Movie Reviews

Film Review | Jumper (2008)

JumperRemember 2002, when Hayden Christensen caused the nation, perhaps the world, to lose interest in Darth Vader? He’s back, and he’s doing his best to make teleportation seem boring!

Jumper could, in theory, have been good. When I saw David Goyer’s name among the writers, I thought it stood a chance. I can’t say for sure that the man has massive gambling debts, but now I’m worried about him.

Christensen stars as David Rice, a “jumper”. He has the power to teleport, which he uses almost solely for personal gain. After getting beat down by Samuel L. Jackson, he seeks out the girl he had a crush on in high school and runs away to Rome. Because the first thing a hero does when his life is in danger is put innocents directly in the path of danger.

Jackson is the leader of the Paladins, some sort of quasi-religious group that may or may not have government ties. And man, does he hate jumpers. That’s right, there are apparently enough of them that a quasi-religious group with vaguely defined governmental ties exists to track them down and murder them. At one point he calls them “abominations”, because “only God should have that power”. The power to teleport. That’s an interesting take on a Supreme Being, I have to say.

In the mix is a more experienced British Jumper, Griffin. He’s actively hunting down the Paladins, and he provides David with some important information. Sadly, the actor mumbles so badly that you will not understand any of that information. In fact, I spent half an hour thinking the Paladins were the Parrotheads, which really put a weird spin on what I was seeing.

Somehow, Diane Lane ended up slumming here as David’s long-absent mother. She turns out to be one of the Paladins. (Crap. Spoiler Warning! Oh, like you even care…) Imagine the irony of being a Paladin and then giving birth to a Jumper. It’s like somebody who drowns cats giving birth to a kitten!

I sort of feel like this was the second volume in a trilogy, as they either assumed a large amount of knowledge about teleportation on our part, or they just didn’t care. People keep throwing around words like “jumpsite” and “jumpscar”, and everybody acts like those are real words that mean things. And let’s not even ask why David, who didn’t know that there were other Jumpers, uses the same terminology as everybody else.

It’s implied that David needs to see a location or view a picture of it in order to teleport there, except for all the times he doesn’t. Sometimes jumping causes damage to the area around the jumpsite, sometimes it doesn’t. And apparently, it takes absolutely no energy, as he teleports two or three feet rather than reaching for things. At least one of these things should have been explained, just to cut down on the number of completely random events happening on the screen.

Even more frustratingly, the hero’s really an amoral jerk. He funds his lifestyle by jumping into bank vaults. In an exceptionally stupid touch, he leaves IOU’s at the site of all his robberies. How exactly does he plan to pay them back? By robbing another bank? More than once, Jackson berates him during battle, and David always responds “That’s not me!” Only, everything Jackson says is actually a verifiably true statement about David. Can’t get mad at a guy who calls you a thief when your job is robbing banks.

Actually, the two jumpers kill more people (including several innocents) than all of the Paladins combined. The Paladins aren’t the ones teleporting a tow truck right into the path of a tank, after all. David ruins people’s lives pretty casually, too. Heck, David uses it as proof of his inherent goodness when he places an enemy into a position where he’s guaranteed a slow lingering death rather than a quick one. I’m not really convinced the Paladins weren’t the good guys after all.

All sorts of minor irritations pile up. Why is it that every time somebody mentions something that happened during their childhood, it happened when they were five? I think everybody in this movie had to be five for upwards of six years to fit it all in. And there’s their desperate attempt at nerd cred when David references the comic book Marvel Team-Up. First off, that book was cancelled in 1987, when David was two years old, per the movie’s continuity. And everybody knows it was a Spider-Man book. Well, not everybody, but everybody who’s going to care about the reference. We nerds are more discriminating than that. If you’re going to mention Marvel Team-Up, you need to know something about it. That’s not the kind of thing that usually irritates me, but they really had to reach to even get to the reference.

Why does Griffin live in a bunker by himself? We see him stalking David, so clearly he can track down Jumpers. Why not get a few like-minded teleporters to help out with your war? Actually, he references several other Jumpers. Seems to me like a bunch of teleporters can probably win a fight with a bunch of people who are bound by physics.

And why, in the name of all that is holy, when an Eiffel Tower snow globe is a key plot element, does nobody ever jump to Paris? When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?

Worst of all, there’s no real resolution. There’s a big fight scene with a lack of resolution, and then at the end, David learns a disturbing truth about his life. And then nothing happens. I feel like there should have been a third act there. I’d even accept a cliffhanger ending that acknowledges the lack of resolution. Instead, he’s back to screwing around with his powers. That’s our hero. He resolves nothing, learns nothing, and is unchanged by the events of the movie. Did a reel go missing? I’m halfway convinced it did. Samuel L. Jackson reacts to his certain death with mild bemusement – did he have a backup plan? Jumper barely squeaks in at 90 minutes with ample filler. They really could have slipped some climax and resolution in there.

As for the performers, Samuel L. Jackson is reliably fun. The only thing better than Samuel L. Jackson in a project he cares about is Samuel L. Jackson in a project where he doesn’t give a crap. Hayden Christensen is bland, which seems to be his lot in life. He doesn’t so much react to people or events. Mostly, he pouts. Jamie Bell, as Griffin, is sort of a disaster. He may be a good actor, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of anything he said. It wasn’t the accent either; he’s a mumbler. Rachel Bilson, in the thankless role of David’s girlfriend, does her best. She’s likeable, she’s more adorable than a puppy-a-day calendar, but it’s an underwritten part. Meryl Streep couldn’t have sold the character.

Director Doug Liman does manage a couple of exciting fight scenes, but with all the story inconsistencies, nothing that’s happening really makes sense. He seems to know that, so he keeps it moving fast enough that you won’t have time to ask questions. He’s done better work, but this has the feel of a project that fell apart during production. I don’t know if they rushed it to theaters, or if there was a problem with the budget, or if everything went smoothly but nobody cared about the finished product.

Score: One Bean

I’m assuming those other beans jumped. I hope they’re happy, wherever they are.

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