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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Jumper (review)

A Bit of a Leap

Well, that’s how ya do it, I guess: you teleport right past all the boring stuff like character and background. Hey, who needs all that when you can jump a stolen sports car through a dealership window without breaking it — wormholes, you know — and take it on the coolest joyride ever through the crowded streets of Tokyo, one during which you don’t even have to worry about hitting other cars or pedestrians, you can just teleport right through them?

Call it The Fast and the Spurious.
There’s no denying that Jumper features some of the most original and most clever action I’ve ever seen on film, which is exactly what we would expect from director Doug Liman, who seemingly reimagined action as serious business with The Bourne Identity, and action as screwball comedy in Mr. & Mrs. Smith — if someone is gonna do something new with the action movie, it’s gonna be him. And the possibilities here are myriad, and nicely surprising. When a guy can jump himself from one spot to another three feet away without any of that tedious walking involved, it opens up all sorts of possibilities that you probably hadn’t even thought of (I hadn’t): like, how would two guys who could do that fight each other, when they can simply teleport themselves out of the path of flying fist? It’s not like one of those two guys could just jump to, you know, Paris or Antarctica or somewhere to escape, because jumpers can follow one another’s “jump scars” — there’s no running away from another jumper who wants to get you. And when people can move themselves instantaneously to anywhere on the planet without any of that tedious mucking about in airports and eating bags of airline peanuts, the possibilities for adventure certainly seem newly intriguing.

But Jumper — based on a young adult novel by Steven Gould — feels like half a movie. And I don’t mean in that superhero-origin-story way, like this is mere setup for an inevitable sequel (though it’s clear by the end that sequels are greatly hoped for). I mean even as an origin story, it feels pallid and empty and barely even raises questions that should be asked, never mind actually answering even a couple of them. We know next to nothing about young David, except that he’s Hayden Christensen, putting on the same petulant mug he wore throughout the Star Wars movies: I guess we’re meant to take him as brooding and sensitive, but he feels like only the barest sketch of a character. He discovers his ability to teleport in high school, during a moment of life-threatening stress, when he jumps himself from the danger to the stacks of the public library of his Michigan town. Now, it seems to me that that first jump would have to be taking the jumper somewhere that he instinctively feels safe — he’s not actually thinking about removing himself from danger, after all, just acting unconsciously — so, okay, David is the kind of serious, bookish guy who feels safe in a library. Except we never, ever get any kinds of hints that he’s that kind of person at all. We never get any kinds of hints about what kind of person he is, period, beyond his ability to teleport.

And of course I’m guessing about that first jump being instinctive, because there’s no Ben Kenobi around to explain things, even a little, for David or for us. Oh, sure, David eventually meets Griffin, who can teleport too, and Griffin draws him an outline of the world of Jumper as it might have looked like if a little more care had been expended in the writing: nice, innocent Jumpers have been hunted by murderous Paladins for centuries, so there’s a war on. As far as we can tell, though, there are no other jumpers in the world except for these two guys who appear to be almost exactly the same age, and we only get the Paladin perspective from Griffin: it would have been nice to hear from a Paladin himself, particularly since Samuel L. Jackson (1408, Resurrecting the Champ) is playing Roland, the Paladin leader. Who is he? How did he get into this business? Why does he care what jumpers do? It’s too cheap and easy to foist off the war as a religious issue — Jackson gets to scream once or twice about how only God should have godlike powers. I wasn’t looking for a lecture, but at a too-brief 88 minutes, Jumper has plenty of room for a little bit of context.

Thank goodness for Jamie Bell (Flags of Our Fathers, King Kong), who is a marvel of contradictory rage and leave-me-aloneness as Griffin — the film brightens up every time he’s onscreen. I could have gone even without the cool FX of displaced air and exploding potential energy and crackling jump scars if the rest of the movie could have risen to meet the flair he brings.

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

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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  • I was initially pretty psyched to see this movie. But the reviews have all had a consistent “meh” feeling to them. (Nice Hitchhiker’s reference there, MaryAnn.)

