“Jumper” is one of those films that feels like it was a marketing strategy before it was a script. Or maybe it was one of those films where they had a cool new special effect and just needed to throw together something resembling a story to showcase it in. Or maybe it was both: create one shot of star Hayden Christensen teleporting and then insert it into local shots pitched at each market where the film opens. (Hell, they even have a trailer with Christensen materializing in the lobby of the Toho cinema in Roppongi Hills.)
At any rate, “Jumper” doesn’t seem like anything that sprang from an urge to be creative, tell a good story or create a world of fantasy. It has three screenwriters credited — never a good sign — and it never ceases to amaze me how so many people are needed to make something so derivative, so formulaic, so intent on being a McMovie.
“Jumper” is a textbook case of making a popcorn flick for the age 13-20 male demographic. Have a hero who’s a bit of a nerd, or at least unpopular in high school, and throw in the girl he pines for and a bully who taunts him. Wish-fulfillment comes when he discovers his superpowers allow him to bed the girl and beat the bully. Make sure there’s an adult authority figure who will tell him “You can’t” and “You’re no different.” Have the hero kick the adult’s ass and prove he can and he is. Throw in some Oedipal urges, lots of wall-smashing fights and gratuitous destruction of buildings and cars. Make sure you use plenty of CGI and edit everything so it’s cut fast enough to make even an ADD-diagnosed kid dizzy — won’t notice the plot holes then.
I mean, OK, let’s say we’re willing to go with the film’s notion that Hayden Christensen is a “jumper,” a guy with the ability to teleport wherever he likes. Let’s even say we’re willing to swallow the barely explained back-story that there’s a group of so-called Paladins, led by Samuel L. Jackson with silver Warhol hair, who have been hunting the jumpers for hundreds of years. (Don’t ask why.) Did the movie really have to make the person who rescues our jumper at a moment of peril be his long-lost mother? Who, faster than you can say “Darth Vader,” turns out to be one of the dark-side Paladins . . .
There’s a word for this kind of plotting: lame.
Admittedly, the only reason anyone goes to this sort of movie is for some cool special effects. “Jumper” is pretty much a one-trick pony, and after three or four times of watching the wall-cracking, jump-cut teleport effect, you’ll realize they have nowhere to go with it. So what do they do? Place Christensen on top of the Sphinx, on Big Ben, on top of Mount Kilimanjaro, or more prosaically, on the Shibuya scramble. This is really nothing more than an overblown version of the garden-gnome joke in “Amelie.”
Perhaps the most amazing special effect is how Christensen manages to maintain his feathered blown-back hair even while plunging through wormholes. They really should have an ad campaign to tie in with a hair-gel brand; Defy the laws of time and space, your hair will always stay in place!
The other potential tie-in would be with motion-sickness medicine, for “Jumpers” suffers from the kind of unsteady, whiplash-panned camera-work that is supposed to signify intensity. Like “Transformers,” the action sequences are blurry to the point where you can’t really tell what’s going on, though maybe I just need to increase my consumption of sugar and caffeine-rich sodas to keep up.