February 18, 2008

Jumper Falls Flat

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Jumper is a movie about stupid people who talk with stupid dialogue and make stupid decisions. Starring Hayden Christensen as David Rice and Samuel L. Jackson as Roland (no last name, like Cher), the film is riddled with plot holes, irrational scenarios and a tinny resonance where there should be character depth.
The basic premise is that there are at least four people in the world at any given time who have the ability to teleport to and from any point on the globe that they’ve been before, or that they’ve seen in a picture. (The whole ‘logic’ behind this massively important plot point is a bit fuzzy.) ‘Jumpers’ like these have been hunted by a group of people called ‘Paladins’ since the Middle Ages (or something). Of the four supposed to currently exist, two Jumpers are dead, one is the superhero we once knew as ‘Skywalker,’ and the last is a British punk who lives in a lair that used to be an Egyptian tomb.
The movie opens with Rice’s realization of his powers when the he falls into a frozen lake and saves himself by teleporting to the nearest library. For some reason, Christensen’s character decides the best thing to do after the incident is to run away and start robbing banks, which means that everyone he ever knew thinks he’s dead. The movie skips ahead a few years and Rice is now living the good life in a penthouse apartment filled with ridiculous things like ATV’s and canoes.
Samuel Jackson shows up to kill Hayden (because apparently that’s what he does), but our hero teleports to safety. Within the context of this movie, what has happened so far seems to work. The viewer will forgive Rice’s decision to run away and is now interested by the action and potential for story development.
Any optimism goes out the window when Rice returns home. Rice goes to find his old girlfriend Millie, (played by Rachel Bilson) and neither she nor anyone else seems to remember that he ‘died’ years ago. People accept that he has literally come out of nowhere and move on with their lives. We see a five minute shoot-the-breeze conversation between Rice and Millie (doesn’t she remember that she saw him die when they were kids?), and ten hours later Bilson and Christensen are in Rome. Life seems so simple when you don’t care about anything.
A quick check of a viewer’s watch at this point will reveal that in the first twenty minutes the main character has discovered and developed his powers, fought the bad guy, and gotten the girl; leading to the grim realization that the next hour and eight minutes will be all filler.
Jumper’s biggest flaw is its characters. Despite the fact that Christensen and, to a lesser extent, Bilson are deplorable actors, the people in this movie are almost immediately forgettable in their own right. Even Samuel Jackson, who has an uncanny knack for bringing amazing personality to almost every role he plays, fades into the background of this film. As one disappointed audience member put it, the movie was “spectacularly empty.” There is absolutely no substance behind anyone in this entire movie. David Rice floats through life and when the movie ends remains a carbon copy of who he was when the movie started. Millie is the epitome of an empty vessel, inexcusably clueless when there is gun-fire and teleportation all around her and apparently only motivated by money. Roland is an antagonist approximately as menacing as the gopher in Caddyshack. The whole cast talks in fantastically corny dialogue, which only drives more nails into this proverbial coffin.
Responsibility for this mess does not fall solely with the writers. While they did make a movie completely inhabited by two-dimensional characters, those characters were portrayed by actors who just didn’t seem to care about what they were doing. The film is wholly unimpressive and even laughable when Christensen suggests that he and the other Jumper form a ‘Marvel team-up,’ like superheroes do in comic books. (That’s a direct quote, folks.) The whole teleport gimmick makes action scenes pretty cool to look at, but ultimately only serves as a distraction from this film’s glaring deficiencies.
Perhaps the most unsettling thing about this whole affair is that a reasonably large group of people had to think that this movie was fantastic before it ever hit theaters. You, as a discriminating college student, have better things to do with your time. Jumper’s tagline is “Anywhere is possible.” Keep that in mind, and look for entertainment anywhere but here.