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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Jumper
Fox // PG-13 // June 10, 2008
List Price: $29.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Bill Gibron | posted June 8, 2008 | E-mail the Author
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The Product:
Casting is critical to the overall accomplishment of a film. As important as the script, the director, the production value, and the final editorial approach, putting the right actor with the right role can literally make or break your movie. Just ask Peter Jackson. He hired Stuart Townsend to play the once and future king Aragorn for his massive Lord of the Rings trilogy. Four days into shooting, he sensed his choice was failing. Townsend was quickly fired, and the iconic Viggo Mortensen stepped it. The rest is Middle Earth mythology. Superman Returns suffered a similar fate - except, this time, Bryan Singer went with his gut and gave Kate Bosworth the role of Lois Lane. Unfortunately, her problematic presence undermined some otherwise excellent aspects of the superhero revamp. The same thing happens in the new sci-fi stinker Jumper. Doug Liman, known for jumpstarting the Bourne franchise, had a wonderful premise to work with. Yet in (eventually) choosing the bafflingly bad Hayden Christensen as his hero and a stultifying Rachel Bilson as his retarded romantic interests, he wound up with a fiction more specious than speculative.

The Plot:
One day, a teenage David Rice learns two very hard life lessons. One is that, no matter how hard he tries, hot chick Millie is a difficult amorous pursuit. The other is that he can actually teleport. Leaving his abusive father and the no man's land of Ann Arbor, Michigan behind, our hero heads to the big city, robs a bank, and begins his life as a jet setting jerkwad. Fast forward eight years and an elite group of investigators, led by the white haired hitman Roland, are trying to track David. They don't really care about the burglaries or high living. They want to destroy his special gift - and him along with it. With the help of fellow 'jumper' Griffin, and a reconnection with his adolescent crush, David hopes to escape the squad's evil clutches - even if it means taking the battle across time and space.

The DVD:
Jumper is junk, a halfway respectable idea destroyed by some of the worst hiring decisions in the 26 years since the CSA was formed. In a thriller that sees Michael Rooker, Diane Lane, Samuel L. Jackson and an unrecognizable Tom Hulce offered up as supporting role afterthoughts, we get a trio of so-called talent that's one-third of the way winning. Holding up his end quite well, Billy Elliot's Jamie Bell inspires some otherworldly interest. His Griffin is very good. The rest of the triptych, however, is downright dunderheaded. Hayden "Bland-ikan Skywalker" Christensen proves he's the worst actor working today by turning David into a one note non-entity. He's so uninvolving that even terminal insomniacs find his efforts snooze-inducing. But it's nothing compared to OC cupie dolt Bilson. Looking like a bad computer photo reconstruction of what Maxim thinks is attractive, and using her open-eyed performance style for everything from happiness to hurt, she's wish fulfillment as the walking dead, a plot point that can't payoff because we could care less what happens to her. Of course, she has no chemistry with her should have been sacked co-star.

Yet there are other issues here besides the ineffectual company that Jumper keeps. Director Doug Liman, known more for Bourne, and bringing Brad and Angelina together for the TMZ crowd than anything he does behind the lens, never lets the movie's mythos work for him. Granted, a rivalry between ethically unsound teleporters and the Paladins' preening religious zealotry (they destroy these gifted individuals because only "God" should wield such power - like the decision on who lives or who dies, right?) reeks of a bad period piece. But Liman has been known to rise above routine material before. He practically reinvented the spy game for the 21st Century. Here, however, he just skips the ideology all together and goes for the CG glory. This makes Jumper a very superficial ride, one that doesn't do much more than expand on the whole bi-location concept - that is, when it's not announcing every plot twist before it arrives. When Griffin "jumps" a car along the streets of Tokyo, we know that's going to come back and play a part in the conclusion. Similarly, a statement about an individual's attempt to move an entire building is nothing but more forced foreshadowing.

It's the kind of thing that happens time and time again. Griffin and David battle over a detonator, bounding off the side of a skyscraper and fighting in freefall. Yet the minute they leap, the effect seems fake. And since Liman is using a quick cut editing style to suggest tension, the visuals are rendered implausible and pedestrian at best. Jumper should look like an epic, sequences highlighting the cosmic consequence of people randomly relocating around the globe. Besides, the novel by Steven Gould gave David a more heroic bent. Sure, he participated in criminal activities. But he also thwarted hijackers and other agents of evil along the way. Here, he's just a materialistic moron, more concerned with sexual conquest and buckets of krugerrands than world events. And why just Earth? Why would an individual with the ability to teleport anywhere reserve their abilities to this particular planet? Instead of gathering more greenbacks, David should be stealing suits from NASA and circumventing the galaxy looking for extraterrestrials, or at the very least, a broader set of individual horizons. The self-centered egotism exhibited by our lead (and in some small ways, by the Paladin killing Griffin) suggests that Jumper knows its equally selfish geek fan base all too well. It's a perfect nerd panacea, nothing more.

The Video:
Thanks to Fox, and its outdated notion of how to provide review product to critics, there will be no definitive statement of Jumper's technical specs. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen image provided on this "Screener" copy of the film looked decent, but without final product, there can be no concluding determination. Colors look good, and the details help sell the spectacle, but again, there's no telling what will end up in your DVD package come release date.

The Audio:
Though information indicates that this "Screener" provides all the necessary sonic situations of the final Fox version of the DVD, this critic will again reserve judgment. The Dolby Digital 5.1 offered was good, but not great. Outside the action scenes, there was limited use of the back channels, and occasional problems with hearing the dialogue. Other than that, everything was proficient and professional.

The Extras:
Here's a compelling question - just how horrible were UK thesp Tom Sturridge and The Grudge 2's Teresa Palmer in the roles of David and Millie? One of the more interesting items we learn from the DVD extras is that Liman had to close down production after three weeks to recast the aforementioned leads. That he ended up with the equally awful Christensen and Bilson says a lot for the karma surrounding the film. Though it's part of the Making-of material (subtitled - Doug Liman's Jumper: Uncensored) it's not really an issue discussed on the full length commentary track provided. Liman, writer/producer Simon Kinberg, and producer Lucas Foster do touch on some of the more problematic parts of the production, though. Specifically, they mention filming in the Coliseum (a featurette entitled "Jumping Around the World" covers much of the same material) and coming up with a way of realizing the F/X (also part of the "Making an Actor Jump" documentary). There is also a collection of deleted scenes (including some inadvertent teleports), an animated graphic novel, a previz look at future concepts for the film (including a trip into Space), and a discussion about the entire Jumper franchise (apparently, there are more films on the way...oh goodie). Overall, it's a good set of bonus features. Too bad the movie they support is so mediocre.

Final Thoughts:
A lack of clarity combined with the horrendous onscreen talent turns Jumper from a potential big screen blockbuster (and fantastic future franchise) into a Sci-Fi Channel direct-to-DVD splat. Its imagination and drive is buried within a bumbling sense of narrative which never knows how to handle its thrills, and when combined with the unclear elements within the characters (including motivation and mythos), the whole scenario sinks. There is clearly a kernel of intrigue at the center of this story, and as a result, such a spark deserves a rating of Rent It. And there will be those in the audience that can tolerate Christensen and Bilson. For them, this will be a compelling and rather epic experience. Everyone else will see a lot of possibilities pissed away in favor of faux famous flavor-of-the-month faces and some should-have-known-better directorial decisions. Perhaps this is why Jumper is so aggressively aggravating. We recognize just how much better it could have been. Apparently, no one else did.

Want more Gibron Goodness? Come to Bill's TINSEL TORN REBORN Blog (Updated Frequently) and Enjoy! Click Here

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