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Movie Review: Jupiter Ascending ( & The Quest for Eternal Life)

Initial thoughts before the movie
I will begin by saying that I am a big fan of Science Fiction (Sci Fi) movies. These movies really explore the human imagination to answer the question: "What If?" So to say the least, I was rather intrigued when I saw the first trailer for "Jupiter Ascending."

A few weeks after watching the first trailer for the movie, I was stunned to find that the movie previewed at Sundance. For anyone who knows anything about movies, Sundance is the typical place indie movies are released before going to the big screen. We'll never really know why the producers brought it to Sundance, but for a crowd that was looking for indie movies, they were not happy with Jupiter Ascending. Many people went to see this "initial release," but the theater was said to be absolutely silent after the movie was over. Needless to say, Sundance was not the best place to create a buzz about a large budget film.

With all of this in mind, I decided to go see the movie anyway. I usually like to make up my own mind about movies; however, I do like to go into the movie theater feeling at least a bit informed.

Theme: Everlasting Life

As a priest, I often look for the moral of the story. I like to pull out philosophical or theological questions raised by movies. Sci Fi movies often offer a vast array of philosophical questions, and Jupiter Ascending does not disappoint in this area.

***possible spoilers beyond this point*** (Spoilers in italics)

I must say that the movie felt like it started a bit slow for me. I was waiting for that moment when I would realize what the gist of the movie would be. In most movies, this is very evident within the first 10 minutes of the film, but I felt as though the audience didn't get a chance to realize the gist until long after 10 minutes. I realize the filmmakers were trying to give us background information, but it just felt like it could have been done a little bit better.

We eventually find out that our main character (Jupiter) is the subject of a hunt by intergalactic human and non-human aliens. They have been hired separately by three siblings. These siblings are said to be the "owners" of many worlds, and the most valuable of these worlds are worlds that can be harvested. They're not necessarily interested in harvesting resources that we find valuable like gold, diamonds, or water; rather, they're interested in harvesting human beings. For every 100 human beings that are harvested, they are able to create a synthetic liquid of eternal life. The processing transmutes human beings into a cylindrical container of this nectar.

As you might have guessed, only the wealthy are able to procure this age-reversing nectar in which they bathe. Some people have been sustained for many millenia on this very nectar. And because their technology is so advanced, human beings on earth never know that there are others "out there" because of memory-wiping devices. 

Taking a Stand For Life

After hearing about this nectar, our protagonist (Jupiter) realizes that she wants nothing to do with the murder of millions for the sake of the few. The majority of the movie's action revolves around this group of siblings separately trying to capture Jupiter. They want to use her for their own ambitions.

Relating this to Life

Many stories from human history have revolved around the concept of eternal life. The one currency that human beings never seem to be able to control is the currency of time. Myths of arisen about things like the fountain of youth or secret elixirs that give eternal life. Mythological creatures like vampires have captivated many generations of people because there is something very interesting about the prospect of living on earth eternally. But it doesn't take a genius to notice that there always is a negative consequence to anything that offers the prospect of eternal life. The search for the Fountain of Youth has claimed the lives of many adventurers. Tails of secret elixirs often come at the expense of other human beings. In the case of vampires, they have to continue to feed on human beings and avoid sunlight in order to subsist.

The Quest for the Holy Grail

Some stories of legend have actually surrounded the location of the chalice that Jesus would have used during the Last Supper. The idea was that whoever drank from this chalice, aka the Holy Grail, would bring them eternal life. For centuries people have tried to find this Holy Grail. Some have claimed to have found it. Some of these are actually in museums; however, because the scriptures do not provide any descriptors of this chalice, the search is really in vain. I also personally cannot see Jesus using a gem encrusted gold chalice for His Passover meal with His disciples. That's just a personal thought.

The Truth is in the Practice

While the search is in vain for the Holy Grail, the contents of Jesus's chalice truly did contain the elixir of eternal life.
Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”(John 6:53-58)

I made the above quote in italics just like the spoilers alerts for a reason. Jesus never hid from people what they needed to do in order to obtain eternal life. This very meal He speaks about in the 6th Chapter of John's Gospel is the same meal He shares with His disciples at the Last Supper.

The Mass of Eternal Life
Guess what? Every Mass we celebrate is not a new offering. The bread and wine that we offer that become the Body and Blood of Christ is attached to the original offering of Christ at the Last Supper. We do not reenact this. Christ invites us to join Him in His original sacrifice. It is a sacrifice that extends through the reaches of time and space. How? Everything is present to God. He exists outside of our time and spacial constraints. The Eucharistic prayers we pray at Mass are addressed to the Father. The transubstantiation is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring timelessness and eternity to the finite nature of the bread and wine. In a sense, the Mass is a celebration in eternity.

The REAL Elixir of Eternal Life

As a priest, I encounter people every week on their deathbed. Some are very ready "to go home" as they put it, while others are terrified to leave the comfort of the world that they've known for so many years. Just like the universe that is so vast beyond our human understanding, so too is there a world that is vast beyond all human understanding. This world I speak about is the world of eternal life - the world of heaven. Jesus tells us "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). To follow His command to "do this in memory of me" is the key to eternal life. While we might not literally drink of the chalice He drank from 2000 years ago with His disciples, it is not about the chalice, but about the contents of the chalice. The contents of the chalice He offered His disciples 2000 years ago is the same contents He offers us at each and every Mass - His very self in the Eucharist. THIS IS THE ELIXIR OF ETERNAL LIFE.

Unlike any other human story that has had a "key" to eternal life and a negative consequence attached, Jesus only offers goodness. He offers the gift of His very self.

Closing Thoughts

I could speak on this topic for a very long time, but I'm sure you're looking for my recommendation on whether to see the movie or not.

  • If you are a fan of action and/or sci fi movies, I would absolutely recommend for you to see this movie. It has all of the elements.
  • If you are looking for a romance movie or a date night movie, this probably is not the movie to fit that need. It has hints of romance, but this is a fraction of a percent of what is happening in the movie.
  • There is very little humor in the film, but the more you watch the movie, the viewer isn't really expecting humor.
  • If you're the type of person, like myself, that like to derive philosophical questions from movies, this movie will have you thinking for a long time.

Recommended? Yes