Saturday, February 16, 2008

Review: Jumper

Starring: Hayden Christensen, Jamie Bell, Samuel L. Jackson, Rachel Bilson
Director: Doug Liman
Release Date: February 14, 2008
Running time: 88 min
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Distributors: 20th Century Fox

One of the cardinal rules of good filmmaking is to not underestimate the intelligence of your audience. There are different levels but it makes you wonder which is the bigger crime; not trusting your audience to figure out a movie on its own without being beat over the head with the answer, or thinking they aren’t smart enough to notice that they could have known the answer if given a plot to do so. One of the first lines in Jumper told me all I needed to know about the intentions of the film:

“It didn’t used to be this way. I used to be a regular chump. Like you.”

Great…

David Rice (Hayden Christensen) finds out as a teenager that he has the ability to “jump”, or teleport. His mother left when he was five and he lives with his father. After almost drowning on day he accidentally jumps to a library, then home, then to NYC, then into a bank to steal money. If I am moving too fast for you, not to worry, however long it took you to read that last sentence is about as much time as the movie allowed for a back story, so you’re up to speed.

Fast forward to today. David has quite a little racket going for himself. With his newfound ability perfected, he lives in a swank New York apartment bankrolled by jumping in and out of, and robbing bank vaults. One day he comes home from his latest tryst overseas met by a man in his loft. Roland (Samuel L. Jackson) never reveals where he is from but immediately tries to capture and kill him. He’s got a bunch of fancy gadgets that are never explained, but we get the idea they prevent David from being able to jump.

The remainder of the movie is David running from Roland, who happens to be a Paladin (huh?), finding out there are other jumpers out there, such as Griffin (Jamie Bell) who possess the same ability as him. Sometime in the middle we briefly find out that Paladin’s are an organization set on destroying all the jumpers. The ‘why’ is never explained, but we are expected to make that… uh, leap and just go along for the ride.

The problem with the ride is that it’s, well, kinda boring. And at my last count, action movies aren’t supposed to be. The pacing of the film is fine, I suppose, but the teleporting stuff got old pretty quick when there wasn’t much substance to be found anywhere else. The concept itself is interesting and I think there is a good movie in there somewhere, but the idea of teleporting became a bit thin. I take that back; the idea of teleportation is pretty cool, but the execution was thin.

I guess there’s a reason Nightcrawler wasn’t a bigger part of X2.

The movie is based on the 1992 novel Jumper by Steven Gould. Before sitting down to write this review, I took a midnight stroll down the Information Superhighway to find out if the book was as much of a mess. Come to find out the differences between the movie and the book was pretty substantial. I found that all the stuff they changed from the book is all the stuff that comes across as disconnected in the movie. It is curious why you would take proven material, skin the meat from it and try to dress it up in something different. Guess they should have left well enough alone.

You don’t go to a movie like this for the acting, but it is worth mentioning that Jamie Bell is by far the best part. If I was a jumper and had a friend that could do the same thing, I’d want him there to hang out with. Sam Jackson is underused and reduced to a bad comic book character. That makes more sense explaining why he looked like a poor man’s Wesley Snipes from Demolition Man. I will say though, life sized cutout of Anakin Skywalker they used in the movie is a lot more mobile than I expected from a piece of cardboard. It was still cardboard though, so don’t expect much.

This movie was like watching a bad run of episodes of the TV show Lost – too many questions and not enough answers. The difference is on Lost, at least we know eventually everything will make sense. At least more than it does now. Jumper never will. Even if the two sequels planned ever get made. The danger of telling a story over three movies is like telling any story; you have to grab them early.

The movie lives up to its name though, because the story is all over the place.

And there’s the rub.

* 1/2 out of ****

4 comments:

Rick Olson said...

This movie just begs the question: is there anything Samuel Jackson won't do for a paycheck?

Fletch said...

Yes, Rick - Walk the earth, like Kane from Kung Fu.

Liman is one more bad pic away from being on my shit list. I have yet to see this, but I also have yet to see a review that gives it a decent grade. Blah.

soundtrackgeek said...

I still love Sam L. Jackson, even if he is in a lot of (insert appropriate curse word here) movies.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but I feel it would do well in the 80s. Am i wrong?

I just listened to the score by John Powell for the third time, and it is strictly average. I'll probably see this movie anyway...

WaywardJam said...

My oh my wasn't this movie bad! I totally agree with every word.

Loved your cardboard cutout observation, too true. Surprised you didn't mention Rachel Bilson, I thought she stunk it up the worst which says a lot giving the sewer this film crawled from.