What better on a cold February night than a supernatural action-adventure movie of epic proportions, featuring teleportation around the world, and awesome-looking special effects? When I first heard of Jumper, its premise, and the awesome talent behind the lens, I rushed to the theatre as soon as it came out, hoping to massage my brain with spectacular and brainless fun. I was thirsty for kick-ass action, slick visuals and the all-American mainstream. Once the lights dimmed in the theatre and the feature presentation started, it did not take long before I realized that the movie I was about to watch was not what I expected it to be. Considering the well-established moviemakers responsible for Jumper, I expected to be dazzled by their work rather than their lack of inspiration. I was wrong.
Jumper immediately starts off with Hayden Christensen reading a voiceover narration. I hate voiceovers; they rarely work. Uninspired screenplay writers resort to them too often when they do not know how to illustrate their point. In Jumper’s case, the voiceover is useless and badly written. I am talking about lines that are so cliché that most writers wouldn’t dare type them. ‘Once I was normal, a chump just like you,’ claims Christensen as we watch him standing on the Sphinx. What a line… Whoever wrote it would have been better off with ‘Once upon a time,’ because sure enough, one minute into the movie, we are taken into our hero’s past, where for at least a good quarter of an hour, we are given the wonderful opportunity to view a bad episode of My So Called Life. You know the drill: awkward teenage boy has crush on annoying girl actress but is bullied by a stupid jerk that reminds him of his paper-cutout abusive father that his mother never bothered to defend him from because she mysteriously fled the household when he was five… Once those elements are hurriedly settled, he suddenly and inexplicably discovers his jumping/teleporting powers and runs away for good. We don’t know (and will never find out) where those powers came from or their true purpose, which is essentially the only reason why we are interested in this chump’s youth in the first place. Thanks for the waste of time.
We then follow our newly gifted protagonist into the big city, where he unfolds as an anti-hero rather than a vigilante. Being the angry teenager that he is, Christensen decides to utilize his power by robbing banks and getting wealthy instead of saving people from natural disasters – now we’re talking! Sadly, we only catch a glimpse of this as the movie unwisely decides to focus on Christensen’s return home instead. Back home, our Jumper meets Rachel Bilson under the guise of the all grown up love interest. Used-to-be-awkward-but-now-strong-and-handsome Christensen beats up his bully, sweeps the girl off her feet and takes her on a romantic escapade to Rome, where the much awaited action is set to take place.
Cut to Samuel L. Jackson as the baddy. Samuel, Samuel, Samuel. Only you could pull off being so shameless and careless about your career and still be respected by your peers… Mr. Jackson shows up on screen with an embarrassing cryogenic rug pasted on his scalp, thinking he is in a Spy Kids spin-off, and looking to kill. The person responsible for making him look like a half-breed between Wesley Snipes in Demolition Man and a chia pet should have been fired on the spot. Everything about Jackson in this movie, from his ridiculous power ranger looks to his absurd and over-the-top performance, sticks out like a sore thumb. Clearly, either he thought the movie was meant to not take itself seriously or he simply did not take the movie seriously himself. One thing is for sure though, Jackson is a riot in this film, whether he intended to be or not. Mr. Jackson however, is far from being Jumper’s weakest link and is definitely not accountable for the movie’s lack of entertainment value.
The problem with Jumper is that it consistently focuses on the wrong things. It prioritizes the uninteresting rapports between the two leads and completely neglects its supernatural premise, leaving those thirsty for action oversaturated with cheesy soap-opera dialogue. Instead of showing us how Christensen learns to maximize his powers, he suddenly and inexplicably becomes a super Jumper. Instead of exploring the ‘Paladin’ versus ‘Jumpers’ mythology, we see Jackson running around like a headless chicken without ever knowing what the motivation behind his witch-hunt is. Instead of taking advantage of the incredible potential teleportation has as a plot and visual device, the movie centers on Christensen and Bilson’s relationship. What a waste…
Jumper has a lot of talent backing it up. It features an adapted screenplay by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins; the Blade trilogy) and Jim Uhls (Fight Club), is directed by Doug Liman (Swingers; Go; The Bourne Identity) and includes great actors such as Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Lane and Michael Rooker. I just don’t understand how all this talent managed to make such a disappointing and dysfunctional movie. Jumper does not jump, it skips like a scratched CD, and you should definitely skip it.
Review by Ralph Arida