Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Jumper" (2008): Jumping through Millions

Imagine what you would do with 75 million dollars. Assuming you’re not Bill Gates, this would be a staggering amount of money. Travel the world? Make generous donations? The choices would be endless.

So when films are made with large budgets, you have to ask: was it worth it? Did that amount of money go towards the creation of something life-changing? Was it pleasurable escapism? Thought-provoking? In the case of “Jumper,” the answer would be a resounding no, no, no.

I hadn’t planned on being too hard on this flimsy story until I heard the director interviewed on the DVD extras. He said that, in most cases, films are funded for either big special effects (all shot in one location) or for numerous locations, but never both. He wanted to do a budget-doubling BOTH---huge special effects in many locations (I counted seven: New York, Rome, Tokyo, Baja, Prague, Ann Arbor, Toronto). Exorbitant? Yes. Worthwhile? No.

The story, or what should be the backbone on which every great film stands, is simplistic and underdeveloped. Hayden Christensen does his best to infuse a translucent and roughly drawn character with life. Rachel Bilson seems painfully self-aware, striking poses more suited to fashion photography.

Being a sci-fi fan, I had high hopes for this film, which opens with a shy teen hero who suddenly discovers his own ability to “jump” or teleport himself at will. In that, we have the makings of rich fantasy (the novel which inspired the film, “Jumper,” by Steven Gould, was published in 1992). Instead, the film spends too much time celebrating it’s own jumping technology, and the story becomes so shallow that the jumps become meaningless. (Hurry and jump away from Samuel L. Jackson's hot-on-his-tail executioner. For some unknown reason, Samuel L. Jackson sports a distracting and purposeless
head of bleached white hair).

(Jumping...old school ----->)

Yes, kudos go to the creative team behind the “jumping” effect. Rather than a Star Trek-like rippling camera dissolve, these “jumps” have gravity and emotional intensity behind them, made more real and believable by how they seem to follow the laws of the universe (ie. leaving the trail of a time/space “scar” behind, for several seconds after a jump, and the jump’s physical, often destructive, impact on the environment in which it takes place). If enough attention had been placed on casting and story as had been on special effects, this could have been something really good.

In an ideal world, I’d have given this project to Jon Favreau, who created a thing of depth and beauty with "Iron Man."

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