by Jay Seaver
"Jumper" is in many ways not a very good movie. By saying that, I don't mean that it's not entertaining, or that anybody in front of or behind the camera fails to execute in any specific way. I like it, and wouldn't term it a guilty pleasure in the least. That said, I don't necessarily think that it's a particularly good fit for film as a medium.The story is full of fun events - David Rice discovers that he can teleport during high school, and uses this knowledge to get away from Ann Arbor, MI, as fast as he can. A few years later, he's living in a New York penthouse, financed by "jumping" past a bank's security system and helping himself, but he crisscrosses the world on a daily basis. One day he gets home to find Roland (Samuel L. Jackson) in his apartment, bad news because Roland is a member of the Paladins, an order dedicated to hunting down and exterminating jumpers for a number of reasons - they always go bad, they have a power that only God should possess, etc. Rice (Hayden Christensen) jumps back to Ann Arbor on instinct, where he reconnects with high school crush Millie (Rachel Bilson) - who, of course, has always dreamed of traveling; the pair later meet up with Griffin (Jamie Bell), an English jumper who has gone underground, except for the times he emerges to take a Paladin out.
"Not really suited for the movies, but too big to do anywhere else."
One of Jumper's strengths is also its greatest weakness: The filmmakers do a good job of building a believable universe - at least, in science fiction terms! Director Doug Liman generally does a good job of explaining the rules and limitations of Rice's jumping ability without an obvious exposition dump; we're able to grasp that he can only teleport to places he's been or can otherwise locate through experience, and the tools Roland uses to subdue jumpers make intuitive sense. The trouble is that Liman and his writers are so busy with world-building that they really don't have a lot of time for anything else. By the time the movie is over, you'll know how everything fits together, but there hasn't been much in the way of character growth or resolution. Only one story is even sort wrapped up, one what was so far in the background as to almost not be there, and even then it doesn't feel settled - it feels like set-up for what comes next.
That's why Jumper doesn't really feel like a movie - movies are generally self-contained things, with a beginning, middle, and end. Jumper feels less like a movie than a television pilot or a comic-book origin story, and I say that as a fan of both of those media. It wouldn't quite work as either, though - it's too concerned with movement to fit the static images of a comic, and its globetrotting scope would blow a TV series's budget. Maybe there's a good animated series here (although the real locations are part of the fun).
For all that Jumper doesn't really fit the structure of a movie, though, it remains quite good on an action level. The writers have clearly put some thought into what Rice and company can and cannot do, and that attention to detail is what allows the audience to feel some suspense despite the fact that people might be able to teleport out of danger at any moment. Liman, meanwhile, shows a real knack for portraying that on-screen: The action is fast, over-the-top, and FX-laden, but still pretty easy to follow.
The acting, on the other hand, is a little less impressive. Christensen and Bilson are amiable enough, but never really come across as fully-formed characters, though it's tough to know whether that's on them or the script. Samuel L. Jackson is there doing what Samuel L. Jackson does best, convincing the audience that his character is formidable by the simple dint of being Samuel L. Jackson. Jamie Bell, however, gets to cut lose as Griffin, a fun surprise for those who still remember him as Billy Elliot. Michael Rooker and Diane Lane make appearances as David's parents, though Lane's part is so small that the only reason for her to be in this movie is if there's a bigger part planned for her in the sequel.And I do hope for a sequel; it would kind of be a shame if all the world-building the filmmakers did was only used for one movie. Now that the pieces are in place, this team couple probably tell a couple of pretty good stories within this universe, rather than just the one that's made to introduce everything to us.
link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=16844&reviewer=371
originally posted: 03/01/08 16:01:23