Friday, February 29, 2008

REVIEW: Jumper

As published in The Technician:

Jumper mediocre at best

Let me start off by saying this: Jumper is a bad film. There is no denying that fact.

That said, it does have a few positive elements, and you'll be hard-pressed to find more creative action sequences.

The film's plot is fairly straightforward: David (Hayden Christensen) discovers he has the power to teleport. Unfortunately, this makes him an unwilling participant in a war between "Jumpers" (people who can teleport) and "Paladins" (people trying to kill them). He'll have to team up with another Jumper named Griffin (Jamie Bell) to take down Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), a powerful Paladin who wants nothing more than to exterminate all those who can teleport. Not to mention David's also trying to win back his high-school sweetheart, Millie (Rachel Bilson).

The biggest problem with Jumper is that it introduces many really interesting ideas, but never does anything with them.

Apparently, Paladins and Jumpers have been at war since the Middle Ages, but the details of how and why this war is playing out is left unsaid. What is Roland's connection to the government? Where did he get all these high-tech weapons? What separates him from the other Paladins?

Also, if this war is so massive and important, why is it that, over the course of the movie, we're only shown half a dozen Paladins and a grand total of three (that's right, three) Jumpers?

This isn't a war -- it's a schoolyard scuffle. There's some interesting mythology just begging to be explored, but the filmmakers leave it aside in favor of a cliched romance that fails to provide any sort of emotional hook and has more holes than a block of Swiss cheese. It's as if they want to tease you with just enough information to dupe you into seeing the inevitable sequel.

The acting is never terrible enough to be distracting, but it's hardly noteworthy. Christensen proves once again that his performance as an actor depends entirely on the strength of the writing and directing, and unfortunately Jumper is weak in both aspects. Bilson never gets to stretch herself, and spends most of the film as a prop pulling the damsel-in-distress routine we've seen a million times before. And as for Samuel L. Jackson, well, he's Samuel L. Jackson, giving the same one-note performance we've come to expect from him. One half expects him to start spouting his Pulp Fiction monologue about the vengeance of the Lord as he grapples with David. Then again, when your character has no characteristics beyond "religious fanatic," it's hard to blame Jackson for seeming shallow.

The only actor worth noting is Jamie Bell, who delivers his lines with perfect comedic timing and looks like he's having a blast. If only the audience had as much fun.

All these problems aside, Jumper does have one thing going for it, and that's the action. The special effects are top-notch and director Doug Liman does an effective job at using teleportation in the film's fight scenes. There's nothing quite like watching characters jump from place-to-place in the heat of battle, and even using their abilities to teleport cars and other objects into the mix. There were more than a few times that I found myself truly impressed by the spectacle I was watching unfold.

If you're looking for an engaging plot and characters you can sympathize with, then Jumper isn't for you. However, if you just want to turn your brain off for 90 minutes, this is the kind of movie you might consider renting one weekend.

It's a bad movie, to be sure, but as bad movies go it's hardly the worst.

Rating: 5/10


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