By Vic Holtreman
Short version: How can such an interesting concept end up as such a boring movie? One reason: Hayden Christensen.
I must be feeling generous with this Jumper review - despite the fact I'm giving it only 2.5 stars, that's a rave compared to other movie reviews of this film.
I had really hoped this would be one of those little movies that turned out to be great, especially since I knew it was from Doug Limon, the director of The Bourne Identity and Mr & Mrs Smith. Those two films would look great on any director's resume.
And then we had the screenplay, written by Jim Uhls, who wrote the script for the amazing film Fight Club and David S. Goyer whose written great stuff like Batman Begins and Dark City.
You'd think that this movie couldn't miss with all that talent behind the camera... but unfortunately you'd be wrong.
Jumper opens with Hayden Christensen doing a voiceover while we see his 15 year old self, David Rice (played by Max Thieriot). Now I don't mind a little introductory voiceover if it's done right and is brief, but here it kept going on and on. While we saw 15 year old David being a typical shy and unpopular teenager with a crush on Millie (AnnaSophia Robb and then Rachel Bilson), Hayden's voice keeps interjecting itself, explaining what his younger self feels and is experiencing.
The narration went on so long that I feared it would be an ongoing thing throughout the entire movie. Oh, and note to future writers: You might consider not making the opening line of a movie:
I used to be a regular chump, just like you.
The young Rice discovers his powers in a rather cool scene, and due to the fact that his mother left when he was five years old and his father (Michael Rooker) is less than ideal, he takes off within hours of discovering his power to live on his own. Everyone thinks he's dead because he fell through ice in a nearby river and never surfaced.
His second thought (after "hey, I can teleport") is "hey, I can be the ultimate thief." The rationalization (again voiced over by Christensen) is that he was only 15 and you'd do the same thing. I guess we would, considering the fact that we're you know - chumps.
He "jumps" into a bank vault and steals hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash. We then cut to him eight years later, living in a classy apartment filled with obviously expensive stuff. We get to see him in his apartment, jumping even within the confines of his living space, and here's where we get to one of the main problems with the film: David is an unappealing character.
He's spoiled and lazy. Lazy to the point that he's sitting on one end of his sofa, looks at the remote that is slightly beyond arm's reach, gets an annoyed look on his face and jumps two feet to the right so he doesn't have to stretch to get to it.
He also jumps about eight feet to get to his refrigerator from the living room, from upstairs to downstairs, etc. I was watching this thinking "how lazy can you possibly be?" And if he's that averse to physical movement, how the hell does he stay in such great shape? I think it would have been more realistic if they had cast a fat, ugly guy in the role.
We see a typical day in the life of David: Jumping to Europe to pick up chicks in bars that will never be able to find him the next morning; having a snack atop the Great Sphinx in Egypt; surfing in some exotic location, etc. While it might be fun briefly, as an ongoing thing it would be a empty existence - much like the lives of many young Hollywood stars, now that I think about it.
Anyway, we eventually meet Samuel L. Jackson's character, Roland, who is a "Paladin": a hunter of "Jumpers." Within the span of the film we're not really 100% sure if the Paladin's are fanatics and evil, or if they're truly the guardians of humanity (although the film leans towards the fanatic angle).
Apparently Paladins have been hunting Jumpers since the Middle Ages, and ruthlessly. They can capture Jumpers by shocking them continuously with electricity, breaking their concentration, and also by anchoring them to a stationary object. In the first scene demonstrating this I almost laughed out loud: Jackson almost disembowels a Jumper in South America with a huge knife, and it's shot in such a way that this gruesome murder shows not a single drop of blood being spilled.
David eventually goes back to Michigan to find Millie, they connect and he takes her to Rome by airplane, which must have been excrutiating for him. They frolic for a bit but of course it doesn't last long before things go awry. This is where he meets Griffin (Jamie Bell), another Jumper who is more experienced and also aware of the war with the Paladins.
Millie is captured and David of course wants to rescue her, while Griffin considers her a casualty of war.
So, what's good about the movie: The concept, a couple of too brief action sequences, and Jamie Bell as Griffin. I really wish he was the focus of the film as he was much more entertaining to watch onscreen. The best scenes in the film are any in which he appears.
Unfortunately, on the whole this movie was BORING. I'm sorry... I'm sure Hayden Christensen is a nice guy, but this movie cements the fact that it wasn't George Lucas' direction in the Star Wars prequels that made him seem wooden. The guy is just plain dull in this movie and he makes the whole thing a yawner.
Of course it's not all his fault the movie is boring. When it's slow, it's really slow, and it's also somewhat disjointed. It feels like you're watching a first time driver trying to work a manual transmission with the movie lurching forward and then alternately abruptly slowing way down.
And then there were some things that I thought were just plain dumb. If you're being hunted by experts at capturing someone with your power, how about just maybe considering carrying a gun? You can be captured by being shot/surrounded with electric wire? How about before you head out you put on some sort rubber bodysuit? Or carry a wire cutter? Oh, and I'm pretty sure that if you were trapped/wrapped up in an live electrical tower you'd be literally fried to a crisp.
I didn't go lower with my rating because it wasn't completely awful, it was just kind of uninteresting - and there was enough in it to push it to a 50/50 for me due to Griffin, the concept and a couple of the action scenes.
Actually, as I left the theater it occured to me that this would be a great premise for an ongoing hourly TV series, but with a different lead actor.