Jumper (2008) dir. Doug Liman
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson, Jamie Bell, Samuel J. Jackson
It’s difficult to justify liking this film, it’s a high concept sci-fi flick produced from a sloppy script with enormous plotholes. Yet the “Jumper” somehow triumphed over its faults to become a fun twilight zone action extravanganza that exists solely to have fun and be cool. I fell for it, hook, line and sinker.
Hayden Christensen plays David Rice, a man who has lived most of his life with an extraordinary ability to teleport between places anywhere in the world. For 10 years or so it’s been a life of ultimate coolness, eating lunch of the nose of the sphinx, chilling out on top of Big Ben and never having to ride in an elevator ever again. As result of his power, he’s had to keep it a secret which has made his existence as lonely as he is wealthy. One day a mysterious stranger, Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), appears in his apartment asking questions about his abilities. How does he know and what is his agenda?
It turns out Roland is a bounty hunter of sorts who hunts down people like David. So does that mean there are more people in world like him? David soon meets Griffin, another jumper who fills him in on the long history of the jumpers and their conflict with Roland's organization – the Palladins. David’s life becomes complicated when his old girlfriend Millie (Rachel Bilson) is caught in the global melee of action. It’s a wild action film which moves quick through a dozen locations in a matter of minutes all for the sake of some really cool action you’ve never seen before.
Doug Liman ("The Bourne Identity", "Mr. & Mrs. Smith"), one of Hollywood’s enfant terribles, has a knack of making something out of nothing. Or maybe he destroys the good stuff and rebuilds it back up to something greater. Apparently the production of “Jumper”, like his other films, were marred with wild production antics, budget overruns, and, tragically, a death on set. Liman’s had history of wild off-the-cuff filmmaking, which in the $75-100m range is unheard of. But his films make money and so there’s method to his madness.
Unlike "Smith", "Bourne", or "Go", the production problems are evident. And there's a much better film in this story that what eventually was put on screen. No pun intended, but "Jumper" jumps around a lot - like it went through a massive band-aid editing session. The first third of the film establishes David's lavish lifestyle. As soon as Roland enters the fray, David's world is turned around 180 degrees. With his life in jeopardy, David curiously goes back home and starts up a relationship with his ex-girlfriend. It's a dramatic and distracting switch, like these scenes were edited out of place. As well Liman never adequately sets up the 'rules' of David's superpower. Where can David jump to, where can't he jump to and why? Can other people jump with him?
Eventually, by trial and error, the rules sink in and the film settles down into a clever action extravaganza and a cool new millennium superhero flick. Liman crafts some incredibly audacious action scenes, which use the teleporting powers to dizzing effect.
"Jumper" also sets up a sequel or even a franchise. Liman only reveals the tip of the iceberg for the "Jumper" world. A more nefarious baddie is referred to whom we never meet, David's mother is given a dramatic twist at the end, which is never resolved, and the film actually ends on a teasing cliffhanger. This all fueled my desire to learn more of the story.
Unfortunately the future of "Jumper 2" is uncertain. Lacklustre box office and Doug Liman's crazed antics may be the deathknell for what could have been a great new action franchise. Enjoy.
"Jumper" is available on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment on June 10