Fox // 2008 // 88 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Gordon Sullivan // June 10th, 2008
Anywhere. Anything. Instantly.
Jumper is the kind of sci-fi potstirrer that comes along every few years and doesn't quite break new ground, but throws some real talent, along with the usual genre trappings, into an interesting, though often flawed, feature. Such films are either embraced by a cult audience or end up languishing in (probably deserved) obscurity. Jumper got (relatively) snubbed at the American box office, not quite making back its budget with the domestic gross. Fox has released a packed DVD, hoping to win the film an audience on home video. Although Jumper is far from a perfect film, it's a hope I share.
Young David Rice (Hayden Christensen, Awake) is a mild-mannered teenager with a horrible home life and an (apparently) unrequited crush on Millie (Rachel Bilson, The O.C.). He also finds himself taunted at school. Like many a movie character, the taunting leads him to discover a secret talent: he can "jump," or transport himself, to any locale he has seen. Because living with an alcoholic father (Michael Rooker, Slither) and an absent mother is no fun, David decides to leave home with his new talent. To stay alive (and live in style), he takes to robbing banks. After a few years he has himself set up rather nicely, jumping from place to place while living in the lap of luxury. With the world literally at his fingertips and after a disturbing visit from Roland (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction), David finds himself missing Millie and returns to whisk her away to Rome. While cavorting about town, David discovers another person who is capable of jumping, Griffen (Jamie Bell, Billy Elliot). David also discovers that there is a religious-style order called the Paladins who hunt jumpers and kill them. Currently, they are led by that mysterious visitor Roland. David has to leave his selfish ways behind to save Millie and himself from the threat of the Paladins.
As far as formula goes, there's little that's new in Jumper. We've got a superpower, an overzealous villain, a girl-next-door love interest, and an amusing sidekick. However, a couple of things set it apart from the pack of superhero films. First, it doesn't come from an established comic book that everyone and their brother knows about. Second, it's a blur of a film at less than an hour and a half. Finally, Jumper has an amazing commitment to reality that is often lacking in other superhero films.
Jumper is based on a series of teen novels by Stephen Gould. This means that, unlike other recent superhero films, Jumper has a lot less baggage. According to the special features, even fans of the novels will be surprised by the way the film deals with the ideas of the novels. Because of the new universe in the film, I found myself surprised more often during Jumper than I'm used to with other superhero films. I got to feel like I was discovering something instead of seeing a retread of a story I saw in comics as a kid. No, there weren't a lot of surprises in Jumper (it is a genre film, after all), but I still enjoyed seeing a new universe instead of the usual Marvel/DC world.
The current trend in superhero movies tends towards bloat and introspection. Sometimes, this works well (Batman Begins) and other times not so much (Spiderman 3). Jumper goes completely in the other direction with a breakneck 88-minute runtime. We get quick, efficient introductions to the major players early, and the exposition is handled by dialogue in the usual "let me, the super villain, explain myself" style. Because it goes by so quickly, awkward moments are easily forgotten in the rush towards the finish line -- and yes, it's a finish line that demands a sequel.
Finally, what makes this project worthy of a director like Doug Liman, who breathed life into the action film with The Bourne Identity, is the attention to detail. Apparently, Liman demanded that the film shoot on location as much as possible. So when we see the Sphinx, it really is the Sphinx. This insistence on location shooting lends gravity to the otherwise fanciful aspects of the script.
Sadly, Fox did not send out final product for this review. The Jumper that I saw was an over-compressed mess with a significant amount of macroblocking and noise. However, the final product has every reason to look good, with sweeping vistas and strong colors. The included audio was appropriately room-shaking, with a nice balance of dialogue, music, and effects. The disc also includes a generous collection of supplements. The main treat is a commentary with director Doug Liman, writer/producer Simon Kinberg, and producer Lucas Foster. The three chat fast and furious as the film unfolds, mainly sticking to their various conceptions of the narrative and its universe. They also discuss how they altered the source novel. For a film that comes off this fluffy, Liman et al put a lot of thought into the "philosophy" of Jumper. Much of their discussion is repeated in the other offerings, which include a making-of documentary and a featurette on the various locations used in the film. There is also a "graphic novel" and a look at the previz. Obviously, Fox wants to make this package as attractive as possible to those who avoided Jumper in the theaters.
Jumper really fails to break new ground. Taken as a popcorn sci-fi flick, it delivers on the promise of 88 minutes of action. However, it's not the next Blade Runner, nor is it likely to make any lasting impact on the viewer. At best it's cheesy entertainment. At worst it's a missed opportunity.
On the acting front, this is the best performance I've seen by Hayden Christensen, though take that as you will considering his track record. I love Samuel L. Jackson, but he doesn't show a lot of commitment here. Jamie Bell shows some potential as Griffen, but he almost acts too well for the project. Diane Lane is wasted in a small role, but her character shows potential when the inevitable sequels appear.
I didn't have much trouble getting into the world of Jumper, but it moves so fast that some viewers are likely to get left behind. Obviously, fans of the novels shouldn't expect to see very much that is familiar.
Because of my dislike of Hayden Christensen, I approached Jumper with very low expectations. By the time the credits rolled, I was actually pretty pleased to have seen the film. I suspect that expectation will be the deciding factor in viewer enjoyment. Those who treat Jumper as a way to pass the time will probably be happy. Those looking for a more coherent or challenging piece of cinema will be tearing their hair out after 15 minutes. But, whether you enjoy Jumper or not, its $200 million-plus worldwide gross assures that it will be with us for a while.
As a testament to the genre of science fiction, Jumper is guilty of treading water. As a fast-paced piece of action fluff, it's acquitted of all charges.
Review content copyright © 2008 Gordon Sullivan; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* DTS 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2008
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Commentary with Director Doug Liman, Writer/Producer Simon Kinberg, and Producer Lucas Foster
* "Jumpstart: David's Story" Animated Graphic Novel
* "Doug Liman's Jumper: Uncensored"
* "Jumping Around the World"
* "Making an Actor Jump"
* "Jumping from Novel to Film: The Past, Present, and Future of Jumper"
* Deleted Scenes
* "Previz: Future Concepts"
* Official Site