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2/16/08

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Not so long ago I had great hopes for director Doug Liman. Right out of the gate, he directed Swingers, one of the seminal films of the 90's; still quoted greatly 12 years later. A few years later, he made another great film of the 90's in Go, it defined the rave scene, and has become much more appreciated over the years. Both were in the indie-filmmaking mold, and it was understanding when he wanted to jump into big budget Hollywood stuff; and he did so to great effect with The Bourne Identity, which proved the world that Matt Damon could be an action star, and made the Bond films feel outdated on the spot. Then he made the big-budget mess Mr. & Mrs. Smith; it had some decent action scenes, an okay chemistry between Pitt and Jolie, but both who spent way too much time mugging for the camera; all in all, a pretty forgettable film. Now with Jumper, he's sunk to a new low and made an okay sci-fi-action flick that could have been made by any Hollywood hack director.


What's so wrong with that you might ask? I have no problem with directors like Brett "Rush Hour" Ratner, Tim "Fantastic Four" Story, and Jon "National Treasure" Turteltaub; guys who make passable Hollywood action films, stuff that isn't terrible, but also never knock it out of the park. With his first three films Liman hit a home run, and gave me great hopes for more wonderful films to come, but with his last two, he seems content with a single; not swinging for anything grander. He's quickly devolved from classics to instantly forgettable. But he's got a long career ahead of him, and he'll hopefully get back to something more worthy of his time; although I see Jumper 2 is already lined up. Enough about Liman... on to the review!


I thought that the premise of Jumper was a pretty cool idea; that and Liman's involvement made it enough for me to make a trip to the theater. I don't believe I've ever seen a film about a guy with the power of teleportation. What would he do? Where would he go? It's pretty much any young man's dream. And like any young man, David Rice, played Hayden "Whiny Anakin" Christensen, decides to rob banks and live life to the fullest. I mean how cool would it be to wake up in New York, surf Hawaii in the morning, have a picnic in Egypt, party it up in Paris that nigh, without ever stepping on a plane? A nifty plot device. The problem with the film is that it never really evolves beyond that.


All the effects are top notch; and I'm very glad that they made the decision to actually shoot in most of the places, (unlike the craptastic Bucket List) which made it very fun and beautiful to watch, as he instantly pops in and out of all these exotic locations. There's one very cool sequence towards the end, where David chases Griffin, his teleportating nemesis, through a dozen locations throughout the world. It's so chaotic, that it's almost mesmerizing. But that's all the film has to offer; cool locations, fun effects, and some decent action scenes.


The love story between David and Millie, played by the beautifully bland Rachel Bilson, is booooring! Absolutely no chemistry between these two dead-wood actors. When Millie was in danger, I had zero care if she lived or died. Sam Jackson's rocking some bright white hair for unknown reasons, and his motivations for chasing David around the world are even more unclear; his great efforts to put a stop to his teleporting, are summed up in one sentence from the trailer about how "only God should have such powers." There is no explanation for his group of Paladins, who track down and kill teleporters. They don't seem to have any Government ties, my only thought was that they are religious zealots who don't want anybody but God jumping around the world wily-nilly like. I needed to understand a little, to care why they were going to such lengths to track these guys down.


As it is, Jumper is a decent, brainless action film; if you don't look beyond the surface you can have fun with these guys jumping through the world, throwing buses at the bad guys, dodging electrified whips, and living it up like nobody's business. But when there is no reason to care about why these amazing things are happening, it becomes forgettable. The Bourne Identity made us care about an assassin with amnesia, so we felt something during the amazing Mini car chase through Paris, it wasn't simply action for actions sake. And unfortunately, that's all Jumper is; fast moving action and loud sounds, it distracts us for a while, but fades away as soon as it's over. - Grade: C+


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