½*/**** Image A- Sound A Extras B+
starring Hayden Christensen, Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson, Diane Lane
screenplay by David S. Goyer and Jim Uhls and Simon Kinberg, based on the novel by Steven Gould
directed by Doug Liman
by Walter Chaw Jumper is the first movie director Doug Liman hasn't been able to save with his amazing way with action sequences. Blame its glaring inconsistencies, the overuse of one nifty special effect that renders the picture's centrepiece an anticlimax, and a passel of squeezed-off performances as truncated--as brief--as the rest of the picture feels. It's over before it begins, wasn't much while it lasted, and is so brazen in its abuse of internal logic that the only audience that would see it will be irritated by it. Based on a Steven Gould cult novel I read years ago (but not long ago enough to love it), its high concept is that there are genetic anomalies among us who are capable of teleporting anywhere they've been before; the catch is that a group of witch hunters is eager to kill them because they're abominations before God. It's Highlander, essentially, or any vampire movie, a skylark about rock-star bandits that swaps immortality for the ability to zip around at will--with only some party-pooping senior citizen (it's snow-on-the-roof Samuel L. Jackson this time around, playing Illuminati-cum-Homeland Security bogie Roland) around to spoil the fun. The obligatory hot chick is dead-eyed Rachel Bilson as Millie, trading not so much up from Zach Braff in The Last Kiss as sideways to Hayden Christensen's protag "jumper" David. Millie and David have loved one another since high school, a misleadingly fun prologue tells us: what follows is about an hour of deadening, repetitive, useless nonsense that fails, completely, to provide a universe in which this stuff makes any kind of impact, even as escapism.
Jump from David as a teen bank robber to David as a globetrotting lothario to David as a hunted man-of-action, forced to team up with McJumper Griffin (Jamie Bell), who takes it upon himself to teach David (and us) the brief history of Jumpers vs. Paladins. Paladins, it seems, have dedicated their lives and their electric lassos to the destruction of Jumpers. The point? Lost on me, I'm afraid, unless it's all an excuse for Liman to choreograph devilishly complicated sequences in which David teleports around his apartment for a bit before circumstance drives him back into the arms of his childhood sweetie to the tune of an anthem by The Fray. That's the problem, you know, that there's all this sound and fury employed for these assholes to do the most prosaic things. It's a far cry from Mr. and Mrs. Smith, where Liman was able to combine action and romance in a way that, seriously, I don't know anyone else is as capable of doing anymore. Alas, Jumper is delighted-with-itself crap, a fusillade of noise and digital pyrotechnics not held together by a threadbare, badly-conceived script and slack performances that betray actors asked to play third fiddle to a mainframe. It takes a special actor to overcome the bondage imposed upon him by meticulous effects choreography--how many times does Christensen have to prove he's not that guy before they give up trying?
You could say that Jackson is slumming here as the flat, inexplicable villain except that Jackson has only ever been in four or five good movies, with Kill Bill probably counting as two. Roland has no real motive except to function as the heavy just as Millie has no function but to be the girlfriend just as Griffin has no purpose but to be the rapscallion just as David has no function except to be the hero. Just as Jumper has no function but to waste everyone's time and money. There's a moment where it appears as though these Jumpers are indestructible; there are effects shots that suggest that every teleportation causes severe seismic distress (meaning David would be moving every couple of days--or that he has a hell of a contractor); and there are countless sequences where everyone smarter than the movie--I should just say "everyone"--wonders why the Jumpers don't use their powers to kill their tormentors instead of fucking around with them interminably like asshole cats. (I should just say "cats.") Jumper is genuinely awful, the more so because Liman is a gifted director and this particular high concept is one that could've been handled with some grace and intelligence. With no gravity, no tension, no stakes, no surprises, no themes, and, most damnably, no ambition beyond mere adaptation to speak of, this is the first real disappointment of 2008, and it's a doozy. Originally published: February 14, 2008.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
by Bill Chambers Fox brings Jumper to Blu-ray in a 2-disc set, the second a DVD containing a digital copy of the film for portable media players. Brave new world, folks. On the HiDef side of things, Jumper comes home in a 2.35:1, 1080p transfer that betrays problems with the source, chiefly some pitiful colour-timing that, early on, turns AnnaSophia Robb's brown wig a silver-blue in any scene that isn't brightly-lit. No complaints with respect to the curtain of grain, though it does tend to spike instead of staying on an even keel. D-BOX-enabled, the 5.1 DTS HD Master Lossless Audio takes X2's bamf! effects to the next level, which is pretty much the long and the short of it; having recently had the pleasure of hearing Cloverfield on the format, I suspect most mixes will pale in comparison for the time being.
