A while ago I saw the movie Jupiter Ascending, the latest film by the Wachowski’s, who were also behind the Matrix. It was an interesting movie, and I don’t regret seeing it. There were some pretty good parts, too, and I re-watched a few fragments for the purpose of this blog post, but it would be a stretch to say that I’d recommend seeing it if you haven’t already.
My primary issue with the story is that Jupiter, the titular character, spends most of the movie as a damsel in distress. Her primary role in the story appears to be exposure and world (universe) building: through her we get to know the various factions and their goals, but she herself does not influence the outcome other than being a mobile plot hook for Caine Wise (Channing Tatum’s character) to get his act together.
Anyway, that’s not what I wanted to focus on in this post. There’s actually a bit of story background that struck a chord with me, a bit like the Necromongers in Chronicles of Riddick.
Near the movie’s midpoint, the character Kalique Abrasax gives Jupiter a demonstration of the possibilities of her new life. Kalique—a woman Jupiter guesses to be in her mid forties—steps into a bath, and is shown to physically grow younger in a matter of seconds. This, by itself is not so remarkable for a science fiction movie, but the explanation that follows makes it all the more interesting. In essence, the ability to rejuvenate in this matter comes at the cost of cells harvested from living creatures: humans. In fact, entire planets, including Earth, exist for the sole purpose of serving as a source for rejuvenation. This is something the movie doesn’t really do much with, other than targeting earth for harvesting in the near future.
The concept is not new to Science Fiction. I recently re-watched Babylon 5, and the episode Deathwalker has a similar concept. The war criminal Jha’dur, known for experimenting on prisoners of war, has found a way to achieve immortality, at the price of another’s life.
In Jupiter Ascending, a parallel is drawn with Vampirism, and the character Kalique states that many such stories were caused by their civilization. But there is another aspect to this story that has less to do with Vampirism and more with inequality. First off, the rejuvenation treatment is only available to the very rich, who get to live millennia, while normal people have little to no chance of ever achieving the same. It’s the inequality on our own world amplified a thousandfold.
This aspect reminds me of the movie In Time, where aging has been stopped entirely, but replaced with a ticking clock on each person that details the time they have left to live, which can also be treated between persons, effectively replacing money as a currency. The rich have millions of years of life left in the bank, while the poor generally only have a day or two left to live.
In short: life at the expense of another is a very interesting concept that I would love to explore in more of my books. My Hunter in the Dark trilogy touches the subject to a certain degree with the Hunter, and it also plays a significant role in my next project.