Jumper lands flat!

Movie Review
Directed By Doug Liman
Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation
88 min., PG-13

The new sci-fi Action flick “Jumper,” leaves much to be desired. However; on the plus side, there are a lot of cool effects and alluring locations thrown up onto the screen. The Pyramids, the Coliseum, Down-town Tokyo, and the beaches of Fiji are cool and the heroes of this film run, jump, speed and slide their way through glamorous location after glamorous location. The problem is that the amount of time and care spent on, oh, simple things, like character, motivation, plot and narrative arc, are disproportionately small.

Well, that is how you do it I guess, you teleport right though all the boring stuff like character and background. Hey, who needs all that when you can jump a stolen car through a dealership window without breaking it – wormholes, you know – and take it on the coolest joyride ever through the crowded streets of Tokyo, during which you don’t even have to worry about hitting other cars or pedestrians, you can just teleport right through them.

Still, there is no denying that Jumper features some of the most original and most clever action scenes I’ve seen on film, which is exactly what we should expect from director Doug Liman, who seemingly re-imagined action as a serious business with “The Bourne Identity.”

If someone is going to do something new with the action movie, it’s going to be him. The possibilities here are myriad, and nicely surprising.

A guy named David Rice (Hayden Christensen), can jump himself from one spot to another, three feet away, without any tedious walking involved. It opens up all sorts of possibilities that you probably hadn’t even thought of (I hadn’t). Like, how would two guys who could fight each other, simply teleport themselves out of the path of a flying fist? It’s not like one of them could just jump to Paris or Antarctica or somewhere to escape. Jumpers can follow one another’s “jump scars,” there is no running away from another jumper who wants to get you. When people can move themselves instantaneously to anywhere on the planet without any of that tedious mucking about in airports and eating bags of airline peanuts, the possibilities for adventure certainly seem intriguing.

Unfortunately, Jumper; based on a young adult novel by Steven Gould, feels like half a movie. It’s a real shame because the basic concept was cool. Evil Paladins, who think only God should have that kind of power, are hunting down jumpers. As far as I can tell, though, there are no other jumpers in the world except for the two guys who appear to be almost the same age, and we only get the Paladin perspective from the character named Griffin.

It would have been nice to hear from a Paladin himself, particularly since Samuel L. Jackson is playing Roland, the Paladin leader. Who is he? How did he get into this business? Why does he care what jumpers do? It’s too cheap and easy to foist off the war as a religious issue.

One of the main problems, in the first place, is that Samuel L. Jackson leads the Paladins in a draft blonde dye-job that totally subverts his ability to look scary and threatening.

Another problem is the lame attempt to inject a bigger story. Yet Christiansen comes across as whiny and self-obsessed. There is never a suggestion that David will use his powers to save others. Indeed, the only thing he uses them for is to get with his childhood sweetheart, Rachel Bilson (Millie) who is similarly weak in her performance.

Thank goodness for Jamie Bell who is a marvel of contradictory rage and “leave-me-aloneness” as Griffin. The film brightens up every time he’s on camera. I could have gone without the cool FX of displaced air and exploding potential energy and crackling jump scares if the rest of the movie could have risen to meet the flair he brings.

I would also like to observe the two children playing the younger version of David and his sweetheart; Annasphia Robb and Max Thieriot, are infinitely stronger performers than their grown-up counter parts.

So, if we must have a sequel, might it not be better as a more fully developed prequel?