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Why Jupiter Ascending Bombed At The Box Office

One might think that the creators of "The Matrix" could do no harm. Considering the overwhelming popularity of the first "Matrix" film and its subsequent sequels, the Wachowskis had an entire generation wearing black trench coats and listening to techno music. The bombastic action scenes, groundbreaking special effects, and heavy philosophical themes helped prove that action movies can invoke great thoughts. Who didn't walk out of the theater in 1999 and wonder if they were plugged into an elaborate simulation?

"Jupiter Ascending" is a movie from 2015, and it was an attempt by the Wachowskis to craft yet another memorable science fiction tale. Starring Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne, and Channing Tatum, "Jupiter Ascending" is about a girl named Jupiter Jones (Kunis). This down-on-her-luck cleaning lady becomes entangled in a vast, universe-wide enterprise that sees an elite ruling class genetically engineer the inhabitants of planets to harvest the entire population to fuel what is essentially an elixir of life. Drawn into a deadly sibling rivalry, Jones discovers that she owns the Earth, but her claim to our planet earns the ire of Balem Abrasax (Redmayne), who aims to harvest Earth's population. With a pedigree of actors and creators and a sprawling sci-fi plot, what happened to "Jupiter Ascending," and why did it bomb at the box office?

Some science fiction do poor at the box office, only to become cult classics

Sci-fi movies can be a massive undertaking, both creatively and financially. To create a fictional universe with its own sets of jargon, species, languages, and people, science-fiction can sometimes be a hard sale to the public. This isn't to say that science fiction isn't profitable, just that for every "Star Wars," we get a "John Carter." Even a hugely recognizable name like "Star Wars" can falter from time to time, with Indie Wire noting that "Star Wars: Solo" woefully underperformed and caused Disney to rethink their future slate of "Star Wars" movies.

According to Collider, several movies which are now considered classics in their own right were financial duds at the box office. Movies like "Tron," "The Thing," "Blade Runner," and "Starship Troopers" failed to live up to expectations but later gained their followers and recognition after leaving the theater. This has to be the cinematic equivalent of when an artist, like Vincent Van Gogh, dies in poverty, only to be widely recognized after their passing. Decider considers "Jupiter Ascending" a recent candidate for sci-fi cult status. Its addition to streaming services is undoubtedly getting more people interested than at the time of its release. Financial information about "Jupiter Ascending" on The Numbers shows that the movie had a relatively large production budget of around $179 million. Still, the movie barely broke even, having only made $181 million worldwide, which doesn't even account for marketing and advertising.

2015 saw several science fiction movies bomb at the box office

Referencing IMDb, 2015 certainly was a hit-or-miss year regarding the success of movies. This year saw "Avengers: Age of Ultron," "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," "Furious 7," and "Jurassic World," but it also saw some particular bombs, with science fiction films suffering in particular. Movies like "Pixels," "Tomorrowland," "Terminator Genisys," "Chappie," "Hardcore Henry," and "Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials" all failed to break $100 million at the domestic box office. This isn't to say that no science fiction films made money in 2015, just that there was a particular string of underperforming misfires.

According to Movie Insider, "Jupiter Ascending" was released on February 6, 2015, and it should have had a fairly easy weekend, with its greatest competition coming from "SpongeBob: Sponge Out of Water" and "Seventh Son." The Numbers has "SpongeBob" having earned around $55 million that weekend, while also noting that "Seventh Son" also bombed, making a paltry $7 million. It is important to note that "Jupiter Ascending" did slightly better, with The Numbers stating the movie earned around $18 million. Either way, that weekend was certainly not kind to movies not featuring an anthropomorphic sponge.

Critics absolutely ravaged Jupiter Ascending

Perhaps the most glaring reason why "Jupiter Ascending" failed to take off was the initial critical reception surrounding the film. On Rotten Tomatoes, "Jupiter Ascending" holds an abysmal 28% critical score and a not much better 38% audience score. Word of mouth and a positive reception can help make or break a movie, and with that, many critics putting the film in a negative light certainly doesn't help much when it comes to box office yields.

Brent McKnight of The Last Thing I See said of the movie, "No amount of visual pyrotechnics, no matter how spectacular, can save such a tired, weak story. The forced romantic angle, the uncommitted performances, the exponentially tedious false flag endings, and the lack of any thematic depth sadly amounts to nothing." Monica Castillo of the International Business Times applauded the movie's overall look but little else and complained about the muddled narrative and how the film is the cinematic equivalent of a black hole. James Croot of Stuff described "Jupiter Ascending" as one of the worst science fiction movies of the 2010s. Needless to say, critics shredded "Jupiter Ascending."

The stars of Jupiter Ascending definitely have their own opinions

Speaking with Variety, Channing Tatum said of the movie, "'Jupiter Ascending' was a nightmare from the jump. It was a sideways movie. All of us were there for seven months, busting our hump. It was just tough." Eddie Redmayne also had some choice words about his performance and told GQ, "I won a prize for it – for the worst performance of the year. So yeah, it was [a] pretty bad performance by all accounts." Even the main star, Mila Kunis, struggled with her role in "Jupiter Ascending." While appearing on The Late Late Show with James Corden, Kunis was given the choice of either explaining the plot of the movie or eating a cow tongue, and she opted for the latter.

So, why did "Jupiter Ascending" bomb? It seems like a perfect storm of conditions was met that stifled poor Jupiter Jones' ascension. Between opening day competition, negative critical response, science fiction fan burnout, and a massive budget that failed to recoup the investment, it appears as if the proverbial deck was stacked against "Jupiter Ascending," despite its impressive cast, deified creators, and eye-popping special effects. Although it is doubtful we will ever see a sequel, at least more people have been able to watch the film on streaming and form their own opinions on the polarizing movie.