Saturday, February 16, 2008

WIBW @ The Movies: JUMPER

The Plot: Based upon the first in a series of science fiction novels by author Steven Gould, Jumper follows a young man named David Rice, who, after a harrowing experience in his youth, discovers that he has the ability to teleport from place to place just by thinking about it. After years of living the secret life of a superhuman, which has brought him considerable wealth and loneliness, David attempts to reconnect with his high school crush only to be tracked down by a man named Roland who belongs to an underground society of people known as Paladins. Just as David discovers that there are other people out there with the same unusual gift as him, he also discovers that the Paladins are intent on ridding the world of David and his kind, whom they refer to as "Jumpers".

The Review: While I thought that the commercials and trailers for Jumper made it look like an incredibly entertaining movie, I will admit that in the week or so leading up to the release of the film I was beginning to question just how good it would be based on the massive array of bad reviews I'd seen and heard about it online. Much to my pleasant surprise, my initial instincts proved correct, and I found myself exiting the theater after watching Jumper having just enjoyed the hell out of what I'd seen. Jumper isn't Shakespeare (or perhaps more appropriately Asimov, Clark, or Dick), but it is an eye-pleasing, fun movie with a hell of a lot of original and entertaining ideas.

Where to begin? You know the scene in the White House that opens X-Men 2 featuring Nightcrawler teleporting all over the place? Remember how damn cool that scene was? Well stretch that incredible sequence out into a full length movie and you've essentially got the backbone of Jumper. The idea of teleportation is certainly nothing new, but what the writers/director of Jumper have done is to plant the seed of this age old science fiction concept and allow it's roots to grow, following them in all sorts of new directions that no one has ever touched on before. I don't want to say too much about the specifics of Hayden Christensen's character's abilities and the way that Sam Jackson's character combats them, but suffice to say that every time a new sci-fi rich aspect of the plot involving teleportation was introduced, I, as a massive fan of crazy, out there ideas, could hardly stop myself from grinning with delight at each of the intelligent, provocative instances being placed in front of me onscreen. The way that the teleportation in the film works is a fresh take on a tired idea to say the least. The weapons that the Paladins use against the Jumpers are insanely cool and unconventional. The best of all though? "The machine". When this device makes it's first true appearance toward the climax of the film the plot seemed to reach a whole new level of excitement and cleverness as multiple new possibilities were introduced. Not to mention, beyond the pure nerd-fodder of Jumper, it included a lot of great exposition on what it would be like to live the life of someone empowered by an inhuman gift. Just as the Spiderman films tend to dwell on the responsibilities and hardships of the life of a superhuman, Jumper offers several examples of what the upsides of such a situation might be. It was an incredibly gratifying feeling watching a movie about super powers that wasn't strictly a vehicle for heroics and a do-gooder mentality.

My biggest concern going into Jumper was that, like many action films these days (including most superhero films), the action sequences which provide the most compelling reason for stepping foot into the theater to see one of them would be shot in a confusing manner. Coming off of The Bourne Identity, a film series known for it's quick cutting action shots and shaky, handheld camera work, Doug Liman, while having made multiple films that I enjoy, was the trump card on this occasion. Fortunately, unlike the majority of the action fare out there these days, every moment of Jumper was as clear and concise as could be both during and between the fight/chase scenes with excellent accompanying special effects around every turn. Another possible fault of the film going in was the casting of Hayden Christensen. Having quite disliked his performance in the second and third Star Wars prequels as Anakin Skywalker, I wasn't sure that he would be able to carry Jumper as the the film's main character. Thankfully, he seems to be able to handle himself quite well in front of the camera when he's not sporting long braids and discussing the force. Along with Christensen, Sam Jackson lights up the screen, snow white hair and all, as the evil Roland. Jackson really impressed me in Jumper by not succumbing to the urge to rely on the current popularity of the man behind the character in fleshing out his role. Sam is such an icon these days that it's hard not to just see the celebrity onscreen instead of whoever he's playing (such as was the case with Snakes on a Plane, among others), but he really seemed to lose himself in his role in Jumper, creating a great villain that I would be glad to see revisited again and again. Playing Griffin, the film's other Jumper, Jamie Bell was another great choice for this movie. Finally, while she was certainly the least impressive of the core cast, Rachel Bilson delivered a passable performance as the love interest of Hayden's David.

The Verdict: Try as I may, I just cannot think of anything bad to say about Jumper. Science fiction and action have been rather strange bedfellows in way too many films in the past, but here they fit seamlessly together to form a smart, original, intriguing, and overall enjoyable movie-going experience. A superhero movie without any real "heroes" to speak of, Jumper bends multiple genres into a new aesthetically pleasing shape that was as welcome and refreshing to me among the sea of recent sub-par-to-horrible sci-fi action films as a bottle of water surely is to a man lost in the desert.


Wild & Uncouth said...

Really?! Jumper was good?! I don't believe it. I found myslef getting completely put off with all the trailers and previews.
I know our film tastes are quite different, so I'm wary, but I love teleportation stories. Your review now makes me want to see what all the hubub is abub.

I listened to our podcast btw. 2 things: 1) i should've used my regular microphone, and 2) I was way to eager to please, needed to cut "actively listening" to you guys ("yeah, uh-huh, that's true" ...ugh), and just been relaxed. I was excited and nervous, and I seriously hadn't spoken to you or jesse SINCE San Diego '07.
Next time I'm on I am going to approach it differently. But it was fun and I hope to do it again soon.

Now I'm off to go see 'Jumper.'

Rian said...

wild & uncouth - Something tells me that our opinions on Jumper may in fact turn out to be quite different, but I also think that you'll appreciate some of the film's originality and sci-fi aspects as I did. If nothing else, I hope that I'm not responsible for you wasting money on a movie that you hate.

Jesse and I could both tell that you weren't quite you on the podcast, but I honestly felt the same way about both of us when we did our first episode. I'm looking forward to having you back again, and perhaps when that happens we'll be able to discuss or debate our feelings on Jumper.