"Jumper" has potential to evolve into something great, but this first entry is too thin, too incoherent and too waxy to really drive viewers back for further installments.
Jumper (2008, Blu-ray)
Directors: Doug Liman
Producers: Lucas Foster, Simon Kinberg
Writers: David S. Goyer (screenplay) and Jim Uhls (screenplay) and Simon Kinberg (screenplay) Steven Gould (novel)
Features: * Commentary * Featurettes * Documentary* PiP Track * Deleted Scenes * Digital Copy
Hayden Christensen ... David Rice
Samuel L. Jackson ... Roland
Diane Lane ... Mary Rice
Jamie Bell ... Griffin
Rachel Bilson ... Millie Harris
Michael Rooker ... William Rice
AnnaSophia Robb ... Young Millie
Kristen Stewart ... Sophie
Jumper Blu-ray Review
Doug Liman was once a great, up-and-coming director. He’d skillfully crafted two cult indies, "Go" and "Swingers" and had successfully made the jump to big budget action-adventure with "The Bourne Identity." But somehow, in the mix, what once made him a creative, character-driven, thoughtful, energetic director, was lost.
His last major outing was the summer action romp "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." It was a fun movie, to be sure, but the entire film was stripped of story and character, focusing instead on pulse pounding, adrenaline-infused action. Character moments happened here and there, but the film ultimately had no resolution, no major conflicts and no villain. The DVD commentary for that film revealed that a story construct was completely removed shortly before the film was released, accounting for its obvious absence. Had that film actually given its audience the meat they so deserved, that film might have held some memorable, long lasting value. As it stands, it’s just another fun, but brainless summer actioner.
Watching the Blu-ray special edition of "Jumper" was disappointing. In one documentary, director Liman once again responds, and even defends, his choice to neuter his latest outing. He discusses leaving out crucial plot and character moments in hopes of there being two or three sequels. While that may prove to be a novel idea, giving fans a setup for future films, what remains is a film that barely feels as though it’s coherently pieced together.
"Jumper," which is extremely loosely based on a novel of the same name, follows a young teen named David Rice (Hayden Christensen of "Star Wars" fame). Rice can teleport pretty much anywhere he wants and this has garnered him with some financial freedoms as he robs banks at will. When a seemingly evil band of religious fanatics called Paladins, who wish to kill all of the Jumpers for being abominations of God, start hunting David down, he attempts to figure out exactly who, and why, they are seeking him out in the first place—all while attempting to rescue his girlfriend from the clutches of these potentially villainous enemies.
The movie moves at a strikingly fast pace, throwing information, folk lore, plot and characters at the audience about as fast as a film’s 85 minute running time will allow. Director Liman gives the film yet another dose of adrenaline-infused energy as our heroes cleverly teleport around the globe running from Paladins and other Jumpers along the way. Making the event even more exciting are the film’s well done visuals effects—a clever combo of practical in-camera trickery and computer generated imagery.
Unfortunately, the pace doesn’t allow for much development of the concept’s clever ideas leaving the viewer with a distinct scent of unfulfillment by the end credits. Nothing is resolved. No characters are given any sort of satisfaction. Even the minor heroes, like David’s fellow Jumper friend Griffin, are completely forgotten. Instead, the film simply gives out chunks of information then leaves the audience with nothing more than a handful of ideas and concepts. It makes for an entertaining, but completely unfulfilling viewing experience.
Lowering the bar even further are the cold performances from almost all of the principal cast members as well as their equally cold and distant characters. Hayden Christensen feels completely out of his element. He can’t seem to inject the sort of free spirited energy that the film demands. His character is equally as uncompelling. David’s not a bad guy, nor is he as jerky as one could imagine him being. Rather, he’s just aloof, scatter-shot and tired which crashes the films momentum.
Samuel L. Jackson chimes in as the lead Paladin, but he’s given very little to do and isn’t even given a proper farewell. David’s friend Griffin is a bit too brash and mean-spirited to be fully engaging to audiences. Making his character worse though, is the rough, tattered portrayal from Jamie Bell ("King Kong") who drives the film away from its fun, zippy tone into darker, more primal corners.
The film is also centered on a completely contrived and garbled romantic subplot which only seems to exist in order to drive women into the theaters and remind audiences of the love subplot in Liman’s own "Bourne" series. David’s girlfriend Millie (Rachel Bilson) really only serves the film as a MacGuffin in the final act. She’s given no real conflict or character and the development of her romantic relationship with David is so paper-thin, it borders on prostitution.
The characters prove to be too uninteresting to keep the film moving when it slows down, but the film is too fast to allow the characters, as well as the lore, to fester and grow into something fun, original and unique. It’s a catch-22. At least Liman manages to drive some force into the action and science fiction of the film which will likely leave some viewers with a feeling of moderate satisfaction, particularly since this is the first mainstream standalone sci-fi actioner in a long while.
