In a sense, the filmmakers who made the movie "Jumper" are a little bit like the characters in their movie.
"Jumper" is about people born with the ability to teleport. They can go anywhere, whether it's across the room or the entire planet. And what do they do with this most omnipotent, godly of powers? Nothing! They live meaningless, childish little lives, bopping around the world and stealing whatever they want.
The filmmakers aren't much better. They're almost equally blessed. They have this fantastic teleportation concept. They've got plenty of intriguing elements in the script that could really be explored. They've got such great actors as Hayden Christensen, Jamie Bell, Samuel L Jackson, and Diane Lane. Their budget is $85 million. And they waste all of it, giving us little more than a few cool action sequences and some great visuals.
The primary jumper of the film is David Rice (Christensen,) who begins as a shy, awkward 15-year-old whose father is abusive and mother is absent. The one ray of sunshine in his life is Millie Harris (Rachel Bilson,) a friendly girl for whom he harbors a serious high school crush. That single good thing is soon replaced when a freak accident triggers his discovery of his superhuman ability. David takes it as it what, quite literally is, an opportunity to escape. So he runs away to New York City.
Once there he develops his teleporting skills more and decides to use his gift to, what else, rob a bank in the middle of the night without so much as opening a door. From then on he's on easy street. Eight years later he's living the good life in a sweet apartment, spending his days teleporting from Egypt to Fiji to London and doing nothing in particular.
That all comes to an end, though, when Roland (a white-haired Jackson,) a mysterious hunter of jumpers, discovers David, corners him in his apartment, and tries to kill him. This attack causes David to flee, retreating back to his old home and looking up Millie. They haven't seen each other since high school and somehow he convinces her to go to Rome with him. Now, ladies, if a creepy guy who had a crush on you in high school shows up eight years later, you haven't heard a word from him, you thought he could be dead, you know he ran away from home, and he just got into a fight with another guy at the bar, and he won't tell you what he's been doing all these years or how he's got so much money... You'd go to Rome with him, right? And have sex with him, too? This is just one of the film's dozens of bizarre, implausible, plot holes.
So David and Millie have a nice little Roman vacation. It's here that David also meets Griffin (Bell,) a British jumper who initiates him into the world of jumpers, informing him that he's not the only one and that Roland is the leader of a group that has sought to exterminate jumpers for centuries. And now that David has pulled Millie into this conflict she's become the perfect tool for Roland to use to hunt him down.
Perhaps the biggest problem with the film, the real deathblow to any chance of greatness the movie could've had, is the almost inarguable observation that the protagonist is so empty. He's just a very unsympathetic, unlikable character. I understand that he's had it rough and has every excuse to be the selfish, bad, immoral person he is. But maybe if the filmmakers had actually bothered to really delve more into his background then we'd be able to care about him and actually develop a relationship with him. It's OK to have a deeply flawed, imperfect, protagonist who's kind of a loser. But we have to be able to connect with him on a human level. We know next to nothing about who David is and without having him as our rock to hold onto the film just blows us all over the place. Don't care about the protagonist? No story will work.
Similarly problematic are the other characters. The whole movie I was scratching my head as to why Millie would even give David the time of day. And she's just a generic romantic interest, pretty devoid of any liveliness or humanity.
When it comes to the villain department Jackson is certainly more than capable. I just wish the filmmakers had actually given him something with which to work. His motives and those of his organization are wrapped in mystery. It's hinted that they're "religious fanatics" and he says a few times that "only God should have the power to be everywhere at once" but that simply is not enough. I was waiting and longing for him to deliver an aggressive, eloquent speech about the evils of jumpers. Without really establishing any of that he becomes just some dime-a-dozen villain.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people get hung up on movies being "unbelievable" or having "plot holes." Yes it's unbelievable, yes it's not like real life, it's called "being a movie." That's kind of the point. With "Jumper" it's just too much, though. Almost continuously I was going "Wait a minute..." and "Well why don't they just..." and "That doesn't make any sense..."
Unfortunately all you have to do is think for ten seconds and the whole movie falls apart. The action sequences make no sense because any confrontation between jumpers and their attackers can be ended by the jumper teleporting to the other side of the planet. When David and Griffin are fighting I kept thinking "Why don't they just leave?" Second, the deck is so ridiculously stacked in the jumpers favor that any kind of war against them is absurd. They can kill anyone they want instantly. Teleport, grab them, teleport a mile in the air, drop, repeat as necessary. A crusade against jumpers would have ended a long time ago, no matter what kinds of fancy toys the enemy has.
Oh there's more too, especially a twist of an ending that is too dumb to be imagined.
Especially disappointing is that these filmmakers wasting away an opportunity for a potentially great franchise are pretty talented people. Director Doug Liman has scored repeatedly, getting better and better with "Swingers," "The Bourne Identity," and "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." (Let's just forget "Go.") And the script was penned by Jim Uhls ("Fight Club,") David S. Goyer ("Batman Begins," "Dark City," and the "Blade" trilogy) and Simon Kinberg ("Mr. and Mrs. Smith" and "X-Men: The Last Stand.") Hopefully they can all put "Jumper" behind them and it'll be, as I expect it to, the exception and not the rule to otherwise fine records.
Let's all just hope that the less-than-blockbuster success of "Jumper" kills off any possibility of sequels.