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Doug Liman’s first misstep is the new movie Jumper. I have either greatly enjoyed or loved each of his films until now. This teleportation action adventure is not necessarily bad, however, it is just a bit of a mess. Acting as the first part of a planned trilogy, it is too short, too glossy, and too reliant on the viewers taking the leap and journey without any idea of what is really happening. Why are the Paladins after the Jumpers? When did the fight really start? Is it completely religious based? We are thrust into the plot much like how our lead stumbles upon his ability. He sees the power he has and decides to use it, that power soon becomes too much and takes over his life with any shade of regret or remorse for his thievery gone. The concept is quite fascinating and if the other two installments are made there might be something here. As a standalone, though, there are just too many unanswered questions and, frankly, not enough to really make me care whether the others get made at all.

With the ability to teleport taking center stage, the effects need to be believable and flashy to work. I think Liman has succeeded on both counts here. Maybe he uses it a tad too much, turning it into a gimmick, but with the war that is going on he gets the details right. Concepts like electricity grounding a Jumper, the jump scars staying visible for short times to track them, and high-end technology for normal men to be able to use the Jumper’s trace in order to follow are very intriguing and add a layer to the tale beyond watching characters go wherever they want. The toys, bells, and whistles deliver the goods, yet their success is a detriment to the work as a whole, really letting us see how it is all just style over substance. Every little insight into our lead David Rice’s life is thrown out in the open and never expanded on. Was his father abusive? Did he leave him or the bullies at school when he took off? Why after nine years on his own does he finally go back to see them after almost being captured? When the Paladin Roland finds him, there is a definite chance that he could be killed, yet when all is said and done, he goes out in the open for the first time since the fateful day his power manifested. I understand why he does this as far as progressing the plot, but would the boy who couldn’t bring himself to tell the girl he loved what happened to him actually decide to go back after an ordeal like that? No, it should make him crawl into an even deeper hole.

As far as the acting goes, Hayden Christensen, as Rice, is pretty much a one-trick pony. He is cast as the rebellious kid always against the establishment. It works to great effect in films like Life as a House and on paper in Star Wars; however, he is mechanical in his delivery and motions, as much as I hate to agree with all the hate spread around on the internet. Christensen is not horrible here, but he is not perfect either. There is just something about his grin that comes across as trying a bit too hard. For the rest of the characters, there isn’t anything too special to announce. Samuel L. Jackson is good as Roland, the Paladin on Rice’s trail. He is his badass self throughout and is effective if not fleshed out at all. He is a man on a mission to rid the world of Jumpers, but why does he do it? We never find out and it is never shown that we should care. He is there to be the villain and that is all. The only standout to speak of is Jamie Bell. Sadly, it is his performance’s success that really shows Christensen’s limitations. Whereas you can see the wheels turning in Bell’s head, a plan always being hatched and worked on from all angles, Hayden just looks like he is showing us his mind’s at work, but he doesn’t actually make us believe it. Bell’s Griffin is the one man here that you feel has a stake in what is going on. He knows the pain of losing a loved one to his power, he understands the responsibility he has to his kind, and he is the only person that you wonder what he might be really up to. Despite no details on his past, one still gets all that from his limited screen-time, because he creates a character and makes it come alive.

Jumper could have been great and I think the fact that they want to make two more, but aren’t sure if they will be able to really hurt it beyond recovery. So much is left open, characters are stranded, but not killed, well-known faces are introduced without any relevance for this first film (Diane Lane and Kristen Stewart), and our lead finds himself trying to prove that he is different. He is not the Jumper that will turn evil with time as Roland says they all do, he is not a killer, but someone looking to bridge the gap between the two opposing forces. I just don’t know if I can buy it, he has been a bankrobber for almost a decade and he has never cared about the consequences. Why should we believe that he would change now after realizing he is not alone?

Jumper 6/10

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photography:
[1] Jamie Bell as Griffin in The 20th Century Fox Pictures’ Jumper (2007)
Copyright © The 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.
[2] Samuel L. Jackson as Cox in The 20th Century Fox Pictures’ Jumper (2007)
Copyright © The 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

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