This weekend sees the release of Jupiter Ascending, not just the latest visually-spectacular movie from the Wachowksis, but the latest example of space opera — the genre that proves that, no matter what kind of political or social allegories you’ve created, they’re always a little bit more attractive when you place them in space and give people ray-guns. Before you go to see Mila Kunis becoming a space princess, here are some ways you can prepare for the experience.
STAR TREK (1966-1969)
Not that I’m saying that Jupiter Ascending isn’t entirely original, but given the fact that the original version of Gene Roddenberry’s space fantasy lasted 79 episodes and got increasingly over-the-top as it went on, there’s definitely a possibility that you could create a super cut that essentially recreated the entire Wachowskis movie out of scenes of Shatner, Nimoy et al.
Decades before Mila Kunis became the latest female earthling to drive the universe wild, Jane Fonda’s zero-gravity striptease at the start of Roger Vadim’s adaptation of the classic comic books by French artist Jean-Claude Forest shaped an entire generation’s sexual preference. By this time she got strapped into the Orgasmatron, all bets were off.
BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (1978)
Sure, the original Glen A. Larson series might not have had the pessimism and personal problems that made the Ronald D. Moore reboot a critical success, but there’s no denying that the disco glamor of the original makes a far better primer for what you’ll get in Jupiter. Just imagine Dirk Benedict with a couple of pointy ears and he’s a perfect stand-in for Channing Tatum.
THE FIFTH ELEMENT (1997)
And talking about ridiculously overblown glam projects, how could anyone forget Luc Besson’s contribution to the science fiction genre? In many ways, this movie sums up everything that’s great — and maybe a few things that aren’t so great — about space operas, and the combination of Mila Jovovich and Bruce Willis predicts the Kunis/Tatum pairing so well that there’s almost no way this wasn’t in the Wachowski’s inspiration list when it came to Jupiter planning.
STARSHIP TROOPERS (1997)
From one sci-fi movie where the comedy was so broad, it convinced some audience members that it was serious, to another. Paul Verhoeven’s loose adaptation of the Robert Heinlein novel of the same name — so loose, in fact, that the screenplay originally had nothing to do with the Heinlein novel — might not fit many people’s definition of space opera thanks to its planet-based setting, but there are complex political situations reduced to humans vs. aliens with lasers; it’s hardly The West Wing.
GALAXY QUEST (1999)
For some, it’s the best Star Trek movie ever made. Even if you’ve never seen an episode, however, there’s a lot to love about this Sigourney Weaver/Tim Allen comedy for anyone who’s ever seen anything sci-fi, and as a result, it’s a pretty good primer for what to expect from something like Jupiter Ascending. Really, all it needs is a little bit more alien princess, and we’d be all set.
DOCTOR WHO (2005-2013)
Quick: Is “an everyday woman from Earth plucked from her humdrum life and introduced to a universe of wonder in space” a description of Jupiter Ascending or every season of Doctor Who since the show returned in 2005? The answer is, of course, both — and with a couple of those seasons, the show also predicts Jupiter’s gimmick of the Earth woman having a destiny beyond her imagination, too. Think of it as Jupiter Ascending A Bunch Of Times With More English Accents.
STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS (2008-2014)
You can’t talk about space operas without a nod to Star Wars, maybe the most space opera-y of all space operas. Sadly, the only chance to watch George Lucas’ genre-defining contribution comes in the form of the recent animated spin-off, The Clone Wars but, for those who haven’t sampled the show, take the opportunity. Skip the first season and dive into the second to find a world far more engaging than it has any right to be.
GREEN LANTERN: THE ANIMATED SERIES (2011)
Along similar lines, the CGI-animated spin-off from Ryan Reynold’s ill-fated DC superhero movie — you remember, the guy with the magic wishing ring? — had the opportunity to go far deeper into the comic book mythology of the character than a movie ever could, and was more fun as a result. Intergalactic battles and competing tribes of ring-slingers make this an underdog entry, but worth checking out. No, really.
HALO 4: FORWARD UNTO DAWN (2012)
In case Starship Troopers wasn’t serious enough for you, it turns out that a Heinlein novel gets upstaged by a videogame movie in the solemnity stakes. Originally a web-series to promote the titular installment of the Microsoft property, it’s a chance to see what the future of space war looks like when you’re not playing it for laughs. Which, you know, it’s war. Laughs are traditionally thin on the ground during that.