Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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At The Picture Show
February 2008

Fall down go boom

Or at least that's what I wish would happen to Hayden Christensen

20th Century Fox
Director: Doug Liman
Screenplay: David Goyer, Jim Uhls and Simon Kinberg
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Jamie Bell, Samuel L. Jackson, Rachel Bilson, Michael Rooker and Diane Lane
Rated PG-13 / 1 hour, 28 minutes
(out of four)

Just take the premise, alright? A group of people - our protagonist among them - has the ability to jump through space. Basically anywhere they want. From their living room to the Eiffel Tower. From one side of a room to another. Any distance, big or small. An anonymous syndicate is after them. And our protagonist for some reason needs to reunite with his lost childhood love.

So you've got the premise. Now make a checklist of every scene or sequence you expect -- no, strike that -- every scene or sequence you know will be in the movie. The first time it happened scene. The ostracization scene. The teenage romance scene. The "look what I can do" montage. The confrontation with the Bad Guy. The expository "here's why he's after us" scene. The "I almost got caught and had to beat up a bunch of people" scene. The "I actually did get caught" scene. The reunion scene. The flirtation scene. The sex scene. The chase scene. The "we've captured someone you love!" scene. The expository third-act setup scene. The third-act action scene. The climactic fight scene. The scene where they set up a sequel.

Now take a gander at your list. Did you get all of those? Of course you did. We all did. That was the easy part.

Now, the problem is . . . Jumper has all of those scenes . . . and that's it. There aren't any other scenes. The film is a screenplay checklist of every scene that formula requires of the plot, with absolutely nothing else to fill in the characters or the story; nothing to make any of it matter. Even in the obligatory scenes (which is to say, every scene), everyone just looks like they're going through the motions. Even the "we're so hot for each other, let's take off each other's clothes" part lacks any pizzazz. (Come on, aren't you two excited that you're totally gonna do it?!)

Everyone is sleepwalking through the film because there's no conviction behind any of the storytelling. Hey, the movie might be structurally sound, but it takes a lot more than that. Jumper is like a blank coloring book. The outline is already there, but nobody took the time or care to color it in.

Our jumper is David Rice (Hayden Christensen), his special lady friend is Millie (Rachel Bilson), his reluctant ally is Griffin (Jamie Bell) and the guy who's after him is Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), who happens to be sporting a fantastically fetching bleached hairdo. (Kudos to the . . . um, hair department. Or was that art direction?)

That's all you really need to know. By the time Diane Lane shows up in an inexplicable cameo, any potential the storyline showed has long since evaporated. On the plus side, at least there's a completely unnecessary voiceover telling us all the information that we either already know, or don't need to know.

At one point, you might wonder: Is this a movie, or is this a demo reel for a brazen special-effects crew? The latter might be a reasonable explanation, only not all the special effects are that great. (The "jumping" is great, but some of the more subtle CGI work leaves a lot to be desired.)

Upon noticing that there are three credited screenwriters on Jumper, you might also wonder whether anyone actually picked up a pen or pencil during the "conception" process, or if they just plugged the plot information into a computer and let that be that.

For that, I have no answer. What I do know is that the premise of Jumper offers countless possibilities, and the filmmakers make sure to exhaust none of them. We know it could have been better because we know what the filmmakers have done in the past. Combined, the three writers have been behind Fight Club, Batman Begins, Dark City, Blade and Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Director Doug Liman previously helmed Go, The Bourne Identity - which kick-started the defining action franchise of this decade - and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with its careful wit and boundlessly inventive action setpieces.

Where is that creativity here? Where is that energy? If any was exerted, it was lost on me - and wasted on this movie.

Read more by Chris Bellamy

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