A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 351 – Jumper

Jumper – February 15th, 2011

I was cranky when I got home from work this evening, but not cranky enough to put in one of our emergency comfort movies. I needed something mindless and superficial. Something I could bitch about but which wouldn’t actively piss me off. And so Andy looked through the list and came up with this. I asked what it was about. “Oh, crappy sci-fi about a kid who can teleport. It’s got Anakin.” Well, that about sums it up, doesn’t it? I got exactly what I was expecting after that brief summary.

The basic premise is that there are people known as ‘jumpers’ who can teleport from place to place with no real effort once they get the hang of where they’re going. And there are ‘paladins’ who hunt them down and kill them for being abominations. David, our main character, discovers he can jump. After clearing out a bank vault and running away from his negligent and borderline abusive father he ends up living the sweet life in New York City. Until Roland, a paladin who’s been trying to track him down, manages to find him and follow him to his posh apartment. And then they spend the rest of the movie doing the cat and mouse thing, with a bonus romantic subplot that inevitably leads to a damsel in distress situation.

I think what I object to the most in this movie is that it has some fun potential and nice special effects and action scenes, and yet the movie feels somewhat empty. There are attempts at meaning, but they fall flat, and I can’t really even lay it at the feet of Hayden Christensen as David. I mean, he’s not in the running for an Oscar here, but he’s certainly come a long way from mumbling lines about sand. What I really fault is the romantic plot. It’s inelegantly done and there’s no real chemistry between Christensen and Rachel Bilson as David’s long-time crush, Millie. They seem awkward together, which fits to a point, but it means I just don’t buy them as a couple. And since there’s a lot of emotional weight hung on Millie’s role as David’s romantic interest, I needed to buy them. Or at least be willing to rent. And I don’t. It just seems like a plot point, not an organic part of the story.

So much time gets spent on the David and Millie romantic story that I think the rest of the story and the rest of the world get short shrift. We know David’s mother left the family when he was five. We know David’s father scared him enough that David put a chain on his bedroom door from the inside. We find out early on that there’s something mysterious about David’s mother. We meet another jumper, Griffin, and find out that he’s been hunting down the paladins who hunt down the jumpers. There are mentions of the jumper/paladin war going back centuries. And yet we spend more time on David and Millie – with no appreciable benefit – than on the rest. Sure, we get some great bits with Samuel L. Jackson’s obsessed paladin, Roland, tracking down David, but what does he get for motivation? What do any of them get? Oh right, they’re religious fanatics who think that jumpers are abominations doing what only God should do. That’s it. That’s all the background we get. It just all seems so superficial. So hollow.

I like the concept of this movie. I like the idea behind it and I like the action and I really would like to know more about the world. Where did the paladins come from? How have they developed all their little toys and tracking devices? What do they know about jumpers? What about some more background for David’s mother and her choice to leave him? Nothing? Really? Not even some more time with the fantastic Griffin and his crusade against the paladins (haha)? It’s just plain frustrating. And really, it’s tough to root for David and Griffin and the jumpers against the clearly-pretty-nasty paladins when they’re basically cat burglars. David says several times that he won’t ‘go bad’ and that he’s different, but we never really find out just what has gone before and so we don’t know why he’s so much better. When something gives me cool super power plots and a world with an epic and long-standing battle going on, I want to feel involved and invested and this movie didn’t manage it. Maybe if it had been a little longer or spent less time on Millie. I don’t know. It needed something. Some substance. Some pathos. But really, it’s just got some neat special effects and a comic book plot. Not quite enough.

February 15, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment

Jumper

February 15, 2011

Jumper

BAMF!

This is a movie that has some cool effects, interesting fight scenes and a nifty premise, but ultimately feels empty. I want to like this movie. There are many bits of it that are cool. Ultimately, however, I find myself wanting more.

The notion behind the movie is very comic bookish. At fifteen years old a wimpy sensitive kid named David Rice discovers that he can teleport at will. He does what any fifteen year old with magic superpowers would do – leaves his abusive father and hometown and robs a bank to set himself up a life in New York city. Five years later we catch up to David as he jaunts about the world from his Manhattan penthouse to London to Egypt. He can go anywhere and everywhere. Until, that is, he encounters a very angry Samuel L. Jackson who heads a secret society of badasses with all kinds of high-tech equipment who have made it their mission to wipe out all “jumpers” like David.

It’s at this point, about half an hour in, that the movie begins to lose its focus. Just when we should be drawn into it because a whole band of well funded and well organised vigilantes are now hunting our lead character things start to get messy and make less sense. The first thing David does when confronted with a secret group that wants to kill him is jump back to his home town and pick up his high-school crush for a sudden trip to Rome. Because what could be more inconspicuous than an international plane flight paid for all in stolen cash?

Naturally all that this accomplishes is that his girlfriend Millie is now going to be in mortal danger for the remainder of the movie. While David has to repeatedly rescue her from bad guys. Do you know what irritates me most about this whole situation? He let her believe that he had drowned way back when he first disappeared five years ago. What kind of cad is he, and why are we supposed to care about him if he can’t even share his unbelievable super power with his first love?

He does meet a kind of cool if slightly unhinged fellow jumper who very quickly shows him the ropes and pretty much tells him what the climax of the movie will involve. Griffin (the other jumper) may be a sociopath bent on killing any paladins (jumper hunters) he can find, but he’s a much more interesting character than David ever is. He has this totally awesome attack which he uses a couple times that involves grabbing a moving vehicle and jumping the whole damned thing so that it hurtles at his intended target. Awesome! He’s a tortured soul who is bent on revenge for the assassination of his parents. Awesome again! So why does the movie spend so little time with him, and why does he ultimately have no part in the final showdown? Lame!

Indeed the entire climax of the movie is… anticlimactic. David’s final showdown with Roland is pretty cool, but it doesn’t really resolve anything. Then there’s a sort of coda to the movie where he confronts an important figure in his life – except that it has no real impact. There are all kinds of hints about this final confrontation throughout the movie so you kind of expect it to mean something, but it doesn’t really. Meh.

It’s such a pity that this movie has so little impact. As I said before it looks awesome. The jump effects are very cool and the movie has a great pace to it. Samuel L Jackson is fantastic as always and Jamie Bell as Griffin is also fun to watch. Hayden Christensen is far more tolerable as David than he was as the whiny Anakin Skywalker. But his character is so dim witted and bland. Why does he drag Millie into things? Why does he keep putting her into danger? What’s so hard about laying low and being inconspicuous? I want to see more about the jumpers and the paladins… I just don’t particularly want to see these ones.

All the cooless, style and potential of this movie evaporates through the many gaping plot holes leaving something airy and insubstantial. The ending feels as though it was the writers that jumped away rather than finish it. For a few instants here and there I see a really great comic-book-inspired movie here once in a while – but then in a puff of smoke it’s gone again. So sad.

February 15, 2011 Posted by | daily reviews | , , | Leave a comment