    One thing I picked up from the trailers is that David doesn’t work, because he can teleport into bank vaults and steal money. That’s nice; he’s a criminal, basically. It’d be one thing if he used his powers for good (you know, rescuing cats out of trees, plucking people from inside burning buildings), but it looks like all he does is live it up. I suppose any of us would probably do the same if we could teleport anywhere, at least for a while; I’d love to see the world. But eventually you’d get tired of doing that, wouldn’t you?

    And I reiterate my previous statement that Hayden Christensen is a terrible actor. If there was one piece of truth uttered in Clerks II, it’s that Hayden ruined the second Star Wars trilogy.

  • Roupen

    Sadly, EVERY complaint you have made here (save the “why can he teleport” which is probably the one that least needs answering), and other reviewers have complained about are answered in the much better novel. Why he goes to the Library (which IS the place he feels safe), what kind of person he is, how adjusts to this strange life in a believable real person way…all in the book. What ISN’T in the book is this nonsense about a war with some mean old religious organization, and cannot fathom why they would put that in there. It turns what was previously a very interesting and very human piece of speculative fiction in a “what if…?” scenario into a loud obnoxious blockbuster. In doing so, as so many have noticed, it totally robs the characters of any depth, especially David. So in short, Book lovely, movie, bleh.

    But for the love of christ, would you reviewers PLEASE stop calling it a YA novel. Just because the main character is a teenager does not mean it’s YA.

  • bitchen frizzy

    Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and the American Library Association all classify the book as YA.

    Not that it isn’t an enjoyable read for adults.

    Not that I’ve read it myself.

  • macbrooks

    I must admit, I’m only seeing it for Jamie Bell. Good to know he’s up to his usual excellence. *thumbs up*

    mac :]

  • Just to save everyone time and money, let’s combine all these movies into one film:

    White boy teleports (JUMPER). Battles black dude who has come home for parents’ 50th wedding anniversary (WELCOME HOME, ROSCOE JENKINS). Black dude wins, but is haunted by ghost of former Latina lover (OVER HER DEAD BODY). To get rid of ghost, enlists help of white couple who are rekindling romance while looking for lost treasure (FOOL’S GOLD). They find lost treasure, but lose their eyesight. They gain it back but see dead people: the black dude’s Latina ex-girlfriend (THE EYE).

  • boz

    Nobody mentioned it here so I think I can :) A guy in a life threatening situation suddenly teleports. Original idea is “Jaunte” from “Stars My Destination” (a.k.a. Tiger Tiger) by Alfred Bester which is written in 1956. A classic.

  • MaryAnn

    I reiterate my previous statement that Hayden Christensen is a terrible actor.

    Yeah, I’m giving up on defending him, because he keeps failing to cooperate with me and demonstrate that he can act. (I guess I’m the only one who saw *Shattered Glass.*) So he’s on his own now. Man, Jamie Bell totally blows him off the screen with, like, a single look.

    Sadly, EVERY complaint you have made here (save the “why can he teleport” which is probably the one that least needs answering), and other reviewers have complained about are answered in the much better novel.

    I’m sure that’s true. But the movie needs to stand on its own.

    would you reviewers PLEASE stop calling it a YA novel. Just because the main character is a teenager does not mean it’s YA.

    The *publisher* calls it a YA novel. Complain to them.

  • Boz, thanks for the reminder. I have a copy of The Stars My Destination around here somewhere… maybe I’ll read it again.

    And Hayden didn’t act well in Shattered Glass, either; he was merely playing his petulant, pouty, whiny self when he portrayed Stephen Glass. It’s the same stunt Tom Cruise and Vince Vaughn pull constantly… not acting, just being yourself on the screen and getting paid to do it. The difference is that Hayden doesn’t seem able to actually get away with it.

  • Miguel

    Didn’t you love it how the jumpers played victims, but had no second thoughts about using vehicles (and their innocent drivers) to attack each other or the Paladins?

  • Roupen

    I’m sure that’s true. But the movie needs to stand on its own.

    And you see, that’s precisely my point. In throwing out the parts of the story that made any of this stuff make sense, they shot themselves in the foot with a grenade. There’s really no way it could have stood on it’s own under those circumstances…either you stick to the spirit of a story you’re adapting, or you go with something in a completely different direction. instead, they chose the middle ground that they love doing with big budget adaptations of spec fic. Someone should send a memo to all the screen writers in Hollywood that this option has a really poor track record…

    As for the publisher calling it YA…I give up. it wasn’t when I first encountered it, so I find that annoying. But yes, clearly I have someone else I need to frown at. Sorry about that.

