Ben There, Done That: Hayden Christensen (above), good digital effects and London's Big Ben help a flagging "Jumper", directed by Doug Liman.  The film opened on Valentine's Day in North America.  (Photo: WETA via Twentieth Century Fox)


FYI: The Man Formally Known As Anakin Skywalker Now Sky Jumps, Leaping Continents in a Single Bound

By Omar P.L. Moore/The Popcorn Reel

February 18, 2008

Doug Liman's threadbare "Jumper", about men who possess the ability to jump from place to place anywhere on planet Earth -- no woman in the film is able to do this on her own accord -- is close to overstaying its welcome very early on, but a cornucopia of visual effects somewhat lifts the film in its second half.  The versatile Hayden Christensen (who three years ago was journeying to the dark side as Sith member Anakin Skywalker in George Lucas' third prequel) is David, a young man who is suddenly transported to a library in Ann Arbor, Michigan after falling beneath the icy tundra of an unnamed American city.  He will soon understand that he has a genetic condition (not fully explained) allowing him to conveniently disappear at a second's notice.

Inevitably a price must be paid for having such innate powers, and Roland (Samuel L. Jackson, in the first of at least five films you'll see him in this year on the big screen in the U.S.) is on the scene to remind David and other Jumpers that there is a war going on between them and the Paladins, of which Roland is a member.  Mr. Jackson once again excels as a menacing villain, doing as well as he does when in his element as the quintessence of super cool.  Roland's task is to rid the world of these remaining Jumpers (which includes the rebellious Griffin, played by "Billy Elliot"'s Jamie Bell) to end the centuries-old war, once and for all. 

Strangely for an action film, the pace of "Jumper" is slow, yet the instant movement of the Jumpers themselves surely has to be a lubricated dream for those with short-attention spans or a "slacker" mentality.  David can travel around the world in about eight seconds, yet learn nothing about himself or the country which he may find himself in at any given moment.  It is said that travel expands one's horizons and opens the mind, but in "Jumper" travel is for show -- pure eye candy.  Mr. Liman (who has directed such kinetic films as "The Bourne Identity", "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and energetic films like "Go" and "Swingers") firmly has the pulse on American 20-somethings and their dilemmas fitting in to society.  Call it his chronicling of Generation Y (or Generation Why?,) Mr. Liman establishes an ability to mark and tap into a culture and mentality that makes some of his film characters instantly likable or identifiable, yet here there isn't a single character to admire or identify with.  Even on an ordinary human level we know little about David, and barely anything of his family (the always interesting Michael Rooker plays his father) and Diane Lane (who has three minutes of screen time) is, to pardon the pun, untraceable as David's mother.   (Ms. Lane had considerably more time on screen in last month's "Untraceable" and will be seen again in two other films this year, including "Nights In Rodanthe", with her "Unfaithful" co-star Richard Gere.)  For good, or, rather, bad measure, the plot involving Ms. Lane's character's significance is weak and unconvincing, evoking memories of a Star Wars revelation past.

Meanwhile Millie (Rachel Bilson) has barely enough time to understand what is going on with her boyfriend David, who in the true representation of movie males isn't telling his lady all she needs to know about what is going on with him and his questionable disappearances into bank vaults, through walls, and in and out of other people's houses.  Millie just wants David to stay in one place long enough to get to love and know him a little longer.  (You can hear the song right now: "Oh won't you stay/Just a little bit longer?)  To put it mildly, Millie is bewildered and is probably the most accurate embodiment of the way we as an audience feel about the film itself.  Something is missing, and although Millie, who, to correct a previous assertion made here, is the most identifiable character, she doesn't quite fill the void of "Jumper", whose script is penned by Ann Arbor native David S. Goyer, the scribe of "Blade" and "Batman Begins" who also directs on occasion.  Jim Uhls and Simon Kinberg also wrote "Jumper" with Mr. Goyer.  "Jumper" is based on the novel by Steven Gould. 

"Jumper" could so easily have been a pilot for a television series and might have worked better that way.  The NBC television drama series "Journeyman" is certainly a cousin of sorts to Mr. Liman's film, only its protagonist has problems with his memory.  Mr. Liman's lead character has no issue with his; the film itself leaves open the possibility for sequels.

Mr. Liman demonstrates a visual flair that makes "Jumper" occasionally alluring, with production design well executed by Oliver Scholl, capturing Rome's Coliseum and other global locales wonderfully, and the cinematography by Barry Peterson has its strengths.  And although Jim Hynek's visual effects are good and plentiful, one can't help feeling that for 90 minutes they've been watching the parts of "The Matrix Reloaded" left on the cutting room floor.

"Jumper" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for sequences of intense action violence, some language and brief sensuality.  The film's duration is one hour and 30 minutes, and opened on February 14, 2008 in the U.S. and Canada.

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