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Will Ashton

Lights, Camera, Ashton: Why ‘Jupiter Ascending’s’ failure is not the death of original filmmaking

Will Ashton writes about whether the days of original filmmaking are over. That is, are movies just going to be sequels, remakes and reboots?

Following Jupiter Ascending’s dismal box office returns this weekend — it made $18.4 million from a $176 million production, according to Rotten TomatoesVariety wrote an article titled “Jupiter Ascending Flops: Why the Wachowskis’ Failure is Bad for Movies.”

It’s your typical foreboding article. It makes some solid points while also thoughtfully commenting about the future of big budget properties. Yes, sequels, remakes, reboots, prequels and any other established property do and will continue to have top reign on Hollywood’s bottom line. Yes, originality is no longer a top property for Hollywood. And yes, people like comfort-food movies, and don’t like things that are different (a.k.a. the McDonald’s/Applebee’s argument). 

But in their efforts to explain Jupiter Ascending’s failure, they find themselves tripping over their own toes when furthering their God-fearing point. They mention how Gravity — another original Warner Bros. project that was one of 2013’s most successful studio properties, both critically and commercially — had a troubled production and confused public reactions, but still ended up on top. Since Jupiter Ascending couldn’t accomplish this same feat, it must mean original Hollywood features are further down the rabbit hole, in Variety’s opinion.

It’s easy to panic in times like this if you’re a loyal film fan. Jupiter Ascending — a movie, I should mention, I didn’t see because my buddies wanted instead to see The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water — is just one of the few original tent-pole films of 2014. Original, in this case, means based on any pre-established film, book, graphic novel, etc. That it failed to connect an audience, whether it was good or bad, is not a good sign for Warner Bros. when it gets some original sci-fi screenplays. But let’s not forget the fact that Warner Bros. hosted a big, successful sci-fi film just less than three months ago.

That movie was called Interstellar. Yeah, I know, it got made because Christopher Nolan was in the director’s chair. And yes, how “original” can it be when it liberally took from sci-fi flicks like 2001: A Space Odyssey? Well, for one, Jupiter Ascending was made not because of its story but because The Matrix directors helmed it. They might not get another blank check from Warner Bros. anytime soon, but it’s the same thing. Also, from what I’ve seen and heard, Jupiter Ascending is, basically, a free-flowing rip-off of other established sci-fi properties, like Star Wars, Dune and The Hunger Games.

The truth is things might look bleaker for original films than before, but Hollywood movies are — and always will be — a cause-by-cause situation. In truth, originality in film will prevail as long as creative people out there have cameras. Hell, two of the most creative movies I have seen last year —Birdman and The Congress — were about how unoriginal Hollywood movies are, if marginally.

It’s hard to say whether original properties are dead just yet. Not to mention, we’ve got another coming to theaters next month — Chappie. While that one will be the ultimate test, it’s ultimately a bit premature to say originality in Hollywood went to the wayside. Let’s wait until Ride Along 2 comes out until we pull that plug.

Will Ashton is a senior studying journalism and a staff writer for Email him at or find him on Twitter @thewillofash.


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