(2008) dir. Doug Liman
Director Doug Liman has had an interesting career thusfar, but when Jumper was released, I read an article about him that cast him in an odd light. He’s considered a bit difficult and tends to run his films overbudget. Having started out in the indie world with Swingers (1996) and Go (1999), he transitioned into the mainstream and “action” film with The Bourne Identity (2002), inventing a franchise, and then started skidding with Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005). So, then he comes back with Jumper, what kind of director are we talking about?
I’d say that Liman is a guy with some interesting bents, not unintelligent, not boring, but certainly also, not a director of particular note. How does one characterize his films? Okay, it’s been ages since I’ve seen Go or others of his films. It just doesn’t all fit together exactly.
Jumper is a weird film, sort of a superhero film without the costumes. Hayden Christiansen of Star Wars fame plays the protagonist, a boy who suddenly realizes that he has the power to teleport, jumping from spot to spot, eventually all over the globe. He takes this as an opportunity to run away from an unhappy home and to stuff his pockets with money from bank vaults. His situation is all well and good, though arguably soulless (he sees people on t.v. at one point in peril in a flood and does nothing to help them, assuming that he could). He’s all about the lifestyle, the flashy world, but friendless and alone.
Well, it turns out that there is a group of “paladins”, a long-standing cult of religious zealots who say that “only God has the right to be in all places at once”, headed by a very white-haired Samuel L. Jackson, who spend all their time and resources killing “jumpers” simply because they are “special”.
This leads to some good action and adventure, don’t get me wrong, but it’s all sort of weird that teleportation would raise such issues for people. Anyone who’s read the X-men probably sees teleportation as one of many possible special powers. It’s not the biggest or sexiest of special powers, though I would say truly convenient and something to fantasize about when you’ve got nothing better to do. Still, it’s not something as compelling as Iron Man (2008) or Batman. It’s not poetic or profound.
And ultimately, some of the location shooting feels more gratuitous than inherently natural. Yeah, this guy, this jumper, this loner, one of his favorite picnic spots is on top of the head of the great Sphinx of Egypt. Like no one ever spots him up there. Nobody ever looks at the head of the Sphinx. So this guy with his surfboard and stuff…
I guess that is simply Jumper‘s biggest problem. It’s not bad. It’s not done badly. It’s just sort of silly. Silly to the point of feeling superfluous. And still, it’s not that it makes for a bad DVD rental. I don’t know.