From director Doug Liman (Go and The Bourne Identity) comes the sci-fi/action film Jumper. The film, which is very, very loosely based upon the novel by Steven Gould, features some intriguing ideas, but suffers from poor execution.
The screenplay was written by David S. Goyer, Jim Uhls, and Simon Kinberg, and attempts to transplant the characters and concepts from the book into a more adult world. Where the film fails is that from the beginning it wants is viewers to buy into the overly predictable and formulaic plot, which the filmmakers don't seem to realize will be all too obvious to audiences, and the film comes off as being pretentious and condescending as a result.
The story follows David Rice, a social outcast, as he learns that he has the extraordinary ability to teleport himself anywhere in the world. At a young age he learns that he can use teleportation as a way of avoiding responsibility and escaping situations that make him feel vulnerable. He also becomes aware that he need never earn a real living through hard work, instead he robs banks by teleporting into their vaults. But when a cult of religious fanatics, devoted to the elimination of all teleports or "jumpers", targets David for assassination, he is forced to go on the run. He reunites with his former high school crush, Millie and offers to take her to Rome, which had always been her dream. However, David soon sees that his troubles have followed him and Millie's life is jeopardized. Reluctantly teaming up with a rebellious fellow "jumper" named Griffin, David sets out to save Millie and confront his new enemies. Yet he has no idea of what's at stake or who he will be forced to lose.
Despite the mixed reviews from critics, Jumper was a commercial success and this isn't entirely surprising. Besides being based upon a popular young adults' novel, the film also had the appeal of its attractive young cast. The film stars Hayden Christensen as David Rice, Jamie Bell as Griffin, Rachel Bilson as Millie, and Samuel L. Jackson as Roland. Though Hayden Christensen and Jamie Bell give fine performances, Samuel L. Jackson, who plays the white-haired assassin Roland, is hindered by his ridiculous appearance and the two-dimensional nature of his role. The cast also includes Max Thieriot, Anna Sophia Robb, and Diane Lane. But don't expect to see much of Diane Lane. Her character barely has five minutes of screen time and the only real reason for her presence in the film at all is to build up anticipation for her return in the inevitable sequel.
This brings me to what may be the film's greatest flaw. Director Doug Liman, the writers, and the producers had intended this to be the first film in a proposed trilogy, so they focused most of their attention on creating a built-in audience for parts two and three. While they attempt to dazzle viewers with special effects, action, and an all-star cast, they neglect an important component of serialized storytelling: namely, likeable (or at least believable) characters. The character of David Rice is an obnoxiously selfish and arrogant person, who is completely oblivious to the consequences of his actions and the way they affect the people in his proximity. Roland, who is meant to be the film's main villain, is nothing more than a self-righteous religious fanatic and he lacks any psychological depth or real motivation. The character of Millie, who is the film's most sympathetic figure, often just seems obtuse for not realizing what's going on around her.
Ultimately, Jumper is a visually exhilarating film without an emotional core. While I'm sure that the film's Box Office returns will guarantee at least one sequel, I won't be "jumping" into theatres to see it.
The DVD features include both full-screen and widescreen versions of the film, an audio commentary by Doug Liman, Simon Kinberg, and Lucas Foster, "Jumping from Novel to Film: The Past, Present, and Future of Jumper" featurette, "Making an Actor Jump" featurette, "Previz: Future Concepts" sequence, and trailers.
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