On another track, find a bizarrely self-congratulatory track featuring producer Lucas Foster, screenwriter Simon Kinberg, and director Doug Liman, who really needs to ditch the hacky Kinberg--who lobbied for, among other things, the film's dreadful voiceover--posthaste. Be prepared to do some double-takes when they credit Goodfellas as a structural influence and reveal that a science teacher who's on screen for all of two seconds is played by none other than Tom "Amadeus" Hulce. (And you felt sorry for F. Murray Abraham!) They also lobby for the Paladins' viewpoint more persuasively than Jumper itself does, mostly by sidestepping the same theological ramifications that turn the film into a monotonous religious debate. For the record, I agree that it's more interesting to not make David a Peter Parker do-gooder, but because they cast such an irredeemably smug, snot-nosed punk in the role, David is no kind of vessel for vicarious thrills. You need a young Mickey Rourke or, conversely, Bill Murray--not a little bitch who hates the sand on Naboo.
Uniformly presented in HD, extras begin with "Jumpstart: David's Story - Animated Graphic Novel" (8 mins.), a Flash-rendered 'midquel' that sees David searching for his long-lost mother and eluding law enforcement along the way. I think of it as eight minutes of my life that would've been better spent doing just about anything else. PIP and non-PIP versions of "Jumping Around the World" bring up an interface tracking David's exploits across the globe, with brief featurettes covering behind-the-scenes ephemera at each major pit stop. In short, the production racked up a lot of Air Miles. "Doug Liman's Jumper: Uncensored" (35 mins.) is not a director's cut of the film but instead a making-of with the swearing left intact. Opening with a title card telling us that three weeks into filming the parts of David and Millie were recast (there were worse choices than Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson?, you may incredulously ask, but as the aforementioned yakker tells us, they simply decided to skew older), the piece proceeds to document the increasingly-pretentious Liman's conspicuous consumption as if the end result will vindicate it. He calls Jumper the third in a trilogy of "vibrant indie film[s] contained within the Hollywood apparatus" that began with The Bourne Identity, then dons a beret; suffice it to say, I've lost the religion.
Still, I have to admit that "Making an Actor Jump" (8 mins.) gave me new appreciation for Jumper's ingenious teleportation effects. Yes, CGI was heavily employed, but so were a multitude of doubles for Christensen and Jamie Bell, all synched to run a relay race with the precision of a Busby Berkeley routine. If you only check out one special feature on this disc, pick this one. "Jumping from Novel to Film: The Past, Present, & Future of Jumper" (8 mins.) hears from source novelist Steven Gould, who's almost masochistically deferential to the film and filmmakers. Liman sniffs that David Goyer's original screenplay, a more straightforward adaptation of the book, "got a little conventional for my tastes." Not like the movie, no sir. Talk of a trilogy would send chills down my spine if I thought the Jumper franchise had a prayer of getting any farther than a Saturday-morning cartoon spin-off. Six stupid deleted scenes--in one, David visits a German-accented shrink who actually says, "Tell me about your muzzer"--totalling 11 minutes and a montage of Previz Concepts (5 mins.) for the threatened sequel round out the platter. A Jumper tie-in advert for HP, the trailer for The Happening, and a spot pimping the Digital Copy revolution cue up on startup. Originally published: June 9, 2008.