Movie Review: Jumper

It’s ironic that, given the film’s premise, Jumper fails to explore a satiable amount of it’s myriad of possibilities. Based on a series of books by Steven Gould, Jumper is the year’s biggest surprise and not in a good way. When you have an almost sure-fire, original premise that has action and sci-fi junkies just drooling all over the trailer combined with one of the brightest action directors working today and three solid screenwriters, how is the final product a disappointment? Whatever the reason, Jumper lacks the clear and layered storytelling one would come to expect from such names as Doug Liman and David S. Goyer. The story is farcical, lackadaisical, and traipses from one location to another; making it nothing but a breezy, easy to sit through time-filler.

David Rice (Hayden Christensen, 2007’s Awake) discovers his ability to teleport as a highschool teenager, after falling into a frozen lake. One minute he is on the verge of drowning, the next he is lying soaking wet in a public library. Since everyone at the scene believes he drowned, and he himself is going through a troubled life, David sees this as an opportunity to split and start over. He moves into a crummy New York City apartment and tries to figure out how he’s going to make money. Well, robbing banks shouldn’t be a difficult chore now, so he knocks off a few, buys a luxurious apartment and spends his days teleporting from one place to another around the world. He spends the morning surfing in Fiji and eats lunch on top of the pyramids.

Soon he discovers that he is not alone, there are other Jumpers; and he learns the hard way that there are people, religious nutcases (referred to as Paladins) who believe Jumpers shouldn’t have one of God’s powers. The leader of this group is Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), who will stop at nothing to kill every last Jumper on the planet. David learns that running from the Paladins is not as easy as it would seem for they have the technology that can counteract his abilities. With nowhere to live now that the Paladins have found his apartment, he decides to return to his hometown and let some people know he is alive, including old flame Millie (Rachel Bilson, 2006’s The Last Kiss). Big mistake because now he has put her life in danger. Along with a Jumper named Griffin (Jamie Bell, 2005’s King Kong), David and Millie find themselves hunted down to the ends of the earth (quite literally).

It seems like every time David takes a ‘jump’ he leaves behind a giant, imploding plot hole that the film fails to double back on. Furthermore, missed opportunities stick out like burned-out light bulbs. Here are a few examples: It’s believable (and an ingenious concept) that the Paladins would want to kill Jumpers, but why everyone connected to them? Maybe the parents for giving birth to such an “abomination” is reasonable, but beyond that I can’t see a clear answer. The scene where David and Millie meet again after eighty years is horridly written. She doesn’t ask anything beyond “How are you?” instead of “How are you, it’s been eight years and everyone thought you were dead, what the hell happened?” It gets worse. Without explaining anything about where’s he’s been all this time, he asks her to go to Rome with him, the place she’s always wanted to go, and without a moment’s hesitation she complies.

Also, there is an ironic connection between David and his mother (Diane Lane) that is nothing but a modicum of potential greatness because screenwriters Goyer (who directed last year’s underappreciated The Invisible, and penned 2005’s Batman Begins), Jim Uhls (1999’s Fight Club), and Simon Kinberg (Liman’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith) don’t give it the dramatic emphasis it deserves. Finally, there’s the character of David himself, who isn’t the ideal protagonist you’d expect. Moral conflict never seems to be an issue with his character. There’s a scene where David asks Roland “What if I’m different?” Roland replies: “You’re not.” Roland’s statement is the closest to the truth and this is one scene where Liman and his writers actually insult the intelligence of the audience.

Hayden Christensen has continually disappointed since he played a young Darth Vader and Jumper will be of no help to his career resume. Jamie Bell is fine but not very memorable as Griffin, who has spent his life fighting back against the Paladins. Rachel Bilson isn’t given much to work with considering her character is one-dimensional and only serves as a love interest and a tool to advance the plot. Diane Lane is so underused as David’s mother that it leaves the viewer in a state of disbelief because anyone with a pair of functional eyes can clearly see that she is the key to a great film. The only truly memorable character created is, no surprise, that of Roland. Some of that has to do with Samuel L. Jackson, but it is undeniable that the character is easy to remember because of his distinct snowball white hair.

Jumper is in need of an assured hand at the helm and a logical, in-depth script. Learning a few months back that names like Liman and Goyer were involved held a lot of promise, but I guess Hollywood should have looked elsewhere. This is undoubtedly not one of their best efforts and maybe even the weakest film of their careers. Jumper is the first of a long line of highly anticipated action films that will be releasing from now until the end of summer, but audiences looking for something more than just an 88 minute cardboard box action flick will be disappointed.

Grade: C-

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