Here is a new rule for how I review movies: If I am watching a seemingly serious sci-fi action flick and the first thing that pops into my mind is a song written and sung by Matt Stone and Trey Parker, that is not a good thing. The seemingly serious sci-fi actioner in question if Fox’s upcoming release Jumper, and the song? Stone and Parker’s 80s action movie inspired ballad “Montage” from the film Team America: World Police. The reason for this momentary lapse in concentration seemed to stem from the fact that Jumper felt more like one big action montage than it did like an actual film.
Based on a series of books from author Steven Gould, Jumper is easily one of the most frustrating moviegoing experiences of 2008 so far. Frustrating because of its brilliant concept, centering on the lives of unique people who can literally jump through wormholes and go anywhere in the world instantly. Frustrating also because it was adapted by a writing team led by David S. Goyer, who has had some really solid outings including 2005’s Batman Begins. And increasingly frustrating because it was directed by Doug Liman, who successfully delivered both The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, two films that I personally enjoyed the hell out of.
At the core of this frustration is a very stale, lackluster performance from Hayden Christensen, who seems completely out of place as David Rice, the “jumper” who we follow through the entire film. Rice is a high school loner who discovered the fact that he could teleport and then used it to run away from a broken home. He also used it to rob banks, paying for a nice Manhattan apartment and an over-the-top bachelor lifestyle. That is, until he is finally tracked down by Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), a member of a long-standing religious group known as Paladins, the jumper hunters. Roland will stop at nothing to track and kill David, even if that means offing his father (Michael Rooker) or his childhood love Millie (Rachel Bilson).
We learn all of this in a rush at the beginning of the film, with a poorly scripted series of voice-overs from Christensen that leads to, you guessed it, a montage. And besides the existence of some wicked cool action sequences toward the end of the film, that is what this film feels like. For too much of the film’s 88 minute runtime the audience is left to feel like it is getting the short version of the story, left with a feeling that this film is part of something bigger, something much more in-depth and interesting.
But while the story’s development seems incredibly rushed, if you allow yourself to make peace with the fact that there will be things you just won’t understand about the plot, you just may find plenty of things to enjoy about the film. One thing is the performance from Jamie Bell, who plays Griffin, another jumper who comes along to befriend and ultimately help David along in his battle to save his love. As well, the action sequences in the film are as brilliant as the concept itself. The ability of the jumpers to transport not only themselves but objects they are touching leads to some pretty cool special effects shots. Think about it this way: they literally throw a bus at Sam Jackson in the middle of the Sahara desert. How is that not awesome?
It is awesome. A bright shining glimmer of awesome amidst a movie experience that is anything but. All that Jumper has in creativity and innovative concept is squandered with messy storytelling and a stale performance from its leading man. In the end, the film feels more like the bean burrito of movies in 2008. When you first begin to eat it, it tastes great. But it goes in and out of you so quickly that its like you never ate it at all. And few hours later all you can think about was the bad part of the experience, the part where you found yourself singing to the porcelain god’s for 20 minutes.