Background: In this post-award season of Hollywood fluff, studios dump as many shelved films as they can into the mainstream. Occasionally I venture to the multiplex to see what the temperature is, as I did yesterday afternoon with Jumper, an adaptation of Steven Gould's 1992 novel by the same name. Directed by Doug Liman (Swingers, Go, The Bourne Identity), Jumper stars Hayden Christensen (Star Wars..., Shattered Glass), Samuel L. Jackson (Black Snake Moan, Snakes on a Plane), Rachel Bilson ("The O.C.") and Jamie Bell (Billy Elliot). Based on the premise, the marketing, and the stars, Jumper appears to be simply an excuse to make a video game in the future. Oh, it's already done? Huh.
Synopsis: David Rice (Christensen) discovers during his adolescence that he is a "jumper" - he can teleport anywhere, any time. Naturally he spends his time robbing banks, cavorting with women around the world and scoffing at newscasts of people suffering ("but no one can get to them," moans the news anchor). In short, he's a jerk - he knows it, and so do we. Eventually Roland Cox (Jackson), leader of the "Paladins" (mortal enemies of jumpers since ancient times), tracks down Rice, who meanwhile has inexplicably decided to court his childhood crush, Millie (Bilson). While in Rome with Millie, Rice meets Griffin (Bell), another jumper who is obsessed with killing Paladins and who has numerous hand-drawn sketches of Roland Cox on the walls of his "lair" in the middle of some desert. Rice and Griffin spend a really awkward 20 minutes flirting with each other while walking and driving through Tokyo (why was Griffin so desperate to go there again?). Rice is trying to persuade Griffin to agree to some juvenile superhero pact that will allow them to go after Roland Cox together. Griffin finally agrees, and the last 10 minutes are a painfully cliched mess (girl in danger, boy down but not out, boy finds incredible strength, saves girl, bad guy outfoxed, sequel foreshadowed).
+ The on-location filming in several locales - NYC, Italy, Egypt, Japan, France, and...Michigan.
+ Jamie Bell, for about two seconds when I could imagine him in any other movie.
- Samuel L. Jackson's ridiculous hair-do. Does this guy really need a silly look for every role?
- The waste of Diane Lane - we see her in photographs more than in person.
- Hayden Christensen - good grief, get a personality and get out of sci-fi movies. Stick with roles like Life as a House and Shattered Glass, if you're going to do anything at all.
- The meaningless plot - what is this "war" about and how has it remained under wraps since "medieval times"? (And on that note, has no one in history ever asked, "Where did you just come from?")
- The stomach-churning cinematography - why vigorously shake the camera when a character is just standing in place doing nothing? Oh yeah, it adds "realism," because we all live in a perpetual earthquake.
Writing - 4
Acting - 5
Production - 7
Emotional Impact - 4
Music - 5
Significance - 1
Total: 26/50= 52% = F
Last Word: I started grading this and just couldn't find low enough marks. Across the board, Jumper is an entirely lackluster, highly obnoxious production that doesn't even try to make up for its lack of characters. Oh, there are people "acting," but it would be a stretch to say that any of them have a personality or interesting quirk of any kind (OK, so some of them can teleport, but that becomes less and less interesting when you learn they aren't actually going anywhere with any kind of purpose). Between unnecessary close-ups and nauseating camera work, we're subject to offensive dialogue (it's not profane, just idiotic) and a confusing-yet-somehow-familiar plot. Doug Liman seems to be trying to launch his own Bourne trilogy here, but without Matt Damon, cool action, and a plot, it's going to be a difficult task. I really had some hopes for Jumper, if for no other reason than as a trip around the world, which is about the only thing it does moderately well (but Hayden Christensen eating a sub sandwich on top of the Sphinx?). Fanboys I'm sure will defend this through its trilogy, but as a newcomer to the story I am utterly disappointed. Yet another example of a relatively cool idea messed up with romance, jerks for characters, and cliched plot elements. Save the trip - you'll wish you could teleport out of the theater.