Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Jumper is a simple action/chase movie.
The premise is that this guy, David Rice, played by Hayden Christensen, discovers he can somehow teleport himself (ie jump) to anywhere he chooses. And he can even take objects and people with him on the trip. And there are these other guys, he discovers later, who try to kill Jumpers; and Jumpers and their enemies (Paladins) have been fighting for thousands of years. (Note: Although not an obvious connection, see the Wiki article on Paladins for antecedents to "Paladin" characters and their roles in history and fiction.)
The movie doesn't even try to explain it. In fact, David himself keeps asking people what's going on, and they only give him (and us) tidbits of information.
Often the commentaries on the DVD explain a lot about a film: sometimes they fill in the mysteries of the plot, not made clear in the film itself; sometimes they explain the stylistic choices. The commentary on this film explains a lot about why the film is as it is (but nothing about how David got to be a jumper; IMDB, by the way, says it's a "genetic anomaly"; I don't remember that in the film itself). Basically, the director (Doug Liman), the producer, and the writer took the character that came from the original book and wrote an action/chase movie around the character. They worked long and hard to develop a theory of the physics of jumping, backstories for the characters and the history of Jumpers, and enough action for three movies. Then they selected part of the story for the first movie (hoping for sequels). And they systematically eliminated exposition, explanation and drama in favor of keeping the story moving. And, at the last moment, they decided (partly because the studio suggested it), changing the age of the love interest from 18 to 25 and recasting the part. That probably eliminated some story which never got replaced.
The film, unfortunately, does not have much of a dramatic relationship among the characters. The most potentially interesting may be the relationship with, and story of, David Rice's mother (a Paladin, and therefore her son's mortal enemy), which is barely hinted at in this movie. However, (hinted in the DVD commentary), this story may be the soul of one or both of the other potential sequels (or prequels).
Because they did so much work on the backstory and theory of Jumping, the film does seem to work on a basic action level. Because they actually visit and shoot exotic locations on location, the film does have a rich realism about it.
The result then is pretty much what you would expect from this development process: it doesn't have much emotional drama; and the love story is pretty tepid. The good things about the film are fast moving chases and action, lots of exotic locations, a pretty girl, a pleasant enough hero, and a strong, virile antagonist (Samuel L. Jackson as Roland, the Paladin).
Note: The filmmakers say -- on the DVD -- that they shot unique footage inside and underground at the Colosseum. If so, historians who do not have such special access and want to see these nether regions, may want to contact the filmmakers for photos and film -- that did not get included in the picture itself -- of the inside and undergound regions of the Colosseum.