Warning: Spoilers ahead. Don’t worry, the movie’s not worth much anyway.
Jumper, a recent addition to the science-fiction genre, places our favorite Star Wars prequel trilogy anti-hero Hayden Christensen front and center as a teleporting young man chased by those who find his gift to be an abomination. The concept is pretty awesome: being able to teleport anywhere you want will probably invoke fantasies of girls’ locker rooms for a lot of the geeks watching, and fantasies of taking anything you want for those who are criminally inclined. Okay, we’d all probably do both those things.
But that’s where the coolness ends. The concept was good on paper and probably epically awesome in the writer’s mind. But they really dropped the ball with the execution, the same way they messed up The Covenant. There’s everything necessary here to create a great story: a cool supernatural ability, an interesting tool of the trade, conflict of interest via the bloodline, and a love story. Star Wars pulled it off with great gusto. A New Hope set the stage and created the mythology of the world we were set in. The Empire Strike Back built up the romance. And Return of the Jedi resolved the bloodline story. How did Jumper fare?What Jumper did instead was spread itself too thin. The movie is incredibly shallow. The plotline on IMDb suggests something far more epic than is evident in the movie. What do we see in the movie? We see a late blooming teleporting kid who discovers his power when his life is in danger. He goes on to rob a bank and develops a penchant for fancy apartments in the high-rise buildings of Manhattan. Living a posh lifestyle, he goes off to lunch in Europe and surfs in Japan, ending his day with a setting sun in Egypt. One day, he tries to pick up a woman in London. We don’t see whether or not he really succeeds, but he does end up going back to his flat in New York City accompanied only by the umbrella that he brought along. A mysterious black man with white hair is shockingly occupying the apartment upon his return. He introduces himself as Roland (did anyone else conjure up the scene where Sam Jackson says, “My name is Pitt, and yo’ ass ain’t talkin’ your way out of this” here?). After a failed attempt to build tension, Roland the bad ass in a mandarin collar shirt decides to strike down upon Mr. Rice with great vengeance and furious anger.This is the first time we are exposed to the tools of the Paladin’s trade. They are visually interesting and its design is intriguing. They are to Jumper what the lightsaber is to Star Wars. It would make a good story to see the history behind this tool: what did Paladin’s use before they had high-powered launchable tasers.
After the fight, we are taken back to Michigan where David Rice seeks his long lost love. With money in his pocket and the ability to take her anywhere, David goes to the bar where Millie works now. He presumes to whisk her away to Rome where things go awry. The depth of the romance was disappointing though. Are you telling me that Millie would get so absurdly horny enough to take off her shirt after mere seconds of kissing? Okay, fine, maybe Millie is easy. Even so, the attraction and interaction between the two simply wasn’t believable. I’ll have to blame that on bad writing.
We’re now in Rome, where the security officer at the Colosseum provides the best part of the movie. When David attempts to gain access to the Colosseum, the officer responds, “No, I’m sorry. It is impossible.” I don’t know what it was that was so funny in this interaction, but I’m sure that the hilarity of it must’ve been experienced first hand by a writer who visited Italy and heard such a funny mistranslation. David continues to hide his ability from Millie and gains access in order to give her a very special tour. We’re now introduced to another jumper, Griffin, who happens to be taking a leak. Soon enough, some Paladins emerge ominously from the dark archway. A fight ensues, and Griffin defeats the Paladins.
David gets angry at the attempt on his life, esepcially after learning from Griffin that the Paladins will go after Millie in order to get to him. Feeling obligated to go after those who threaten the only one close to him, he convinces Griffin that they can team up to eliminate Roland. In the final fight, it appears as though Roland has David right where he wants him. But David is better than the rest of his fellow jumpers and has teleports the restraints and the walls that they are attached to to a place of safety. He goes to meet his mother who just tells him that she is indeed a Paladin. Being a Paladin and his mother, she can do nothing more than give him a head start on running away, leaving the story open for a sequel.
The movie hints at something epic. The story alludes to a deep history. David Rice is supposed to be special. There is supposed to be an ancient war that is waged out of way of the public eye, a struggle between those who have this ability and those who deem it to be only God’s right (jumpers versus the Paladins). There is an interesting tool (the stick taser). There is a conflict of interest between two people of opposing sides (David and his mother). All the ingredients are there, but the way that Jumper puts it together just doesn’t seem to work. The movie is shallow. It fails to develop any strong characters. There is no strength in the basis of the backstory. Who are the Paladins? Griffin’s explanation is a cop-out: “they’re a bunch of religious nutjobs.” How do jumpers gain their abilities? The plot tagline says that it’s genetic, but there isn’t a single mention of that in the movie. What are the repercussions of using the ability? All we see is what appears to be a harsh physical impact on the immediate surroundings of the jump site, as if a heavy object landed there.
There are all these concerns, but none of them are addressed except in fleeting attempts through bad writing. Jumper could’ve been great had they decided to make it into a trilogy. It feels as though it may have begun that way, but time was cut short. Jumper turned from an epic tale of people with a special gift and the organization that hunts them into a short and superficial action flick. The worst part is that one that can barely consider it good even as a simple action film. The action had the claustrophobic quality of the second and third movie of the Bourne series. I’m not a big fan of the “zoom in onto his elbows so he looks superfast” style of action sequence. I understand that perhaps the actors are not action heroes capable of amzing physical feats, but there are ways that fighting can be shot to look action packed without having to confuse the audience with shots where you can’t tell a man’s foot from the ass it’s getting put up.
The potential for a great movie was there. Sadly, it felt as though the creation Jumper started off with great energy and then died off with lack of creativity. There is no emotional depth in the movie, the character development was practically non-existent, and the mythology is poorly established. Perhaps if Jumper was originally written to span several movies, it would’ve fared better. With original IPs becoming less and less common, it’s a shame to see such an enterprising sci-fi world set in reality go to waste. The trailer is awesome, but prepare to be disappointed.