Jumper (2008)

Jumper is a well-paced, poorly plotted superhero film. If that sounds like your average superhero film, well, you’re probably not alone in thinking that. Here, the origin story is handled within minutes, leaving us with a nice 75 minutes to tell the rest of the plot. That’s not a long time by any stretch of the imagination — Jumper is 88 minutes long once credits are factored in — and it’s probably for the best. Even at 88 minutes, the movie feels a bit long, in large part because it jumps all over the place. Pun totally intended.

Our origin story: David (Max Thieriot as a child and Hayden Christensen as an adult) is about to drown. A schoolyard bully threw the snow globe he gave to his crush, Millie (Annasophia Robb, who grows up to be Rachel Bilson), onto the icy river. The ice broke, David fell in, but somehow, he teleported into the local library. Later, when fighting with his father, he found himself back in the library again. He has gained teleportation powers, so he decides to run away from home, steal money from banks, and travel the world. This is who he is now, and that’s the end of our origin story.

Part two of our film involves him coming back to his hometown, taking Millie to Rome, being chased down by “Jumper Hunter” Samuel L. Jackson, and teaming up with Griffin (Jamie Bell), a fellow Jumper, to take down Jackson’s team of Paladins. There has apparently been a war going on since the Middle Ages between Jumpers and Paladins, and David is now stuck in the middle of it. Why do the Paladins hate the Jumpers? Because they all turn evil, at some point, so says Samuel L. Jackson. And when he says something, you listen.

The final portion of the film involves setting up a sequel that very likely will never come. As unfortunate as it is for everyone involved the final product simply wasn’t captivating enough to really warrant a sequel, even though it desperately seems to want one. There are at least 15 minutes dedicated to giving us one, including a final scene with two major reveals that come out of nowhere. But when the first film’s success hinges on a sequel, you know it’s not a good film to begin with.

There isn’t really much of a plot. David, Millie and Griffin basically just go around from place to place, hoping that they won’t get caught by the Paladins. And because we wouldn’t have a movie if they were, we eventually get some chase/fight sequences. The chases aren’t particularly interesting considering the characters can just teleport away at will. The action scenes are just hand to hand combat fights that are not at all fun to watch.

There is one good fight scene in Jumper, which takes place when Samuel L. Jackson’s Paladin and David come face to face for the first time. It establishes how much of a threat Jackson’s character is, while also looking pretty neat. The teleporting does, for the most part, look pretty cool, and I’d be interested in learning just how they did it. The special effects don’t look dated, and the teleportation will hold up for years to come, even if it doesn’t lend itself well to fight scenes.

The X-Men film that first featured Nightcrawler (X2?) understood exactly how to have fight scenes with a teleporter. The first time we saw that character, I was in awe of what I was watching. Here, the telportation serves only to take us from gorgeous locale to another one, with little impact on the actual fight. I did like going on the sight-seeing tour, but it’s little different than changing stages in a terrible fighting game. The combat’s still the same, and it’s not fun even though it looks like you’re trading blows on the top of a pyramid.

Another problem that it has is its characters, which are paper-thin and have absolutely no depth to them. Their decisions and actions don’t even always make sense. In one scene, Millie says she hates David, but five minutes later, without any prior interaction with him, says she forgives him. Why? Because the plot deems it so, I guess. Griffin’s unpredictability leads to a bunch of “Why?” moments when he has exchanges with David, and the whole Paladin thing never gets the explanation that it needs.

It doesn’t help that two of the lead actors are as wooden as can be and still have a job. Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson are very poor considering how much of the film they need to carry. They show no emotion, and they have no chemistry together on-screen, which didn’t endear them to me. If they were to die, I wouldn’t have cared. Samuel L. Jackson is more enjoyable, as he usually is, and Jamie Bell is at least charismatic, although he’s in a much lesser and evidently unnecessary role.

I was glad that Jumper was only 88 minutes. If it happened to be longer, I probably would have lost interest due to the poor plotting, underdeveloped characters, lackluster action scenes and cardboard lead actors. It’s a superhero film that has based its success on whether or not a sequel will be made, and the chances of that seem slim to none. It takes us on an impressive visual tour, showing us many sights all over the world, but when you look past the pretty visuals, there’s nothing underneath — yes, even for a superhero film.

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