If Jupiter Ascending hadn’t been delayed to February of next year, I suspect it would have been the 2014 equivalent of John Carter or After Earth. The expensive, untested summer sci-fi project is rarely given a pass, especially when it features a star or director that is struggling to find a hit.
In Jupiter’s case, directors Andrew and Lana Wachowski haven’t produced a universal hit since the first Matrix 15 years ago. Bloggers and trade writers are just waiting to pen the duo’s “obituary” or “comeback” columns, and now they’ll have to wait.
That delay also left Now Playing Podcast with a hole in its summer schedule, as Jupiter had been the planned finale to the 2014 Spring Donation Series, a 14-episode trek through the history of The Matrix (for Silver Level donors) and Planet of the Apes (Gold Level) films, with the added “Easter Egg” review of Sean Connery’s 1974 sci-fi flop Zardoz for donors who go above and beyond.
How bad is Zardoz? Behold your “favorite” James Bond.
In the history of Now Playing, this week’s development marks the first time a donation show has been delayed. Previous series’ that covered the Alien, Evil Dead and Thing franchises all made it to air on time, as did their theatrical counterparts.
So too, will Jupiter, just not until next year. And on Friday, Now Playing sent fans an email letting them know the film’s summer slot would not go unfilled.
Jupiter will still cap the 2014 Spring Donation Series (coming in 2015), but the Wachowskis’ live-action Speed Racer has been added to the schedule, extending the series to a whopping 15 shows — the most ever for a donation drive.
Q: What happened?
Arnie: I found out via Twitter on our show feed, just minutes before we were scheduled to record one of our Planet of the Apes reviews. My first reaction was a bit of frustration, not for us, but because I was upset we couldn’t deliver the listeners the review we promised.
But I quickly put together an alternate plan that I pitched to Jakob and Stuart at the start of the call — we review Speed Racer and release that when we would have released Jupiter Ascending, thus fulfilling the promise of 5 bonus reviews this summer.
Jakob: I hadn’t kept up on the proceedings of Jupiter Ascending all that much besides watching the trailer. However, our fans made sure we knew the news because as soon as the delay was announced we had tons of listeners posting the news on Now Playing Podcast’s Facebook page.
Q: Were you surprised by the move?
Stuart: Honestly… I wasn’t completely surprised. Jupiter Ascending wasn’t getting the push that other Summer 2014 movies were getting.
Jakob: Moving a release date never seems to be a good thing… and to February? That puts it in the camp of Ghost Rider and A Good Day To Die Hard, and that’s not good. Just listen to our reviews of those films.
Arnie: I always like it when our series’ end on a high note, and moving a high-profile film to February does not bode well for the movie.
Q: Have you dealt with this before?
Stuart: It really hung in the balance if we were going to be able to cover Wolf of Wall Street. No one was really sure whether Scorsese was going to be finished with the film for Christmas release (it had missed the Thanksgiving weekend window).
Jakob: The Adjustment Bureau had a release date change that made us scramble a bit. It was what our Philip K. Dick retrospective was building to and we had almost all the other film reviews recorded. But that got knocked back a few months and Stuart, who is Now Playing’s schedule guru, had to work his magic to fix our schedule.
Stuart: I have contingency plans for anything Hollywood throws at us. I’m probably the one that spends the most time on organizing the podcast calendar.
Q: Why Speed Racer?
Jakob: With our donation series including The Matrix series, we discussed the possibility of Speed Racer as a free bonus show to all our listeners. Once the news came out that Jupiter was delayed, some fans did start requesting Speed Racer as a fill-in.
Stuart: Plus Jupiter Ascending was going to be released in late August… after our donation drive is finished. It moved up to July when Fast and the Furious moved out of 2014.
Arnie: People seem to love it when we review truly awful movies. Our reviews of The Lawnmower Man, Man-Thing, and Howard the Duck are some of our most popular. As such, we had seen listeners ask for a review of Speed Racer, and had discussed doing it as a bonus show. We ended up deciding to review Godzilla instead, and based upon reaction to that review it was the right choice.
The other show we saw listeners request in place of Jupiter Ascending is Cloud Atlas, which is supposed to be equally awful and have higher-caliber stars. But with Jakob being a supporter of Speed Racer, in a totally non-ironic way, made that seem like the more interesting conversation.
Q: Who’s seen Speed Racer?
Stuart: Jakob is a fan. Arnie wasn’t. I hadn’t seen it but wanted to. So it has the classic model we like to follow (fan, casual fan, newbie).
Jakob: Just as with The Matrix series — yes, I defended parts 2 and 3 — I’m a fan of the Wachowskis Speed Racer. I was at the theater opening weekend to see it. I own it, and I’ve watched it multiple times. I’m excited to discuss what I think is an underrated film.
Arnie: I was home from work sick once and had a morbid curiosity about Speed Racer, so I gave it a shot. I’d say I half-watched it, though, as medicines kicked in and I lost interest after the first 30 minutes. So this will be my first time watching it totally lucid and paying full attention.
The hosts said fan reaction to the Planet of the Apes films has far exceeded that of the Matrix series, but as a longtime listener, I can tell you Carvalho is right on when he says fans love to see them cover the worst Hollywood has to offer. So we’ll see.
Speed Racer is set to be released on July 25 to Silver Level donors. To find out how you can get that show and the Planet of the Apes series, check out NowPlayingPodcast.com.