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Review

Weak plot makes fast-paced ‘Jumper’ hard to follow

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February 21, 2008

It’s a curious thing how big-budget action can draw a crowd. There doesn’t have to be substance as long as those splashy animations ripple across the screen. Usually reserved for the summer blockbuster season, these “popcorn flicks” thrill audiences young and old without making them think about those annoying elements such as characters and plotting. Hayden Christensen knows this better than most, having fore-fronted the blue-screen infected “Star Wars” prequels. 

This time, however, he tries to heat things up for Valentine’s Day with a little summer blockbuster-come-early: “Jumper.” 

Helmed by emerging director Doug Liman, “Jumper” tells the story of David Rice (Christensen), a lonely little outcast that has, you guessed it, a crush on the popular girl. Gifted with a genetic mutation, Rice discovers that his tortured teens are livened up by his ability to teleport across the planet.

Running away from home and leaving IOUs in bank vaults around the world, Rice starts coasting through the ridiculously decadent lifestyle of penthouses and pleasure domes. 

His lazily ignorant existence comes crashing down when Rice gets caught between Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), a self-proclaimed pious NSA agent hellbent on hunting down the jumpers, and Griffin (Jamie Bell), a fellow Jumper devoted to hunting the hunter. 

The foundations lie on an intriguing sci-fi framework but nothing of value is built up around it.  The movie doesn’t follow a story arc; rather it becomes a flashy and expensive advertisement for the sequels it desperately hopes will be made. Every scene, every plot contrivance is built on the hopes of an emerging franchise, with the crew stopping just short of getting on their knees and begging viewers to make it happen. 

Unfortunately, this self-prophesying ruins the illusion. The cast acts like people who have already seen the endgame and are merely shuffling towards it. After disappearing for eight years and being presumed dead, Rice appears in his hometown and surprises the object of his old affections, the now grown-up Millie (Rachel Bilson). She should be floored by his apparent resurrection, but instead simply shrugs off his arrival like he’d been gone a trifling few hours.

Liman, who showed excessive cool with “Swingers” and a knack for handling both action and story with “The Bourne Identity,” loses some of his film prowess with “Jumper.” The action is kept taut and is certainly cool, but no amount of CGI can keep the big bad wolf of movie coherence from blowing down this house of sticks and straw. 

Audiences may find themselves confused by the time the credits roll; there is not a single likable person to be found. The jumpers we’re told to root for lie, cheat and steal their way to lifestyles we can barely dream of while the government agents sent to stop them are cold-hearted murderers. 

Between corrupt good guys, righteous bad guys and that ‘slapped-together-five-minutes-before-being-due’ feel, “Jumper” winds up being a 90-minute commercial for its future self.

Ken Weigend is an alumnus of UW-River Falls. He was editor of the Student Voice during spring semester 2010.