What made the Silver Age Marvel characters better than their
counterparts at DC Comics is that they always seemed to react to
getting superpowers in ways that made sense to the reader. The only
people whose first thought when gaining astonishing powers is to become
are the people who grew up on comic books; a regular person would look
at these abilities and wonder how they can be used to their own
benefit. That’s real, and that’s why Spider-Man’s origin remains the
single greatest of any hero. While nowhere near the deftly executed
perfection of that origin, Jumper presents a superhero origin story
that works because it starts in that same place – if you could suddenly
teleport at will, what would you do? Get laid and get rich, obviously, and that’s what David Rice does with his powers.
is a dweeb in high school who has a huge crush on his classmate Millie.
One winter day he presents Millie, who dreams of world travel, with a
snow globe from Paris; a bully tosses the globe onto a frozen river and
when David goes to retrieve it he ends up imitating a scene from The
Omen II. Everybody thinks David is dead, but at the last second his
ability kicks in and he, and about a hundred gallons of icy river
water, end up in the local library. Like Dr. Robert Banner on TV, David takes
advantage of his own death to finally leave town and his abusive single
dad (how abusive? He’s Michael Rooker) and heads to New York, where he robs a bank by teleporting into the vault. This action catches the eye of pop superstar Sisqo, played with obvious boredom by Samuel L Jackson.
seven or eight years and David is living the high life, jumping around
the world getting laid and lounging about. Things are about to change,
though – he’s attracted the attention of another Jumper, who isn’t
happy with the way David is flaunting his powers. And Sisqo
and his band of Paladins, a holy order who have been hunting and
killing Jumpers since the Middle Ages, has finally tracked him down.
When his whole life falls apart, David unwisely returns home one last
time to see how Millie is doing (I guess to say goodbye before going
into hiding) and winds up convincing her to go to Rome with him, tying
her deeply into the trouble he’s in.
Jumper‘s a very light film, and that’s part of why I liked it. There are hints of larger backstory and history, but director Doug Liman and round writing robins David Goyer, Jim Uhls and Simon Kinberg
don’t get too heavy with it. That’s a problem for some more literal-minded people who can’t make connections on their own,
especially as we get to the end of the movie, which consists of a
series of scenes designed only to set up the sequel, but I liked the
way the bigger picture was just teased. And I really liked the way no
one ever sat down and laid out what David’s powers and limitations are;
instead the movie does a good job of showing us these things through
actions, only occasionally relying on Griffin, the other Jumper, to
fill in the pieces with exposition.
Less successful is the film’s casting. While Hayden Christiansen
doesn’t reach the heights he achieved in what might be his only good
film role in Shattered Glass, he also doesn’t offend at Star Wars
levels. David is a guy who has spent his formative years on his own,
never getting close to anyone and hiding who he is, so you can
rationalize a certain amount of Christiansen’s
stiffness in that way, although I still think you’d be rationalizing.
As I said before, Jackson gives an almost totally disinterested
performance; I feel like I’ve seen him trying harder in The Man. Rachel
Bilson is pretty but never connected with me as a human being.
it’s all these so-so performances that really makes Jamie Bell stand
out. I think Bell’s a ferociously talented actor, and while he’s not
doing career-best work in the teleporting
superhero movie, he’s having a blast and ripping shit up. Griffin is
more advanced than David in that he’s tussled with the Paladins more,
he’s been on his own as a Jumper since he was five, and if he hasn’t
completely snapped he’s certainly right on the edge. He lives in a
self-declared lair in the Sahara, a place adorned with drawings of
Jackson and packed with weaponry. Griffin’s trying to take the battle
to the Paladins, and he’s not afraid to kill them in the process –
which really does seem sort of fair. Bell has so much fun in the role
that his appearance gives the second half of the movie a very needed
jolt from Hayden’s half-lidded stylings.
What sold me the most on Jumper, though, was the way the movie hops around the world. Liman
and crew went to the places where the Jumpers go – when they’re zooming
through the streets of Tokyo in a stolen car, they’re in Tokyo. Movies
are about bringing us places, and I’m always sad when the filmmakers
can only seem to bring us to facsimiles of places. There’s a rush to be
gotten from seeing characters in the real environments, a sense not
quite of realism but of actuality. If you’re spending this much money
on a movie, show me cool stuff, not CGI versions of cool stuff.
Speaking of CGI, the Jumping effects are done very well. There’s a
kinetic energy to the Jumping, and Liman doesn’t hold back on it. These
characters would be using Jumping as part of their daily lives, and the
film shows that. I do wish that the fight scenes had taken advantage of
Jumping in a more coherent way – imagine if Griffin had developed his
own teleport-fu over the years.
I had walked into Jumper
expecting a wreck of massive proportions, so I was surprised when the
movie ended up being only a bit of a mess. It’s certainly a film aimed
at 15 year olds
(it features some sub-prime time TV sexuality and one use of the word
‘fuck’ that will get a young man’s blood pumping), but I think that Liman
tries to not make it a film that only a 15 year old can like. He
doesn’t fully succeed, and the movie does demand that adults put aside
some of their higher functioning to really groove on what is happening
on screen. But I do know that if I was a 13, 14 or 15 year old kid this
movie would send me out of the theater with a feeling of electricity –
I would go home and start writing Jumper adventures or try to make a
Jumper role playing game or do any of the horribly nerdy stuff I used
to do that kept me from getting laid until I was 18. Not every film has to speak to me as a 35 year old, but Jumper is successful because it made me remember how I was twenty years ago.