Aug 26, 2015

Jupiter's Aliens

image source
Immortality is a popular topic for many science fiction story writers. In the case of Jack Vance, his first novel (published in 1956), To Live Forever, was about immortality. During the rest of Vance's long and prolific career as a writer, characters who had a desire for longer life showed up in additional Vance stories.

For example, in The Killing Machine, Demon Prince Kokkor Hekkus had found a way to extend his life. On the "lost world" of Thamber, Hekkus could play out his fantasies, living many different lives of adventure and romance over the course of hundreds of years.

At the end of his writing career, Vance published Ports of Call in which the aging Dame Hester's quest for a fountain of youth becomes the driving force for launching Myron's space travel adventures and visits to distant space ports scattered across the Gaean Reach.

1976 edition
I've never read To Live Forever, but according to Jonathan Goodwin, the protagonist of that story, Gavin Waylock, is another one of Vance's "rebellious heroes" (and another of Vance's "G heroes"). Gavin had reached the apex of his society and had been granted immortality, but then his whole life, and, subsequently, his whole culture, began to unravel.

A common theme in stories about immortality is that attaining the ability to live forever is a kind of trap. Mortals might strive for immortality, but once achieved, immortality can have its own problems.

1982 DAW edition
One of the first novels that I ever read (The City and the Stars) depicted Arthur Clarke's version of an imagined future society where humans had achieved immortality. Clarke imagined a rather static society of immortals who were among the last few remaining residents of Earth. They had completely abandoned the use of space travel technology, then, finally, after many millions of years of stagnation on Earth, a new human was brought into existence and he grew up to become the "rebel" who could knock the immortals of Earth out of their rut and make a return to space travel.

Luri was able to use Fru'wu
technology to achieve immortality.
Until this current blog post, I only had one previous post with the label "immortality". That old blog post was about a woman who was possibly just the second (who was 1st?) Earthling to attain immortality, Luri. She was born "too early", so Luri had to wait around a couple of thousand years for the Buld spaceship to arrive at Earth.

The advanced technology that was used to give Luri immortality was not developed by humans. It was provided to Luri by Interventionist agents. The alien Fru'wu, a much more ancient species than we humans, used advanced nanotechnology to immortalize Luri. That was back when time travel was still possible, and Luri's role in First Contact could be known thousands of years in advance.

Immortal Space Aliens
cover art by Rowena Morrill
My favorite kind of science fiction story is one that involves alien beings from distant planets who are much more technologically advanced than we primitive Earthlings. I like stories that explore the implications of immortal aliens coming in contact with mortal humans.

Miners of Earth
However, I despise stories that involve alien beings who "feed" off of human "life forces". I'm not sure which is more annoying, science fiction plots that involve aliens traveling to Earth across vast interstellar distance to take our gold or plots that suggest aliens would in some way eat humans or collect some "elixir of life" from human bodies, a magic potion that would give the aliens eternal life.  

Jupiter Ascending
I've never seen the film Jupiter Ascending and I don't feel like I've stumbled upon an unbiased account of the film and the aliens that are portrayed in it, so what follows, below, is my best-guess understanding of the film based on what I've read. The rest of this blog post is similar in nature to the most popular post of this blog, in which I tried to make sense of the film Prometheus. Are there any interesting space aliens in Jupiter Ascending?

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Jupiter's Aliens
The human home world: Orous.
Jupiter Jones is taken away from Earth and given a tour of the galaxy. Even before being taken away from Earth by space-traveling humans from another planet, she gets to meet some "space aliens". I put "space aliens" in quotes because it is not clear exactly what the odd creatures are that show up near the start of Jupiter Ascending and start altering Ms. Jone's life on Earth. 

Ms. Jupiter Jones
This is not a science fiction story about space aliens. In fact, the whole story could have been told on Earth with no mention of space travel.  Humans are the dominant critter of this particular fictional universe. According to this wiki, which tries to give a coherent account of Jupiter Ascending, the human species is very ancient and evolved on a distant planet called Orous.
Caine was engineered to have a huge, ahem, gun.

During their long existence on Orous, humans used genetic engineering to create many different types of creatures who have mixtures of human genes and genes from other species. These genetically-engineered hybrids are called "splices".

Size matters.
Urban Fantasy: Caine's bootie call at the UPS store.
Ms. Jones has an insta-romance with Caine, who was genetically engineered to be part wolf, part bird and part whatever came to Lana or Andy in a moment of "inspiration". Ms. Jones likes dogs and Caine has cool gravity boots, so, of course, she instantly wants to grab his huge gun.

