Movie News & Reviews

Plot development in "Jumper" jumps around too much

In the rundown of superpowers, I'd have to put teleportation way upthere on the list, right above the power of flight and just below theability to have a million dollars.

The bank robbing and not having to wade through airport security wouldbe sweet enough. On top of that, because you wouldn't have to takethem to the same restaurant, you could go out on a date with two womenon the same night and actually get away with it. Or say you wanted tosee the surface of the Moon -- at least, for the few seconds you couldsee before all the blood vessels in your eyes burst. Me, I wouldpractice throwing a pair of pants across the room, then teleportinginto them before they hit the ground. Show a girl that trick andshe'd be tearing them off you so fast you'd swear she could teleport,too.

I remember thinking about this a lot after reading Jumper manyyears ago. I remember the book being pretty great, too, but this isfrom the same 12-year-old's brain that thought Ace of Bass laid downsome serious beats, so trusting its judgment is always a gamble.Despite that, and despite the fact Jumper the movie looked likea radical departure from my hazy memory of the book, I was lookingforward to seeing what it had to offer.

Back when he was 15, an accident dropped Hayden Christensen into afrozen-over river. He should have died. Instead, he learned he couldteleport.

Within seconds of movie-time, he's jumping into bank vaults,gallivanting around the world, and generally living large for the nexteight years. His activities catch the attention of Samuel L. Jackson,however, an agent of a shadowy group that considers the powers ofjumpers to be an abomination unto the Lord.

Chased back to his home town, where everyone still thinks he's dead,Christensen looks up Rachel Bilson, the girl he's been in love withfor years. She's either unbelievably cool or incredibly stupid,because not only is she not at all amazed to see him, but she also agreesto go with him to Rome at the drop of a hat. Good times. Furtherpowers-abuse once again draws Jackson's steely eye, though, leading toa globetrotting battle that's not a fraction as cool as the words"globetrotting battle" imply.

Jumper's main problem is that it's -- how do I say this withoutsounding like a chump -- choppy. The story leaps around a lot, and OK, it's a movie about dudes who can teleport, so a certain amountof that's expected.

Characters and their doings are picked up on a whim and dropped justas suddenly, often never to be seen again. Director Doug Liman keepsa mushy grasp on the movie's passage of both space and time, pilingconfusion onto a plot that seems hellbent on racing forward as quicklyas possible without letting us get to know Christensen, Bilson, or thehistory of either the jumpers or the group that would seek to destroythem.

This lack of personality is also because, how do you say, the writingis not very good. Christensen gets some shyness and vulnerabilityinto his superpowered character, and Jamie Bell, a jumper ally, digsup some offbeat humor. Yet they're not immune to the blunt, clunkydialogue, either, where people either say exactly what they'rethinking or halt meaningfully after ever sentence, as if that'ssupposed to say what they can't. Liman's Pregnant Pause Party doesn'tcreate any depth when everyone's motivations are so ethereal orsingleminded that I wouldn't have been surprised if everyone hadturned to the camera at the end of the film and stripped off theirfaces to reveal they were all robots all along.

You know what, the jumping effects are pretty cool, though, and themovie does get into the wish-fulfillment side of jumping just enoughto where you can imagine how fun and magical a competent movie couldhave made it feel.

Most of the time I like when movies dive right into the action andtrust we'll catch up eventually. But how can you get sucked in in thefirst place when Christensen doesn't even seem surprised that he'sessentially a superhero? By skipping past any sense of wonder orprogression in his powers, Jumper robs itself of the mostinteresting part of its concept. By making its characters flat as afloor and its story as gray and tangled as a dustbunny, we're justbiding our time until it's over.

Grade: D+