[Screen It]


(2015) (Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum) (PG-13)

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Sci-Fi: A lowly Chicago maid who hates her life discovers that she's the genetically reincarnated matriarch of a royal family that owns most of the universe and now wants her dead.
Jupiter Jones (MILA KUNIS) is a Russian immigrant who was brought to America as an infant and now works as a maid with her mother and other family members. She hates her life, but soon has a change of heart when extraterrestrial aliens attempt to kill her. They nearly succeed, but Jupiter is saved by half-wolf, half-man Caine Wise (CHANNING TATUM), a so-called skyjacker who's been sent by a universal royal, Titus (DOUGLAS BOOTH), to find and retrieve her.

It seems that she's the genetically reincarnated matriarch of a royal family that owns most of the universe, and Titus and his siblings, Balem (EDDIE REDMAYNE) and Kalique (TUPPENCE MIDDLETON) are quite interested in Jupiter, what with their mother having recently perished. In short, they don't want her messing with their plans that involve a myriad of planets they separately own, including Earth. When Caine figures that out, he seeks out the help of his former military commander, Stinger (SEAN BEAN), with whom he had a falling out in the past.

As Jupiter tries to soak all of this in, Caine does what he can to protect her from the others and help her take her rightful place on the royal thrown, overseeing the universe and its inhabitants.

OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10
Mick Jagger might have sung "Time is on my side," but he originally did so at the age of 21 when most everyone in that bracket feels like there's plenty of that temporal quality left. As Jagger undoubtedly now knows, just like the rest of us who are fifty-plus, time exponentially speeds up as you grow older. While the last hour of class might have seemed like an eternity as a kid and summer vacation felt like it would last forever, both go by in the blink of an eye for those who've been fortunate to grow much older than those early mindsets.

Time is certainly part of "Jupiter Ascending," the latest big budget, sci-fi flick from the Wachowski siblings -- Andy and Lana (formerly Larry) -- best known for creating and helming the fabulous "The Matrix" and its progressively worsening sequels. The ironic thing, however, is that for all of the talk about time being the universe's most precious commodity, the Wachowskis end up wasting more than two hours of ours with this convoluted, sci-fi mess.

Granted, two hours might not be that big of a deal in the overall scope of one's day, let alone entire life, but those are two hours you'll never get back, and it remains to be seen if Warner Bros. will earn back their reported $175 million budget. And speaking of getting something back, I'm guessing Eddie Redmayne might wish he had the time to go back and decline the offer to appear in this film. Playing the main villain as a highly affected, melodramatic "royal" who's always speaking in hushed yet forceful whispers, Redmayne may end up having this film be his personal "Norbit."

If that's not familiar to you, it refers to the film and titular character Eddie Murphy played back in 2007 in a film that was released after his critically lauded performance in "Dreamgirls" and is believed to have been the reason he didn't win the Best Supporting Actor Oscar that year. I have no idea if this year's Oscar ballots are closed, how many have yet to be submitted, or the number of Oscar voters who might venture out to see this sci-fi "epic." But if Redmayne doesn't win for "The Theory of Everything" (before this, he was pretty much considered a lock), you'll likely now know why.

Of course, he and his performance alone aren't what sink this offering. Instead, it's a case of creativity run amok, and not in a good way. Everything seems to have been thrown in but the kitchen sink, and even that might be present as many of the action scenes are done in such a convoluted, George Lucas style that it's hard to tell what's happening with so much filling the screen. And without us caring about any of the involved characters -- thanks to substandard character development and a horrendous script that's needlessly convoluted despite essentially being quite simple -- those action scenes are nothing but empty spectacle. They arrive way too early and appear too often, all while wallowing in excess and possessing little to no substance.

In the film, Mila Kunis plays a Russian immigrant maid who hates her life, completely unaware that she's the genetically reincarnated matriarch of a royal family that owns most of the universe. Who knew? Apparently bees do because, as we learn from one of the characters in the film, they're genetically programmed to detect royalty. I kid you not. Of course, that has no impact on the story that has the adult children of that now dead matriarch not wanting dear old mom -- or at least this new Earthling version of her -- kicking around, so various bounty hunters have been sent to retrieve and/or kill her.

One of them is played by Channing Tatum who has pointy ears, not because he's a Vulcan (although that wouldn't surprise me considering the menagerie of species the filmmakers have overpopulated their film with), but because he's part wolf. Of course, considering his flying boots make him more akin to the Silver Surfer than the Wolfman, that's an odd character inclusion. Again, I kid you not, and the wolf bit is apparently present just for the line where he tells Kunis -- now obviously smitten with him once she's seen him sans his shirt -- that he has more in common with a dog than her. In true puppy love fashion, she replies that she loves dogs.

But I digress, as does the film from time to time, including a much later scene that's intended as commentary on unnecessarily convoluted bureaucracy in terms of getting permits and doing filings and such but feels completely out of place here (as do the scenes featuring Kunis' characters' extended Russian family). Anyway, those spoiled rotten royals (Douglas Booth, Tuppence Middleton and the aforementioned Redmayne train wreck) finally get their hands on our lovely protagonist, resulting in more scenes sporting lots of expensive special effects. The newly edited TV commercials might make all of that seem exciting. Trust me, it's not, and unless you can view all of this as over-indulgence and straight-up camp, sitting through this will be tedious, tiresome, irritating or a combination thereof.

I could go on and on -- including about the Wachowskis apparent obsession with human bodies being used for alternate purposes (something they started, rather brilliantly, in the first "Matrix" film and then dumb down to a meager Ponce de Leon bit here) -- but the film really doesn't warrant as much thought or discussion as I've already given it. Likely to go down as one of Hollywood's costliest and biggest messes, "Jupiter Ascending" only descends from the get-go and crashes long before the end credits mercifully roll. It rates as a 2 out of 10.

Reviewed February 3, 2015 / Posted February 6, 2015

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