Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Jump, jump for my love

Teleporting off the L.A. Library shelves.

Jumper (2008)

Superhero as self absorbed slacker.

What a goofy ass movie. Fun in a way, yet still goofy ass. Hayden Christensen, he of "Mannikin Skywalker" infamy, plays David, a callow young man with the ability to "jump" or teleport to any place in the world in the blink of an eye, sort of a better looking, less blue version of the X-Men's Nightcrawler.

After David discovers his jumping ability at fifteen, he takes to robbing banks and living the high life for the next eight years, "bamfing" all over the globe, eating takeout on top of the Sphinx's head, surfing where ever the best waves are, and banging hot chicks the world over. Let's face it, he's a bit of a dick, and Hayden plays it well enough. Come to think of it, this is the level of general dickheadedness that he should have displayed in the Star Wars prequels, but alas and alack George Lucas CANNOT DIRECT ACTORS TO SAVE HIS LIFE. (Sorry, about that---this year is the 10 year anniversary of the first prequel, so, you know, on pins and needles here.)

Into this sweet life comes Mr. Bad Ass, Samuel L. Jackson, sporting a really stupid white wig. He is Roland the Paladin, a member of a group of folks who hunt and kill Jumpers. Why? "Because only God should have this much power." This is really a very stupid reason, and is the movie's weakest story point. What makes it worse is that the Paladins have a machine that can create an artificial wormhole allowing them to jump to the jumper's location. THE PALADINS CAN DO THE EXACT THING THE JUMPER'S CAN. So WHY are they hunting them again, other than so they can use their lightsaber stick props with Daredevil billy club tasers?

Hayden's love interest is played by Rachel Bilson, who gets my vote as Cutest Girl in the World. I loved her in a two-part Chuck episode last season (as the girl who makes sandwiches), but I must admit here she is terrible. She has no chemistry with Hayden, which is ironic since the two actors became an item after making this movie and are engaged to be married, and truthfully delivers a horrendous performance in this film. Her reactions to finding out her lover can TELEPORT are ridiculously low key. No shock and awe there.

Jamie Bell plays Griffen, a fellow Jumper. I thought he was fine, but he really didn't rock my world (especially after watching three Torchwood episodes over the weekend - Jumper could have used a young Burn Gorman in this role). Samuel L. Jackson is playing the ubiquitous Samuel L. Jackson role, something he could do now in his sleep (hey, Sam, there's your next role: a sleepwalking bad ass!). Hopefully he'll be wide awake when he plays Nick Fury in upcoming Marvel films.

The jumping effects are cool and I liked the action sequences. Thumbs up to the stunt and visual effects teams. The DVD featurettes showed a lot of thinking went into conceiving the jumping process. They show the early video tests, staring with filming someone in a chair, stopping the camera and having the person step off camera, and restarting the camera. They analyze that, with the specifics of why it doesn't work and get more sophisticated from there. They think about light warping in a jump scar, and things like how the air quality of different climates would be reflected in a jump (i.e., jumping from damp London to dry Egypt). If only they thought this deeply about the storyline. (In the commentary track, director Doug Limon and co-writer Simon Kinberg wax on about the philosophical, ethical and other dilemmas of jumping - too bad more of that didn't find its way into the screenplay and the performances.)

One thing bugged the crap out of me while watching this thing. Once David realized who and what the Paladins are, all he needs to do to fight them is get a gun. A jumping David with a gun would be no match for a Paladin with an electro-whip billy club thing. End of story. And if the Paladins just want to eliminate jumpers anyway, why don't THEY carry guns in addition to their billy club whips? It would certainly make their jobs easier.

But everyone acts as if guns don't exist. Maybe all firearms jumped away, along with common sense.

The making of Jumper is apparently more interesting than the actual film. The original Jumper script was to have featured the two leads as eighteen year olds, but shortly before they went into production it was decided to make them in their mid-twenties and Christensen, Bilson and others were hurriedly cast, showing the door to original leads Tom Sturridge and Teresa Palmer. Also Jamie Bell is quoted as calling director Limon a "nutcase" in one interview.

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