RegeneX you're the one
You make bath time so much fun
A major concern of the residents of Orous is acquiring RegeneX. RegeneX can extend a person's life, but the only source of RegeneX is "harvested" bodies of primitive humans such as Earthlings. Supposedly the only reason that there are humans on Earth is because we have been "planted" here and it is our fate to be "harvested" and processed so as to provide a supply of RegeneX for the human "royalty" who live on other planets like Orous.

"I am not Seraphi."
Okay, so if we grant this highly implausible backstory, we are also asked to believe that one particular Earthling (Ms. Jones) is genetically identical to a recently deceased human royal family member (Seraphi) from the planet Orous. This freak genetic concordance thrusts Ms. Jones, who works as a cleaning lady, into the center of an incoherent transgalactic plot with the fate of all we Earthlings hanging in the balance.
Sargorn Gorn

This "new" science fiction story sounds like the result of some Hollywood script-writing hack's rushed effort to mash together plot ideas from old Sci Fi stories like Dune and Soylent Green. But then, why should we expect anything better from writers who were college drop-outs and who got their start writing for comic books such as Hellraiser?

"..... like a supermodel ... when she opens her mouth, you realize there's almost nothing going on, inside. Which is a shame, because so, so pretty."

Did someone mention aliens?
Keepers from Diorite
We are told that in the fictional universe of Jupiter Ascending, humans discovered Earth about 65,000,000 yeas ago, at a time when it was dominated by Sargorns. The Sargorns were eliminated from Earth, but some were genetically modified and kept around as servants on Orous for the House of Abrasax, the family that "owns" Earth and uses it as their cattle human ranch.

The presumed "space aliens" of Jupiter Ascending (shown in the image to the right) serve the royal humans of Orous as "Keepers". These Keepers make sure that the humans of Earth remain ignorant and unaware of their lowly status as livestock.

Princess Jupiter
Members of the House of Abrasax take turns trying to capture or kill or endlessly chase after Ms. Jones because (listen carefully!) she is genetically identical to the former and recently deceased head of the royal family. Ms. Jones eventually gains legal title as the new "owner" of Earth. Yes, this is a fantasy Princess movie.

from Rotten Tomatoes
Based on what I've read about the "Keepers", I'm disappointed in the limited role that aliens play in Jupiter Ascending. I guess the Keepers just do dirty work for royal dicks like Balem Abrasax. But the point of the movie is not to reveal something interesting about space aliens. There is nothing interesting "out there", at all: after eons of human existence there is only a bunch of royal jerks who want to own Earth and process Earthlings into RegeneX so that they continue living their long decadent lives as "royalty". 

shape-shifting Keepers
"...Mass Effect for idiots"

I was motivated to investigate Jupiter Ascending when I learned that it uses some of the same types of Sci Fi plot elements that are in my current writing obsession, the Exode Trilogy. However, as is usual for Hollywood science fiction, this flick seems full of absurd science. I'd hoped that there might be some interesting aliens in Jupiter Ascending, but the only supposed "aliens" (the "Keepers") might not actually be aliens. As far as I can tell, they could just as well be one of the many comic book human variants in this flick that are the result of genetic engineering

"Look, the flick makes no sense
so just make sure that everyone
screams really loud."
Balem the bad guy.
In the fictional universe of Jupiter Ascending, the Keepers use super advanced technology to keep we primitive Earthlings trapped in a "Matrix" of ignorance and believing that humans evolved on Earth. This could be interesting, but we must ask: if there are all these fantastic technologies available to the people of Orous, then why do they need to obtain their precious RegeneX from the bodies of Earthlings? That defies logic and ruins the entire Jupiter Ascending story.

"You have to tell them! RegeneX is
made out of people!"
Jupiter Ascending has been nominated for an award in the 2015 Search for Interesting Hollywood Aliens. The award category is "silliest solution to the Fermi Paradox". There are beings who live on other planets, but we don't know that they exist because the Keepers constantly reprogram our memories. We must be kept ignorant because (listen carefully!) the beings who live on other planets (who are very ancient and have super advanced technology including sophisticated genetic engineering) need to grow billions of humans on Earth as the raw material from which they extract a rare maguffin elixir of youth. This makes no sense, but as they say, "That's Hollywood".

The sequel: Jupiter and the RegeneX Factory

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