In fantasy and science fiction there are literally thousands of super powers a person can obtain. Sure that invulnerability thing would be great and being able to fly would be something but there is no ability that would really be cool; teleportation. Anyone who has ever been stuck in rush hour traffic or trapped in a subway train under the East River would love to be able to go somewhere just by thinking about it. One of the latest endeavors to bring this concept to the screen is ‘Jumpers’ by Doug Liman. It was based on the novel by the same name written by Steven Gould. According to his web site he is proud of two accomplishments achieved by his book. The first was a comment by a librarian he spoke to saying that she always recommends ‘Jumper’ first to her young students so they will trust her other recommendations. The second may seem dubious but I completely understand it. His book was 94 on the American Library Association’s list of most banned books in America. There is nothing like being forbidden to foster interest in a novel or film. When I was a kid we used to look through the Catholic newspaper to find condemned flicks that we would then try to sneak into. Overall the film version of this great novel is disappointing. Most interpretations of a book are changed for ‘dramatic effect’ but this one loses much of the focus and thematic elements that made the novel so great. One saving grace here is the movie features Samuel L. Jackson and nothing can be all bad with him in it. All you have to do is consider that snakes flick and you will see what I mean. It is a shame when such potential is not realized but if you are able to shut off the higher cognitive portions of your brain this remains an entertaining beer and pizza flick.
The film was written by committee with three credited script writers. David S. Goyer has formidable experience in bringing comic book and graphic novels to the screen. His list of screenplays includes the Blade trilogy, ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘Dark City’. Currently he is working on the sequel to the new Batman franchise, has well as the X-Men prequel and a new version of ‘The Flash’. His works tend towards the darker side an here he apparently provided some of the more sinister elements to the story line. Next there is Jim Uhls. He has a shorter resume in the field but he did writer the script for ‘Fight Club’. Last there is Simon Kinberg. He counts among his accomplishments the last two X-Men movies, ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ and is listed as working on the ‘Jumper’ and ‘Night at the Museum’ sequels. With such an assembled group of talented and proven writers it is a wonder that the script here is lacking. First of all the greatly diminished the plot line where the titular Jumper learns to use his ability to escape his abusive father. In the novel this sets the stage for his emotional arc and provides motivation for most of his actions. There are more plot holes here than can be easily ignored. The story seems to be missing parts including the resolution of several threads in the story. The also leave the reason a group is trying to kill off the jumpers up in the air. There are illusions as to why but nothing satisfying to the audience. Also lost in the transition from page to screen is the moral ambiguity that pervades but the jumpers not to mention the group dedicated to fight them. Overall the story is inconsistent.
I am a big fan of the early work of director Doug Liman. His film ‘Go’ was great as was his ‘Swingers’. He was also excellent directing the first of the ‘Bourne’ action movies. There seems to have been a turning point when he directed ‘Mr. and Mrs. Smith’ where it came across as pandering to the part of the audience who only cares about action, not the plot. In this flick Liman concentrates too much on the special effects and action. While both are done very well, the effects shots are amazing; they should not dominate the film. They should have punctuated the story but leave the focus of the book intact. I felt like I was watching someone play a video game instead of viewing a movie. The pacing of this flick is uneven; starting and stopping over and over again. Just when it seems like the story will start moving forward there is a slow patch that takes you out of the moment. This is usually forgivable to provide some much needed exposition but here the explanations, when offered, are mere fragments of what is required.
To all outward appearances David Rice (Max Thieriot) was an average teenager. His mother Mary (Diane Lane) divorced his dad William (Michael Rooker) when he was only five years old. David was a quite kid who didn’t have many friends and enjoyed the local library as a place to escape his father and the neighborhood bullies. David had a crush on a girl, Millie (AnnaSophia Robb) and in a effort to show his feelings bought her a snow globe. The bullies see this, take the globe and toss it to a frozen stream. David tries to retrieve it but falls through the thin ice. Trapped underneath he floats downstream unable to break through to the air when suddenly he teleports to the safety of the library. David begins to test and develop his powers until he can jump anywhere in the world. Without telling anyone he jumps away and sets himself up in a nice hotel. Eight years later David (Hayden Christensen) is living easy. He has a leisurely life jumping to the pyramids for lunch or hanging out atop Big Ben. When he needs cash all he has to do is pop into a bank vault and pop out with his pockets full of cash.
The bank robberies may have confused the authorities but they managed too put David on the radar of a group called the Paladins who are dedicated to stopping all jumpers using deadly force and advance technologies. The Paladin after David is Roland Cox (Samuel L. Jackson) who catches up with David. Using a baton that shoots out an electric probe to short circuit his jumping ability David is almost captured and killed. He jumps to his old room back home. Once there he decides to find Millie (Rachel Bilson). He finds the bully, Mark (Teddy Dunn), who threw the globe and jumps him into a bank vault to be arrested. He does meet up with Millie and impresses her with is ill gotten wealth by flying her to Rome. While in Rome David meets another Jumper, Griffin (Jamie Bell). He tells David that the war between Jumpers and Paladins has been going on for centuries and he as been hunting and killing as many Paladins as possible. Cut to a lot of chases, only natural considering the theme here, and some last minute revelations that raise more questions then are answered.
Considering how open ended the finale of the film was you just know that the sequel is already in the works. Although this was not a great film it did receive an international gross over $218 million so the studies jumped at the chance for a franchise. As always Jackson is fantastic as Roland. He has menacing down to a science by now. His performance here is just short of campy and is the best thing about the flick. I will catch a lot of grief from my daughter for this but Hayden Christensen should consider jumping into some acting classes. She’s 24 and still impressed by his looks which are admittedly handsome but the man has trouble infusing any emotional response to his character. The one thing that works here is this flatness can help with an idle, elitist young man like David. Bilson is a bit of stunt casting hoping to draw in some of the fan base of the television teen soap opera, ‘The OC’. Like Christensen she is easy on the eyes but light on the ability to properly convey a character.
The DVD release is from Fox and as you would expect the technical presentation is fantastic. The anamorphic 2.40:1 video is reference quality with a perfect color palette. The audio is provided in both Dolby 5.1 and DTS. The DTS track gives a deeper sound stage but both variations are excellent. This is a fun flick if you can ignore what it could have been. Your best bet is to get the novel to see how this story should have been told.