Wednesday, February 20, 2008


The previews for Jumper at first looked quite good. It looked like David Rice (Hayden Christensen) would be battling fellow jumper Griffin (Jamie Bell) in a teleporting battle of epic proportions. How exactly the Paladin Roland (Samuel L. Jackson) fit in was not quite clear but the general outline had Rice romancing eye-candy Millie (Rachel Bilson), protecting her from Griffin and maybe Roland working with Griffin to take down Rice.

The movie started out with a tough sell. Rice does a voice-over in which he says, "I was once a nobody...a chump like you" or something along that line but he clearly refers to the audience as chumps. Not exactly a great way to get the audience to empathize with him or root for him as the hero.

Flashback to when he is 15. He makes shy, awkward social gaffs that result in him being first ridiculed by the class bully and then him nearly drowning and accidentally discovering his ability to teleport. He leaves a gift so Millie knows he isn't dead and disappears from her life.

In another voice-over he says something like, "I was 15. What would you have done?" to justify his bank-robbery. So far they have not done a lot to endear this character to us. He has looked by turns arrogant, pathetic, and whiny. Not exactly the makings of a modern day Errol Flynn here. Then again, choosing the guy who made Darth Vader look like a whining, weak character to play your lead may not be great casting anyway...

The next few scenes show him touring the world. Leaving his New York apartment he appears on the clock hand of Big Ben. And this is one of the real problems with the movie.

They have no clearly defined rules for the jump. They say to jump you have to have been to a place before. Can someone kindly explain to me how he could have been on the hand of Big Ben in London? Or on top of the Sphinx? Or... but apparently, if you get CLOSE to a place and can SEE it, then you can jump there...sometimes. But only for certain lengths of jump...and SOMETIMES if something is in the way it will knock you down as the tree does to Rice when he is learning to jump. Oh, and you can also jump after someone who has just jumped by following their jump scar. Or you can jump if...

In other words, they set up the rule you can only jump to a place you have previously been, then get written into a corner or just want a shot of a guy hanging off the Big Ben clock or eating on the Phoenix and add that rule and so forth. So there is no rhyme or reason to when or where they can jump or why they can't jump.

Come to think of it, that describes most of the movie...there is very little rhyme or reason to things. Paladins hate jumpers because they can jump. There is a throw-away line that the Paladins are "right wing religious fanatics" and loose lip service is paid to that by having Roland say, "Only God should have that power" 2 or 3 times...but it is at best a very loose reason to chase Jumpers for hundreds of years. Very, very weak motivation. Yet someone is financing the Paladins as evidenced by their ability to fly around the world at a whim, drive very expensive cars, develop and use prohibitively expensive equipment. Other than having no believable motivation or source of income they serve only to provide foils for the jumpers. Without conflict there is no movie...

So just to hammer home the point that real motivations, believable actions, and coherent plots have no business in this flick Rice returns home to Detroit after 8 years and things pick up right where they left off 8 years previously. Mark Kobold (Teddy Dunn) recognises Rice, calls him names, acts like a high school bully...even though he should now be out of college. Millie, after not seeing him for 8 years, instantly leaves her job in the bar to fly to Rome with him...11 hours after meeting again they are in a hotel room together in Rome.

Now, I am a big believer in suspending disbelief in movies. I happily watched a semi outrun a collapsing freeway, a cab blow up a helicopter, a genius who could shut down the government send out his minions one by one in Live Free or Die Hard (2007) without batting an eyelid...because those things were internally consistent within the movie. Jumper did not bother with internal consistency...or, for that matter, having a likable main character. I would even argue the only LIKABLE character in the flick is Griffin.

After Griffin rescues (for no discernible reason) Rice and Millie from Paladins in the Colosseum and promises to help Rice (during a mad-cap, violent, bizarre car drive through China for no apparent reason other than to offer exposition) against the Paladins, Rice and Griffin separate; Rice to rescue Millie and Griffin to arm himself. Yet another inexplicable thing; in Rome Griffin packed a bat. For this he grabs...wait for it...a flame-thrower. Why would he not carry a gun some, all the time, knowing these Paladins are trying to kill him and he wants to return the favor? The baseball bat was fun but non-sensical. After an interesting battle in his lair with Roland Millie gets captured.

Griffin and Rice then argue over whether to bomb the Paladins into oblivion. Rice seizes the remote, Griffin chases him to get it back and they engage in an admittedly entertaining jump-battle over a remote that has a very strange ending that leaves Griffin theoretically alive, though incapacitated in an electrical transformer. Why does Rice turn on him? Sure, I get the "Millie will die if you set off a bomb" but several possible ways for them to still work together exist...none of which they examine for no apparent reason.

Well, after defeating Griffin Rice heads off to rescue Millie from the Paladins. Despite his skillful defeat of Griffin, he walks into a trap so elementary even Fettermen would have seen it coming. Whatever. He then proceeds to, without explanation, escape the devices that scramble his ability to jump. Again, no internal consistency.

Whatever. The heavily advertised, barely there Diane Lane, playing his mother Mary Rice, turns out to be a Paladin who will give him a head start. Nothing really says love quite so much as a mother saying, in effect, "Oh, I hate you enough to kill you but I will give you a head start in the chase because you are my son and I love you". So at the end of the movie Millie and Rice jump away knowing Mary will chase them, Griffin is probably still alive and will want vengeance, and Roland is still alive. So yeah.,..expect a sequel. Hope it is better than this one. And makes more sense.

Too bad. This could have been a great movie. It nearly was. The only things standing between this movie and greatness are sensible motivations, likable heroes, intelligent plots, internal consistency, good acting, and some relationship between the billing of the actors involved and the amount of screen time they get. Other than those things it was half-way to being perfect.

On the bright side, Griffin is just plain fun, the special effects are fun, and the premise is fun. So there is potential.

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