"Jumper" is not a particularly great film, but it’s certainly possible that after a few sequels maker their way to megaplexes around the world, that this might actually evolve into a great story, and a great franchise. Sadly though, as it stands, the film is too thin, too incoherent and too waxy to really drive viewers back for further installments. There’s going to need to be some major changes if Doug Liman wishes to continue this series, but it may prove too little too late.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: B+
Film Value: D+
20th Century Fox presents the film in 2.35:1 widescreen at 1080p/AVC stretched across a dual-layer BD50 disc. Given that this print is less than a year old, one would expect a much nicer transfer, but this one doesn’t quite stack up against other new releases. The film is quite globe-trotting and likely had several different film units with each local, which could account for the spotty transfer, but it’s unclear as to who is to blame. Some scenes are wonderfully detailed riddled with rich depth and striking visuals. Other scenes are soft, flattened and even a tad grainy. And other scenes still offer inconsistent, glossy fleshtones that border on being a tad oversaturated. The film bounces back and fourth between these setups and never really seems to grab a constant look.
At least no visible dust or specks are present, nor did I note any edge enhancing, digital pops or compression artifacting. This transfer is equally as sporadic and spotty as the film. It’s solid at times, inconsistent in others.
Fox presents the film in DTS HD 5.1 Master Lossless Audio. I was again quite surprised how inconsistent this track was. Occasionally the mix seems well designed with great surround placement and bass effects. Other times, the mix was lacking in spatial envelopment and dimensionality. The only true constant was the light, almost bubbly score from Doug Liman regular, John Powell.
Some sequences are incredibly well designed though. The sequence in Japan is beautifully alive with immersive effects and wonderfully tuned ambient effects and noise. The fight in the Coliseum, however, was subdued, with an artificial feel to it. This just wasn’t the reference audio material I’ve grown accustomed to with Fox’s new releases.
Fox provides fans with a nice batch of goodies, though some of these are a tad lightweight. All of the special features from the two-disc DVD set are ported over here with this day-and-date release. Features include:
• Commentary -- Featuring Doug Liman, producer Lucas Foster and writer/producer Simon Kinberg, this commentary is pretty standard for Liman. These guys are incredibly defensive of some of their decisions here and end up doing a lot of back patting along the way to justify their decisions. Still, this trio offers up enough trivia to make this commentary worth your while.
• Documentary: ‘Doug Liman’s Jumper: Uncensored’ -- Basically a standard 35-minute making-of documentary with behind-the-scenes footage paired with interviews with cast and crew. There’s not much that’s "uncensored" other than an opening title card that lets the viewer in on the fact that the original cast was replaced after a few weeks of shooting. Alas, we don’t get to see that ordeal as it played out—that would have been engaging.
• Deleted Material -- Six scenes, some of worth checking out as they fix and flesh out characters only moderately seen in the film, or those without proper finales. An extended cut of this film would be appreciated.
• Animated Graphic Novel: ‘Jumpstart: David’s Story’ -- A quick 8-minute short that follows one of the lost subplots in the film about David’s mysterious mother played by Diane Lane, who gets less than five minutes of screen time. This short only serves to tease us further.
• Featurettes: ‘Making an Actor Jump,’ ‘Previz: Future Concepts’ and ‘Jumping From Novel to Film’ -- The first featurette discusses how in-camera tricks were paired with CG to make the characters teleport. The second is a quick peek at previsuals for the film. The final featurette is basically a propaganda piece as Liman and producers defend their position to completely change the story, and remove plot and character, so that there would be sequels. They drag the novelist along, who’s just happy to see his story, what little was left after they rewrote it, get turned into a feature film. It’s an interesting featurette, but it makes the film harder to return to after knowing what they did to the original story.
• Digital Copy -- "Jumper" comes complete with a second disc (a DVD) which contains a digital copy of the film for use on hand held portable devices like iPods. It's a nice addition that I hope to see on more upcoming releases, if not all upcoming releases. Note: There is an expiration date on how long you have to copy the files to your PC, so do it as soon as you get the film.
• Trailers -- No trailers for "Jumper," but there is an ad which features "Jumper." Oddly, there's a trailer for "The Happening" which states it's coming soon to DVD and Blu-ray. Is Fox anticipating a quick-to-video release?
• Jumping Around the World: Picture-in-Picture Featurette -- This one’s viewable via profile 1.1 enabled players or it’s accessible through the menu for those without 1.1 players. While this is billed as an exclusive, it’s basically the same "Jumping Around the World" featurette package found on the two-disc DVD set. Still, the presentation is well done. I’d like to see more PiP interactive commentaries with on-set footage like this. It would nice to see the commentary mixed with this feature and perhaps a pop-up trivia track—something like what the "Star Trek" HD DVD did.
• D-Box Motion Control Enabled -- For those with the system, enjoy.
Finally, Fox has changed their packaging design and while it still feels more like an advertisement for Blu-ray (and resembles the look of Sony's Blu-ray boxes), it's an improvement over their old look. I think the "Digital Copy" logo at the top of the box is a bit intrusive too. I understand that Fox is trying to get the word out, but a sticker on the packaging would have done just fine.
"Jumper" could have been a much better film if it had slightly better characters and a little more meat on its bones. Alas, what we have is a decent popcorn sci-fi actioner with the potential for future, and hopefully better, installments. The Blu-ray presentation tops the DVD to be sure, but the transfer and audio mix could have used some work. The special features are well worth your time though.
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: C
Recommendation: Worth renting.
On DVD and Blu-ray Disc: June 10th, 2008
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----R. L. Shaffer