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JUMPER (2008)

May 3, 2008

Jumper Review

Matt:

Length: 90 min

Taglines:
Anywhere is possible.
Anywhere. Anything. Instantly.

Précis: Shallow sci-fi/action tale about a guy who can teleport and the ridiculously-hair-styled religious nut who wants to eliminate him.

Review by Matt:

David Rice (Hayden Christensen) is a ‘jumper’. That means he is a special – and lucky – type of person who is able to ‘jump’ instantly to any place in the world just by willing it. Teleportation. A nice science-fiction premise. The slick new action film Jumper, directed by Doug Liman (who previously directed Mr & Mrs Smith and The Bourne Identity) tells David’s story, provoking fascinating thoughts in its audience like “Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to teleport?” and… no. Wait. Actually, that’s as thought provoking as Jumper gets. It’s one of the weakest and woolliest films around, barely managing to articulate even its simple plot. Nope, teleportation is all you get. Fortunately, this is an inherently interesting concept, so with a bit of action jumbled around it, you might forgive Jumper as a semi-interesting piece of escapist nonsense. I can be no more generous than that, because films like Jumper keep making me have to try and defend science-fiction as a good and thoughtful genre (it’s true – just read some novels, ok?).

Just like Gyges, Plato’s original super-powered everyman, once David discovers his god-like power he cannot resist temptation. He lifts money from bank vaults and quickly sets himself up as an emperor of decadence. He spends his time ‘jumping’ from his flashy apartment to the world’s most exotic locations, drinking life’s nectar like a selfish jerk. This is problem one with Jumper – our lead man is thoroughly unlikeable. Hayden Christensen’s acting certainly doesn’t bring any charisma to his flawed character. To begin with, you think maybe he is portraying omnipotent ennui. You later realise that it is just dull acting. So why should we care when amoral Mr Jumper is suddenly threatened by a fanatic jumper-hating group called “Paladins”, led by the hilariously coiffured Samuel L Jackson? We don’t care really. But it’s a little exciting at least to watch David fill out the rest of the plot by jumping away from these pursuers, along the way getting a little help from Griffin (Jamie Bell), another jumper. David also has some time to try wooing his equally bland love interest, Millie (Rachel Bilson), and to try and protect her when she becomes entangled in the Paladin-pursuit.

Nevertheless, there are a few thrills and curiosities. It’s actually nice to see that Millie’s character is appropriately scared and angry at this crazy jumper’s unexplained behaviour – as anyone would be. Too many film heroines are unrealistically trusting of the outlandish behaviour of their protagonist friends. Secondly, Samuel L Jackson’s ridiculous snow-white hair is like a free trip to the freak show. And, of course, if you’re interested in sci-fi concepts such as teleportation, it is at least nice to see it manifested on screen with some fine special effects and some frenetic, nicely-styled action.

I’m stretching, of course, because Jumper is so shallow it’s almost empty. Morality is always the most interesting theme when it comes to human superpowers. Naturally there’s no attention given to it in Jumper. The deepest it gets is the reasoning of the boss-Paladin as he eviscerates his captured jumpers: “Only God should have this power!” The actual plot – when it finally appears – is simply this: will he escape? And there’s no embellishment of that simple story. Where does David even get his superpower? Who knows? A slight effort is made to introduce some themes about parental abandonment, but this ends up being one of the most underdone plots imaginable. Ditto to the film’s sloppy ending, which does not exactly give us a sensible resolution. Presumably, Jumper 2 will clean up the mess, but I wouldn’t put any faith in it.

I admit to experiencing some guilty pleasure watching this film. But you should know that I have not read the book by Steven Gould on which the film is based, so I didn’t have a pre-conception that could be sullied. You should know also that I took very low expectations to Jumper, so the mildly entertaining result was a pleasant surprise.

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