under his wing. Then, when Renner gets tired of playing Clint Barton, Kate takes up the mantle, and Mila Kunis finally becomes the action star we all know she can be.
There’s nothing wrong with the “damsel in distress” trope, but I was hoping we were in the middle of a nice little break from it (especially in a movie by the Wachowskis). Step up your game, filmmakers. Teach your female plot device how to defend herself. It’s like teaching a man to fish. If you teach your damsel kung-fu and how to shoot a laser pistol, you’ll protect her for a lifetime.