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February 20, 2008
‘Jumper’ Misses the Mark
By Nathaniel Shockey
The problem with
“Jumper,” or at least one of them, is that it doesn’t succeed as an
action movie or a sci-fi movie, and it definitely doesn’t deliver as a
piece of drama.
Movies should not be
judged exclusively by how they fit a genre, as there are many movies
that cannot be categorized. The best movies fit into more than one.
I’m not exactly sure
what “Jumper” was aiming for, but it missed its mark. The movie hinged
on the novelty of teleportation, which could have worked, but there were
too many distractingly negative points.
The movie’s premise
is that there are people who can teleport – called jumpers – and there
are people chasing them, called paladin. The movie did not explain where
the term “paladin” came from, so I looked it up, and it apparently
referred to high-ranking officials, sometimes of the imperial guard, or
protectors, as far back as the Roman Empire. This would have been an
interesting piece of information to include, but all the audience got
was one sentence about the fact that this battle between jumpers and the
paladin has gone as far back as “medieval times,” which seemed
We follow around
David Rice (Hayden Christensen), as he develops from a kid whose mom
left him at the age of five to a high school student who has a crush on
a girl, until he realizes he has the talent of teleportation. There is a
scene in a park, during which he is attempting to harness his newfound
power reminiscent of Tobey McGuire in Spiderman. The difference was that
the Spiderman scene was so ridiculous that it was kind of funny. The
Jumper scene, on the other hand, was neither humorous nor to be taken
The paladin are led
by a man named Roland, played by Samuel L. Jackson. His explanation for
chasing down jumpers, which he offers twice, is that only God should
have the ability they have. Here is the problem. If you’re going to
offer an explanation for hunting down teleporters in order to
electrocute and stab them, and your reason is summed up by nothing more
than the mantra “only God should have that ability,” it would be
tremendously more engaging to know more about the person maintaining it.
We either need more or less.
In a movie like
“There Will Be Blood” (and I feel somewhat blasphemous even comparing
the two, but bear with me), we get very little explanation as to why the
primary character is the way he is. He just is, and it’s fine. But if
you choose to explain the extreme actions of a character, it does not
work to go halfway. The audience is not affected by a one-sentence
explanation from a killer we barely know. We just sit there thinking,
“OK, so when’s the next action scene?”
The action scenes
were the best part of the movie, not because they were good, but because
it’s interesting watching a guy being chased by someone who wants to
kill him. The problem is that the action scenes lean so heavily on
special effects that they seem to forget the importance of being
graspable. Things move so rapidly – from teleporting, to punching to
getting thrown off a rock in the Coliseum – it is nearly impossible to
follow and react. It would seem to be hard to mess up a scene in the
Coliseum, and it starts out nicely, with Rice and Millie (his high
school crush, played by Rachel Bilson) simply marveling at the grand
sight. But when the action takes over, the moment is pretty much
It’s not fair to
critique acting when the dialogue is lacking, but Bilson’s performance
is weak. One gets the feeling that she has found it difficult to break
away from playing “Summer”, the teenager who had no reason to grow up,
on “The OC”. She just doesn’t have much of a presence about her,
partially because her voice and facial expressions are small, and
partially because she is literally tiny – skinny to an unhealthy degree.
Christensen is OK, despite the crappy dialogue. And finally, Samuel L.
Jackson is just one “I’ve had it with these mother effin’ snakes on this
mother effin’ plane” moment away from being ridiculous. The character
was plain lousy.
One would expect
more from the director of “The Bourne Identity” and “Swingers.” The only
thing that could justify this movie is a sequel that gives us a lot more
substance. “Kill Bill” did this with the second installment, which
completely justified part one. Of course, “Kill Bill, Part 1”, was an
awesome movie by itself. “Jumper” isn’t.
If you’re on your
couch in a few months and can’t think of anything to see, you might
consider renting this movie. But if it were up to me, I’d much rather
re-watch “Snakes on a Plane.”
Two Stars Out of
© 2008 North Star Writers
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