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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Movie Review: Jumper

People have been giving this one mixed reviews ever since it came out. I got a chance to see it when I was in England, since some movies don't play there until some months after they've finished their run here, and I have to say that I rather liked it.
The story: David is sort of your semi-geek/outcast who discovers that he has the ability to transport himself instantly to anywhere he wants to go. His abilities are initially triggered by a traumatic event--nearly drowning--but he learns quickly that he is able to control his abilities and soon leaves behind his old life, while everyone else thinks he's dead, by stealing money from a bank and "living it large".
But there are some people who think David and others like him are wicked creations that should be destroyed. Soon, David finds himself in the middle of a battle that has been raging for hundreds of years as one secret group tries to exterminate another.
The basic idea is pretty good. One thing that I think is a bonus for this movie is that the people who are supposed to be the good guys are rather ambiguous and you find yourself rooting for them not because they are the "good guys" but because they're not as evil as the "bad guys". Now to the break down:

Direction 3/5
One of the things I think is a problem for Hayden Christensen is not that he's an absolutely terrible actor, but that directors really don't work with him. Yes, some of Christensen's dialogue is stilted and often times he comes off amateur, but then there are times when he is actually decent, if not good. This makes me instantly wonder who the directors are who have direct control of how scenes go and why they aren't making Christensen do several different takes of the same scene to get the one that works best. George Lucas aside, I think the direction in Jumper is decent, but nothing incredible. No awards needed here. It's good enough to get the job done and I think that's all that matters. Many of the scenes work well, some are a bit flawed. The problems with the movie stem more from the story itself rather than in direction. So a 3 out of 5 is pretty good I think.

Cast 3/5
I can't say that the cast is the best choice for this film. Christensen works for the film, but many of the things people don't like about him do show up here, but in lower frequency than we saw in Star Wars. Samuel L. Jackson is really difficult to dislike, and here I think he is at his strong point. He should play bad guys more often because his Pulp Fiction aggressiveness really plays well in that "bad guy" role, especially when there is a slight bit of ambiguity to the nature of the bad guy. After all, Roland (Jackson's character) thinks that he is doing what is right because history has shown legitimate reason for him to hate these "jumpers". Rachel Bilson as Millie is pretty strong too. There are no stellar performances here, but nothing that would make me hate the movie.

Adaptation N/A
I never read the book so I can't make any judgment here.

Writing 3/5
Since I haven't read the book I can't tell you what the differences are and whether such changes were good. I also can't tell you if the ending is different. The writing is decent, but nothing spectacular. The only problem I have is that there are loose ends that are never explained in the end. What happens to the other "jumper"? Does he die? Does he get away? What? I'm not a fan of loose ends. In fact, they tend to really annoy me. There's no reason they couldn't explain what happens to the other "jumper". Couldn't they just show David (Christensen) looking at a news report showing the guy being captured or something? Wouldn't that work? There are some other minor flaws too. The movie tries to establish a rocky relationship between David and his father, but it's never really clear that there is a "bad" relationship. We never see his father beat him, or treat him in any way that could be seen as "bad". In fact, we only see his father showing concern in a very "rough", fatherly way.
Beyond that, the writing is solid enough. The action is pretty solid and entertaining.

Visuals 5/5
It's hard not to like the visuals here. They did a fantastic job showing all the jumps. It's cool to see regular activities (like walking to the fridge) turned into a jump fest. The action sequences are like an amped up Nightcrawler scene, without the scary monsterness to it. There isn't really anything bad about the visuals at all, which is probably the strongest thing for the whole film. There's never a point where you go "well that looks like CGed garbage". Basically, the visuals are perfect, some of them even stunning. There isn't a lot of heavy CG, and the scenery itself is really brilliant. They actually went to the Colosseum in Rome!

Overall 3.5/5
I think when it comes down to it I can say I enjoyed the film more than I disliked it. This isn't an award winner, but certainly one worth remembering. The action was solid and really kept me fascinated. There is a lot of conflict between characters (even between the "good guys") and the ambiguity really added to the suspense. The "bad guys" don't seem so bad at first, but actually seem like the good guys, since the "good guy" (David) is technically a "bad guy" anyway. Then things change and you actually see how bad the "bad guys" really are, and when David meets another "jumper" it becomes even more ambiguous. The "jumper" is, in some ways, just as bad as the "bad guys". I love this is films because it makes you really think about the nature of good and evil (like in Serenity with Captain Reynolds and his crew of "space pirates", if you will).
The acting may not be perfect, although I did find Jackson's role rather fascinating in its own way, but it does the job. I think that's important to remember. While Will Smith was busting out I Am Legend and giving one of the most memorable performances of his career (my favorite, if I must be honest), the cast of Jumper gave us a decent enough cast to simply get the job done. So, if you're want something with a bit of action, some ambiguous intrigue, and generally just a good 2 hours of visual entertainment, this might be a good fit for you. There certainly is some deeper meanings to all that is going on, but you don't have to give this film a lot of thought to enjoy it, which is a good thing since most people don't want to think when they're at the movies anyway. I'm reminded of a funny line from Pablo Francisco's stand-up comedy (where he does his "movie preview voice" impression): "Action! Romance! Desire!" That probably sums it up if you want to dumb it down to three words, since all three are certainly in this film in some capacity.

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1 comment:

  1. I'll agree with you. I enjoyed it, but I won't be buying the DVD. It's probably one of those films I'll watch if it comes on tv, but I won't be thinking 'man, I could really watch some Jumper right about now!'. :p

    Good popcorn, though.

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