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The idea of being able to travel anywhere in the world instantly just by thinking about it is a heady concept. Jumper, the sci-fi adventure film from Bourne Identity and Go director Doug Liman, takes that interesting idea and some decent action and makes the most boring film possible.
It would be easy to blame most of the tedium in Jumper on star Hayden Christensen, who transfers the wooden acting/blank facial expressions he picked up on the last two Star Wars movies to his role of David Rice. Christensen’s non-acting certainly doesn’t help, but he looks positively charismatic next to the truly terrible Rachel Bilson (The O.C.), playing David’s girlfriend/damsel in distress, Millie Harris. The plot, dialogue, and pacing also do their part in killing the possibilities inherent in the premise.
David learns in high school that he is a “Jumper,” someone with the power to teleport himself instantaneously to any spot on Earth. He spends the next ten years or so using this gift to steal from banks in order to finance a lifestyle that includes hedonistic pleasure around the globe. Leading what seems like the perfect life; David attracts the attention of Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), who shows up with a big knife that he wants to stick into David. Turns out that Roland is a Palidin, part of a group of people who have been trying to exterminate Jumpers since the middle ages.
The reason the Palidin don’t want Jumpers to exist isn’t exactly clear. It has something to do with God. Fortunately, there is a Jumper, Griffin (Jamie Bell), who is trying to turn the tables on Roland and the rest of the Palidin and kill them first. It’s also fortunate, and highly coincidental, that David meets these two men only a day apart after not even knowing of their existence for his whole life. From then on, David tries to reconnect with his high school crush, Millie, and keep Roland and his big knife from ending his jumping days forever.
The script is credited to David S. Goyer, Jim Uhls, and Simon Kinberg, but more the fault of Liman and Kinberg, doesn’t really go anywhere. David’s character never grows in any meaningful way. The Palidin are never explained or understood. Even the most interesting character to watch, Griffin, is given short shrift. The film throws away Michael Rooker and Diane Lane as David’s parents and a somewhat twisty ending doesn’t make you say “wow” but groan for the obvious sequel set-up.
The special effects showing jumper fights and other action sequences are pretty well done, but not spectacular. They often, unfortunately, just make you question glaring logic holes. Holes like why a Jumper can take another person or even machine with him when he teleports but can’t teleport out of a pair of handcuffs attached to a chair. Or, why when two Jumpers are fighting, they sometimes teleport 10 feet ahead and other times teleport to Antarctica. At one point, Roland tells a Jumper, “only God should have the power to be in all places at all times.” Of course, a Jumper can’t be everywhere at once, so the line makes no sense. The script is full of these lines and scenes that, at times, seem unrelated to anything else in the film.
It’s a little surprising that someone like Liman who has made so many great films, including big budget action movies like Bourne, wouldn’t see the weaknesses in Jumper. The adequate action and decent performance by Bell are not enough to compensate for the dull acting of the leads and lack of any direction or momentum in the plot. At the beginning of the movie, David’s voice over refers to the audience as “chumps.” After sitting through Jumper, you certainly feel like one.
I didn’t much like the movie, but if you are a Jumper fan, the Blu-ray is an excellent presentation. The picture and sound quality are as strong as would be expected and while the effects aren’t amazing, everything is crisp to watch.
As should be the case with any self-respecting home entertainment release these days, Jumper includes a commentary. This one is by director Doug Liman, writer/co-producer Simon Kinberg, and producer Lucas Foster. The trio sound like pretty good friends and their commentary is engaging and breezy. It’s also a little more honest than you might typically see. They talk about some difficulties in the shoot and also try to explain things that seem like plot holes. It’s always fun to hear guys talk about a lousy movie and lousy acting as though it great and turned out how they wanted, but in this case, they really seem like nice guys who just missed the mark.
The commentary goes hand in hand with a 30 minute documentary called “Doug Liman’s Jumper: Uncensored.” This doc, like the commentary, is a little more honest than you usually get. Frustrated actors curse at being called for no reason, rewrites and budget challenges are discussed, and some of the usual behind-the-scenes stuff is thrown in there, too. The other two featurette extras are both eight minutes. One is called “Making an Actor Jump” and, obviously, deals with how the jumping special effects were created and showed some behind-the-scenes filming. The other, called "Jumping from Novel to Film: The Past, Present and Future of Jumper," interviews author Steven Gould, who wrote the young adult book the movie is based on. Gould says he’s fine that Liman and Kinberg completely changed the plot of his book for the movie. I guess as long as the check clears, this guy is pretty easy going.
Behind-the-scenes of the various Jumper locations is highlighted in “Jumping Around the World.” Each segment is fairly brief and all of them combined only last about ten minutes. In addition to being viewed as a stand-alone feature, it can be activated to pop up as a picture-in-picture (as long as you have a PIP capable player), which is very cool.
The disc contains six deleted scenes, lasting around 11 minutes. I cannot say enough about how important it is to include information, either by commentary or introduction, on where the scene was supposed to go in the movie and why it was removed. The scenes themselves are no great shakes and don’t add much to the movie, which is probably why they were cut. There is one scene with Roland at home with his son explaining, from his point of view, why he goes after Jumpers. It does give a little more insight to his frame of mind, but doesn’t fill in the gaping plot holes in the movie.
The final extras include the eight minute “Jumpstart: David's Story.” This is an animated graphic novel, heads and eyes move but not much else, with voiceovers speaking the characters dialogue. It involves a story when David was young and was using his jumping powers to find his grandparents. It’s really awful and simplistic in both look and story. I almost thought it was a parody, but it’s clearly supposed to be taken seriously. There is also “PreViz: Future Concepts,” a 3-D animated storyboard of scenes that aren’t in Jumper and may be for the planned sequel. Although there is no explanation for this four minute animatic so it’s hard to tell.
In addition to the large amount of extras, the Blu-ray comes with another copy of the film on DVD so it can be played in a portable DVD player. It also has a D-Box function if you have the equipment for that. It’s a very good presentation for a not-very-good film. You even get the extras in HD, meaning they look and sound great, just like the movie. If you are a fan of the movie, you’ll be happy with the effort put into the Blu-ray, but, for the majority, it doesn’t completely make up for a very weak film.
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