Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Jumper

Jumper is the kind of movie that plays much better on video than it ever would in a theater. It's a modest, relatively unpretentious (as far as these things go) science fiction action film, and, with the lower expectations, distractions, and confines that come with home viewing, it achieves a half-shrug of success. Its primary virtue is one of scale; that is, Jumper focuses on one character and keeps its stakes tied directly to its protaganist. At no point in the film is the fate of the entire world in peril--indeed, Jumper refreshingly attributes such "savior of humanity" thinking to its villains--nor does the film's conflict gain resolution via a punching match between two superdudes who differ only in the color of their underoos. So, while the movie's storyline is formulaic (boy becomes man through understanding superpowers? REALLY?) and the acting is shallow at best, I was pleased that this film knew exactly what it was about and scaled its running time to an appropriate 90 minutes. That's backhanded praise, to be sure, but it's a relief to see a film of this nature that is as light on its feet as Jumper.

Not that the film is all that great. The main character, played by Hayden Christensen (he doesn't ruin the movie), has the ability to open wormholes (or whatever), allowing him to jump to any location he wishes. He discovers this super power as a teenager and uses it to flee from his abusive home in a small town to the big city. Once free, he learns how to control his jumping and robs a bank by jumping into the vault, setting himself up (financially, at least) for life. The character lives an easy life, jumping around the world to exotic locales while scoring with the local women and supplementing his income with further robberies. Even though he ignores whatever impulse he might have to use this power for selfless acts, it's clear he's the hero as he's guilt-laden enough to leave IOUs at the scene of the crime, and, you know, the casual sex is made acceptable by showing it as joyless. He's still pining for the girl from high school that he left behind. These are easy, pat answers to making this criminal philanderer an engaging hero, and I wished that the film had embraced the protaganist's hedonism in a more honest, delighted way. It's not as if audiences won't embrace a pleasure-seeking antihero who learns hard lessons (oh, hello Iron Man). The longing for the high school sweetheart, in particular, set my teeth a-grinding, since this fellow has gone all around the world but still can't see what a dullard she is. Love is oblivious, I guess, but dramatic action shouldn't be.

A bigger problem with the film are the villains. Represented by an unsurprising, growling Samuel L. Jackson, they call themselves "Paladins" and, for reasons that are never compellingly explicated, they track and kill jumpers like Christensen. The reasoning, it would seem, is that they believe all Jumpers will go bad, and human beings are not socially or morally equipped to handle the responsibility of this great power. This is a nice flip-flop of the usual comic book movie paradigm (the usual film would have featured the Paladin tracking the Jumper) but not much is done with it. Jackson screams, "There are consequences to your actions!" at Christensen in one scene, but, really, what consequences he's talking about aren't explicated at all. It sounds like he's talking about more than just the victims of a bank robbery, but whatever it is, the movie's too coy to tell. This coyness about the mythology of the movie's superhumans (and the normies who chase them) runs throughout, and it's both a boon and a weakness by the end. It's all intriguing enough at first, but after a while, with no answers, it just makes everyone seem as if they're jumping around and shouting at each other for no reason.

Still, if you're willing to overlook these (glaring, I'll admit) flaws, Jumper has some charm. As mentioned, it's well-paced, moving efficiently through its plot, never lingering too long on the angst of its characters. Furthermore, I confess, I found the "Jumping" visual and sound effects to be endlessly delightful; they're simple and elegant, moving the jumping characters out of the visual space with a minimum of bombast, but with plenty of real-world kick to them--the world around the transporting character reacts to the disruption. I've grown so sick of arbitrary, loud effects that defy any semblence of real-world viability, that these well-considered treatments of the magical elements of the movie's premise were nearly enough to win me over single-handedly. And, truth be told, there's a fun fight and chase between two superdudes about 2/3 of the way through. Christensen and another jumper hop from place to place, hurtle objects from one space into another, and lead the other into spacetime-related traps. It's inventive and comes to a satisfying conclusion, the stakes are clear and personal, and the editing and staging are top-notch.

Around the time of this chase, I realized that I was enjoying Jumper the same way I enjoy certain B-movies from the past. I took the stilted acting and obvious plotting as a given; it's clear enough early on that there will be no relief from these things, after all. But for all its problems, there's an honest-to-God beating heart behind this movie and, even with all the sci-fi hokum, it's plainly presented with a minimum of show-off artistry. All of these observations are, of course, born of the lazy eye with which I watched the film. But if ever a movie was made to satisfy the viewer while watching TBS on a rainy Sunday afternoon, it's Jumper. Take that how you will.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

thanks - even though I think you should tear it apart more.

so you stayed till the end?
did people laugh or throw things --or leave?

should i watch it just as a mommie dearest thing?

i mean how often do u get a movie that doesn't know how bad it is?

David Wester said...

You posted this on the wrong movie.

Download Movies said...

I heard lot about this film but never get any chance to watch this film..How it is ? Can you tell me something more about it?