Tuesday, July 08, 2008
1 Why am I watching this?
2 The first minute of Jumper is dizzying... and not because the camera spins around Hayden Christensen as protagonist "David Rice". It's because the movie starts with the Fox logo which always arrives with that endearing pompous trumpeting. Blow your own horn, baby. I love that moment because it reminds me of Moulin Rouge! My mood plummets immediately since right after that I see and hear Hayden Christensen. Oh yes, there's voiceover and he's already giving a bad performance just talking into a mic. How does one do that? And why is their voiceover? There's voiceover because we're all too stupid to understand totally simple things we are seeing with our own two eyes. Haven't you all learned by now? Film is not a visual medium. It's an aural medium accompanied by cute illustrations. [/sarcasm]
"Hayden Explains It All!" Well, until the film gets complicated and then Jamie Bell takes over exposition duties. He's better with the words.
<--- 3 Can the whole movie star this kid who is playing the younger Hayden instead of Hayden Sr? Normally I wouldn't ask that given the other kid who played the Hayden Jr. I don't know how you can be a worse actor than Hayden but that one accomplished it. er... congrats?
4 I always kind of geek out when Michigan gets mentioned in a movie. Turns out David and his love interest Millie (Rachel Bilson) grew up together in Ann Arbor. The first time our hero "jumps" (i.e. teleports) he ends up in the Ann Arbor Public Library. For those of you unfamiliar with Michigan, Ann Arbor is kind of like an oasis of sanity in otherwise nutsy midwestern conservative land.
Michigan has lots of trees. The abundance of foliage has nothing to do with the movie but I wanted to share. Michigan is beautiful but the movies never show you that.
5 Hayden takes over the role of "David" 14 minutes into the movie. It was too much to hope that he wouldn't ever show given that he's the "star" (the term being applied loosely) Thankfully the young over-employed actor is playing an asshole so it's one of his most believable turns. David sees people trapped in floods on TV and doesn't teleport in to help them, though he literally can't stop teleporting to meet his every other self-serving whim. Basically he's a lazy prick. He teleports all over his own apartment rather than move a muscle. He even jump/shifts position on the couch rather than get up to fetch the remote. In other words, if this were a realistic movie he'd be looking a lot more like Jonah Hill @ this point in his life rather than Hayden. But it's the movies. We forgive erring on the side of beauty.
I'm hard on Hayden, I realize. There's always Shattered Glass (2003). But his position in the industry warrants a tough stance. Actors and actresses who take up movie space that's disproportionate to their actual talents are a problem for everyone ...most notably audiences and better screen actors. Basically he's OK... but it's the same thing as TV stars who can vaguely carry tunes getting leads in Broadway musicals. It ain't right. You shouldn't be a headliner unless you're great. You just shouldn't.
Sadly, Hollywood is not a meritocracy.
<--- 6 Movie parentage. David's dad is Henry the Serial Killer? Yikes. I'd teleport away, too. Run little David, run! The mother who abandoned him @ 5 years of age is the ever lovely Mrs. Josh Brolin, Diane Lane who is slumming here --and how! -- she's barely even trying in her tiny but pivotal role. One of David's fondest memories is visiting New York with her. So off to New York City young David goes. Good choice. David is a jerk but he isn't stupid. He robs banks by teleporting inside them and lives the good life never wanting for anything.
7 Something odd: The longer I watch the movie the more I'm totally confused by its quality level. There are some decent shots, good compositions, lighting, etcetera. Technical stuff seems strong and then... doesn't. It's very uneven. Doug Liman is the director. His credits include Go, The Bourne Identity, Swingers, Mr & Mrs. Smith ...pretty good movies but this one is all over the place. The concept is fun, the storytelling a mess. For example at one point, after a jarring edit that should be more of a "meanwhile" style transition, we're in the conclusion of some battle in the jungle. A Jumper (David isn't the only one) is roped to a tree, while being steadily electrocuted. It prevents teleportation. Samuel L Jackson shows up as a 'Palladin' to mutter some religious wackiness "Only god should have this power!" and stabs the unfortunate kid. The scene is very random. It sets up the central violent conflict (Palladins vs. Jumpers) of the franchise --excuse me, plot. But it does so about as clumsily as it could.
8 JAMIE BELL! A real actor. He's not top billed. But again... Hollywood ≠ meritocracy. So much fire, conviction and watchability. He's a kleig light surrounded by 40 watt bulbs. Bell is an actor we'll be seeing until he's ancient and gray. You can always tell. The bland ones can't really keep it up once they can no longer coast on youth and Hollywood's love of same. Movie careers for Hayden and Rachel will not last through wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity and general thickening. Bell's character "Griffin" keeps popping into frame watching David. It takes him quite a long while to get involved in the plot, damnit. He's another Jumper but he's crafty. He's practicing guerilla warfare to take out the Palladins rather than being taken out himself. Griffin has learned to use his powers in clever violent ways and the movie does make some fun use of his jumping... though the teleporting attack of Nightcrawler way back in X2 was handled with more skillful choreography, camerawork and editing.
9. I think the problem is that teleporting in Jumper happens too quickly and too often. You've barely registered where the characters are and they're gone. For an action sequence to be exciting, for it to work up any emotional armchair gripping, you have to be able to follow along. When David and Griffin's uneasy Jumper camaraderie turns to Jumper vs. Jumper infighting, it's not exciting but funny: they look like staccato jumping beans bouncing around various parts of the screen. Where will they pop up next? But at least their choice of weapons was exciting. I'll give the movie that.
<--- 10 Jackson looks silly and I'm so over him as an actor. Exactly when did he jump the shark to become a self-parody? He was so terrific in Pulp Fiction but he hopped the big fish long ago, no? sigh. His best scene: beating the crap out of Hayden Christensen. That was
11 For what it's worth Rachel and Hayden aren't terrible in this, just dull. A lot of fanboys (the presumed target audience for action flicks with superpowered elements) are stereotyped as disdaining romantic subplots. Maybe I give people too much credit but I think moviegoers hate romance in action movies because it usually plays like a marketing requirement or a cheap emotional shortcut rather than an organic element. It's squeegeed in there for demographic concerns. Romantic screen chemistry is tricky. If actors have it a screen romance is among the most electric things that can be captured on film. But it's elusive and rare. Hayden and Rachel hit their beats well enough (their painful parting at an airport is well conveyed --she no longer trusts him. He hasn't come clean) but ... zzzzz.
12 I'm entertaining myself by noticing how often Rachel gets her hair touched up in between shots. Consider...
Those two shots are 30 seconds apart and there's no change of narrative scene. Either "Millie" has superpowers involving superspeed hairstyling or this sequence took too long to film. Side note: Rachel Bilson has huge eyes. That helps in the movies. Just ask Anne Hathaway.
13 In concept I give this movie a B. I wonder if the source material is any good. Anyone read it? In execution it's a D. Sloppily performed, uneven, nonsensical... too enamored of its franchise potential to think about how it's telling the story. Even the superpowers are uneven. If you're dealing with the "super" you need to have some rules that you stick with. For example: Kryptonite always f***s Superman up. Go! This movie doesn't seem to know what the limits of the Jumpers are... or what may or may not hurt them. If there's nothing at stake, how can we worry about their safety. And if they're in danger, we should worry. Not that anyone would ever worry about Hayden Christensen.
14 Jumper 2 is supposedly teleporting to a movie theater near you in 2011. They could take it to a higher level instantly by switching it up. Jamie Bell is now the lead. Go!