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Jumper (2008)

Here’s an interesting bit of trivia: Hayden Christensen can really act. That is, he can really act when he isn’t being directed to act like an angsty adolescent proto-Sith. (Sorry, Mr. Lucas, sometimes it’s just you.) Need proof? Here’s some proof.

Jumper is a sci fi action film directed by Doug Liman, loosely based on the novel of the same name by Steven Gould. It stars Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Bell, and Rachel Bilson.

Teenager David Rice has always dreamed of travelling. He gives a snow globe to his crush Millie to impress her, but bullying Mark takes it and throws it onto a frozen lake (no reason, just to be a dick). In the course of trying to retrieve it, David falls through the ice and discovers, under suitably Marvel-Comics circumstances, that he can teleport. Booyah. Now he can travel all he likes, which is great because his mom disappeared when he was five and left him under the care of an abusive father, but he’s going to need some cash to fund him travels. No problem, when you can just bamf into a bank vault… unfortunately, his shenanigans soon land him on the radar of one Roland Cox, a member of an organization of people called Paladins who hunt down and kill people like David, called Jumpers, who have the genetic ability to teleport. No real reason is given, aside from Rolands assertion that Jumpers always go bad, but no matter – Roland & Co. are very well-equipped to track down and contain Jumpers long enough to stab them with a meat cleaver. Or something. Now David finds himself trying to juggle three obligations: impress Millie (who has grown up nicely in the eight years he’s been Jumping), find out more about Jumping (with the help of a twitchy Scotsman who uses his abilities to Jump vehicles and smash treasured ruins), and stay one step ahead of the Paladins (who never really explain what is it that makes Jumpers go bad).

I had medium hopes for Jumper, to the extent that I figured it would be a nice little diversion – action packed, loaded with stunts and effects, and featuring lots of pretty scenery. And, uh, I was right. The Jumping effects, handled by Weta Digital (Peter Jackson’s company, responsible for stuff like District 9 and Avatar) were impressive, frequently showing the Jump from the Jumper’s point of view, and offers such delights as Jumping a doubledecker bus on top of a Paladin or a three-dimensional jig up, over, and around rush hour traffic is a really Nice Car that’s just been Jumped through a display window. Hayden Christensen fares well through the effect-laden movie, establishing himself as a hedonist escaping a sucky childhood, only to be thrown into mortal danger for reasons he doesn’t understand, set against Jamie Bell as his relictant mentor in all things Jumping and Samuel L Jackson as the most tenacious authority figure this side of Deputy Sam Gerard. And with all the interweaving subplots the movie sets up, this looks like it would be an engaging movie somewhere at the intersection of The Bourne Identity and X-Men.

Unfortunately, it becomes clear that this movie was made with sequels firmly in mind. How many subplots are set up? Four or five, thereabouts. How many get resolved at the end? ONE. TEMPORARILY. Seriously, movie, you CANNOT set up an action-packed, effects-filled arms race between Jumpers and the mundanes who hunt them, and then just END. There has to be some sort of denouement so we know that, yeah, this section of the overarching story is coming to a close, but our intrepid hero’s journey is just beginning. At least have the common decency to give us a compelling cliffhanger if you’re going to Just End, otherwise one is left feeling like they just watched half a movie because the filmmakers were too damn lazy to finish it. What makes things worse is the fact that the movie is less than an hour and a half long. Seriously, it’s okay to make a long movie if you have more story to tell. If you have enough plot to carry it, people will watch. Really.

In the end, while Jumper was exciting and action-packed, with a lot of neat special effects and a lot of promise and carried me along well, but the clumsy field amputation of an ending left me waiting for a sequel only so I could see a proper ending to the story. Give this one a miss until the next one comes out.

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