Mark Reviews Movies

JUMPER

2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Doug Liman

Cast: Hayden Christensen, Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Lane, Michael Rooker

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of intense action violence, some language and brief sexuality)

Running Time: 1:28

Release Date: 2/14/08


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Review by Mark Dujsik

Being able to teleport would, I suppose, be pretty high on my "If you could have one superpower, what would it be?" list. The first section of Jumper makes it more attractive a fantastical ability to have, what with the whisking away to London, Paris, the top of the Sphinx, and into bank vaults where our hero can take as much money as he wants without any consequences. This is sort of a yuppie superhero movie in that respect. It's all about the hero's desires, his greed, and, when push comes to shove, his need to save his own ass.

There's a scene in which he watches a news report about people trapped in the middle of a flood, and our apparently nave sensibilities about responsibility coming with power make us expect that he'll breeze away and rescue those poor, unfortunate souls in need of a miracle. Nope, he's got a random woman to pick up in London and some gnarly waves to ride in Fiji. Oh, and there's a girl, too. You know the one: the high school crush that he just can't get over. And his dad's a jerk, he says, and his mom ran off when he was five. Yeah, he's a neo-Me-generation superhero, all right.

He discovered at the age of 15 that he could teleport when he dropped through the ice trying to retrieve a gift he got for the crush. He ended up in the local library. His dad (Michael Rooker) wanted him to clean up the wet trail he left on the floor, and dammit, that's enough from that jerk. He ran away and never came back. He also discovered he could enter a bank vault, steal all the money he needed, and not get caught. He's David Rice (Hayden Christensen), by the way, and now, eight years later, he lives in a luxurious New York City apartment and travels the world on a whim.

His ability and the robberies it has aided have not gone unnoticed. There's a group of paladins hunting "jumpers" like David around the globe, led by Roland (Samuel L. Jackson) and driven by the idea that only God should have the ability to be anywhere. Roland confronts David in his apartment, and after a fight (these guys know how to fight transporters, but more on that later), David goes to the last place on Earth a group of people hunting down someone would look: home.

He hooks up with his crush Millie (Rachel Bilson), and the two run off to Rome, where David is confronted yet again by someone who knows his secret ability. This guy is Griffin (Jamie Bell), who's been following David since his visit to London. Griffin is also a jumper, and if the movie, which runs a brief 80-some minutes, is vague about a lot of things, it's particularly vague about him. We get the idea that he's hunting down paladins, disposing of their bodies in shark-infested waters near Cuba. Right off the bat, he fights David in the Coliseum, threatening to harm Millie, but thankfully for David, the paladins show up, giving Griffin a new target.

See, the paladins use electricity to fight the jumpers, because, we can only guess, it's difficult to concentrate on the place to which one wishes to teleport when one is being jolted with 1,000 volts of alternating current (I'd imagine it's difficult to live when being subjected to constant, repeated shocks of 1,000 volts, but apparently whatever gives the jumpers the ability to teleport also makes them physically immune to electrocution).  They have electric clubs that also shoot out electrified cables that also can bind the target.

Director Doug Liman handles the action sequences with lots of light, sound, and fury and very little coherence. That is the movie's biggest, most unfortunate downfall. Here we have a scenario with the possibility of dynamic action sequences, and in flashes (that is all Liman and his three editors allow us), we catch glimpses of them. Griffin has learned to teleport with inanimate objects, which allows for a sequence in which he speeds through and past traffic and another in which he grabs a double-decker bus from London and throws it at Roland.

Yes, eventually David and Griffin team up to battle Roland and his paladins, but still Griffin is a bit of an enigma. Even more enigmatic is Millie, whose moods and attitudes toward David change as quickly as the script necessitates (which also makes her character shallowly obvious). What the script (based on a novel by Steven Gould) does get right is the way it subtly reveals David's power and its limitations. What's missing is a reason to care about his plight, in which the introduction of his mother (Diane Lane, clearly meant to be used more in the sequel) doesn't suffice, and where he fits into what Griffin sums up as a centuries-long war.

I might have overlooked a lot of this more had the movie's action made more sense with an actual sense of involvement. Instead, Jumper makes us focus too much on its storytelling shortcomings when we should be impressed by the light and sound show.

Copyright 2008 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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