  • MaryAnn

    It’s hardly an insult to call a novel “young adult.” Why does it bother you?

  • Jigsy Q.

    Curse you Highlander for introducing the concept of the centuries-old supernatural feud! Now it’s everywhere!

    I bet in the next installment we find out that David is actually the prophicized “chosen one” who is destined to wipe out the paladins once and for all!

  • Jigsy Q.

    Oh yeah, and Sam Jackson has officially become waaaay too Sam Jacksony for me. I think a court should order him and Christopher Walken to swap personas for a year, as a lesson to both of them.

  • Karen

    I think the novel was first published as mainstream sf, but then republished by a YA SF imprint. So you’re both right.

  • MBI

    I didn’t think Hayden was that bad, honestly — the character called for callow arrogance and that’s what you get with Hayden Christensen. (The movie’s best scene is near the beginning, where Hayden sees flood victims in need of help and promptly springs into action, by getting laid and surfing.) The sequels, which probably call for Hayden’s character to grow beyond for that, will likely be disasters, but I think for this movie he was fine.

    In fact, I was much more bothered by Sam Jackson, who turned in the first bad performance I can remember him giving. In fact, when both show up in the same room, it strikes a weird note: Who’s the bad guy here, Darth Vader or Sam “Bad Mother Fucker” Jackson? I think a better person for the role would have been Laurence Fishburne, who could have brought some creepy fanatical intensity to the role.

  • Well, Samuel L. Jackson is well-known for being a movie role whore. (If he comes to kick my ass for calling him a whore, then at least I can tell people that Samuel L. Jackson personally came and kicked my ass.) He frequently appears in as many as 5 or 6 movies in a year. Obviously, he likes to work as much as possible, which is admirable… but it does mean that he appears in a lot of less-than-good movies.

    Laurence Fishburne, on the other hand, has been virtually invisible since The Matrix Revolutions back in late 2003… he’s been laying somewhat low. So while we might prefer to see more of Laurence and less of Samuel, their respective work philosophies make that somewhat unlikely.

  • Jaden

    im sorry but i have to say that this movie is complete crap. everything about the film but its graphics-the dialogue, the characters, the plot-is bland and unninteresting. david and milly have been given a title of NEEDING to be together even though there is NOTHING genuinely exceptional about their relationship. the plot is extremely weak with only one carrying purpose which is to get away from samuel l jackson which is another of my gripes. one fricken man with a bunch of gadgets is NOT a credible threat. sam or more correctly paladins in general have the lower hand as instead of having something genuinely challenging to face all they have is a bunch of toys. the jumper vs paladin thing was stupid and a rushed attempt at creating an opposition, the only part of this dynamic i liked was the fact that his mother was one which seemed to be the only mildly interesting part the plot. even griffin seemed to be shoved in there for the sake of increasing the amount of allies and adding humour the movie cant pull off. i dont even want to get into the dialogue as though it starts of well it degrades terribly until the only credible lines are pathetic attempt at comedy. the movie is extremely predictable once you stop expecting surprises (halfway through the movie i actually bet my friend $50 that milly would get kidnapped by the time the movie reached its climax, something which was used in every spiderman movie to date) and is altogether just a complete waste of time. the only worthwhile thing i got out of this movie was the popcorn and forgot that i even saw it half an hour later. if you want my advice wait for all the action scenes to come out on youtube, turn off the volume, get some snacks ready and enjoy! other wise risk damaging your tv in an attempt to shut milly up.

  • pedro

    cool looking, lightweight movie, perfect for the ADD-riddled 14- to 18- year set. the good thing is, us slightly older types can enjoy it too – as a cool-looking, lightweight movie. i was genuinely awed by some of the cool action, and every time a question popped up – like “how can he ‘jump’ the car, too?” – it was promptly answered.

    and it’s always nice to see billy elliot all grown up…although hayden is basically doing anakin all over again. talk about unimaginative.

    still, this one does not “jump the shark”. get it? ‘jump’!? heh. i kill myself.

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