Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Thoughts I Had While Watching Jumper

Hayden Christensen wishing he were Keanu Reeves

1 Why am I watching this?

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.

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
___________________________... satisfying.

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!


G said...

I was so excited to see my beloved Ann Arbor on film! The rest of the movie is shaky at best, but all the maize and blue made me smile.

elgringo said...

I saw this for free at an advance screening. It wasn't worth the $3.00 bus fare to get downtown.

Honestly, I went for Diane Lane, for I love her. Her on-screen time is less than five minutes and it's an unimpressive five minutes at that.

Too bad the movie fell apart. I've heard that the book is pretty good. My brother really liked it.

Word of advice to Hollywood: the less Diane Lane is in a film, the worse it will be. Just look at National Lampoon Goes to the Movies.

Anonymous said...

Love this review. The movie always sounded terrible to me, and it sounds even worse than I could have imagined. Reading about it, I could never figure out what was the deal with the Palladins. Sounds like the movie didn't bother to explain either, because hey, he talks about god and that clearly makes him evil! Ugh. So lazy.

Anonymous said...

"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?"

Ha ha, reminds me of watching Elizabethtown with the untalented Orlando Bloom, the one actor who may be even worse than Hayden. They are the male equivalents of the Jessicas, Alba and Biel.

Good review. I won't be watching this film, even if I get the opportunity to see it for free. So many movies to see, so little time...

adam k. said...

Jessica Biel is not that bad an actress. She certainly doesn't deserve comparisons to Alba.

Drew said...

I refuse to see it because I do not want to patronize anything Hayden Christensen is in. I think he is uniformly awful. I even watched Shattered Glass, having heard he's good in it, and I still thought he sucked. (Good movie, though, in spite of him.)

Also, Jumper itself looks like a waste of time.

Janice said...

If only Hollywood understood - If Jamie Bell were cast in a starring role I would pull out my pennies and nickels and actually PAY to the see the film at the theater. Why do they not understand? Great actor= excited moviegoer? (I recently saw the DVD of the recent Nicholas Nickelby film and he was one of the best things in it, beating out the bland lead actor by miles and miles. If there's any justice in the world Jamie will indeed have a long career just as Nat predicts - and he won't have to wait until the end of it to get his Oscar. Not that Oscars have anything to do with quality either.)

Who the hell did Hayden sleep with to get the kind of career he has?

Not even the inclusion of Ann Arbor could get me to see this one and I loved Ann Arbor. I actually went to college in nearby Ypsilanti (where the bars are in a ring around Eastern Michigan U) but I went by bus to Ann Arbor frequently, back when there were only two Borders bookstores in the country and one was in AA; there was the restored movie theater where I saw The Wind, The Player, and Thelma and Louise, restaurants of every sort of cuisine, the first gay/lesbian bookstore I had ever seen....gosh I miss that town.

Walter L. Hollmann said...

Sam Jackson jumping the shark? I thought he was fantastic in Black Snake Moan. True, he doesn't do genuinely great work like that too often, but he can still deliver the goods.

Anonymous said...

Meh. Jumper.

Meantime, I think Christensen's best work is easily Life As A House; not Shattered Glass (though I find him perfectly fine there). Whenever I find him getting a literary pummeling, I think of Life As and realise that he's capable of being worthy. Which - I agree - makes it all the more infuriating when he fails to be.


Anonymous said...

I don't know how the effect of Life as a house, hayden is good but nothing great especially with his parents in the film (Kline and scott Thomas). And I think Kline help Hayden in many of their scenes.

Yes, it's true, Hayden is one of the worst actors right now, unleast Orlando has a lot of charisma. But what happened to hayden, Jessica Alba and even Jessica Biel in five or ten years?...

PIPER said...

Hollywood is trying too hard to make Hayden a star. And he's not. Never will be. Doesn't have the chops and can't seem to move on from the damn nasally whine of his.

Unknown said...

I was especially disappointed in the movie, because the book is really good. But the only thing the movie used from it was the back-story, all that Hayden is an asshole, Sam Jackson is in some crazy cult stuff is not from the book.

Anonymous said...


I know Hayden's acting is nothing short of dreadful, but i can't believe that you really dislike him. Look at him, he's...gorgeous! Which completely makes up for his lack of talent. I can't believe that you have resisted him in that way/ don't see him as a physically, good-looking specimen which redeems the fact he can't act.

If you really did n't like him in any way, why then would you put up a picture of him presumably naked in bed revealing his stunning arms and upper body and looking as though he's just enjoyed himself??(if you know what i mean)


Anonymous said...

I agree with you Nathaniel, complete waste of Jamie Bell and Diane Lane, and I will add the criminally underused Kristen Stewart into the mix as well.

If they do Jumper 2, they need to fire EVERYONE but these three, not just Hayden, I want the damn director gone too. I am never getting those two hours back or my $10, and he must PAY.


Sal -- Hayden is fine to look at sure... just not on the movie screens.

there are plenty of gorgeous AND talented actors available for lead roles. You don't need to go without talent in order to get the gorgeous. why can't hollywood see?

I assume they think he's bankable because of Star Wars but HELLO you could have cast anyone from Elle Fanning to Mickey Rooney as Anakin and it still would have made bajillions

this is all George Lucas's fault
(that sentence is useful in many situations. Try it!)

Neel Mehta said...

Samuel L. Jackson is two kinds of actor: serious actor when he likes the role, and schlock actor to pay the bills. You can usually tell what mode he's in from the quality of the film, but Mace Windu is a little bit of both.

SPOILER: if you're a Paladin and a Jumper enters your family by natural causes, isn't the work of God telling you something? I can't support a film that (vaguely) brings this up but never addresses it. I'll skip the sequel.

Anonymous said...

anon@: You right in one sentence, Hayden looks gorgerous. But we have many young and more talented actors who are equally or even better gorgeous that Hayden. Why looks and talent couldn't be in the same person?. Evn I make you a list for american and foreign young actors:

Jamie Bell, Gael Garcia Bernal, Ryan Gosling (Who is a canadian Oscar Nominee), Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jake Gyllenhaal, James McAvoy, Daniel Bruhl, Louis Garrel, Rodrigo Santoro, Channing Tatum, Victor Razuk, Marc-Andre Gondrin, Sam Riley, Jim Sturgess, Sam Worthington, Andrew Garfield, James Franco, Emile Hirsch, Gaspard Ulliel, Uñax Ugalde, Ben Wisham, Kevin Zegers...


Well, Neel that part i have no issues with... isn't that exactly what right wing christian conservative parents are like with gay children? Still homophobic and 'you're going to hell'

sad but true.

as for SLJ... i know he's two actors but what I don't get about him is that he keeps playing the same role for this easy money and they let him... it's so weird. don't they want the franchises to be the franchises themselves.

that'd be like hiring Ian McKellen to play the main sorceror in another fantasy movie or hiring Daniel Craig if you have a killer spy part coming up.

i understand typecasting but Samuel L Jackson being in every superpowered or big action franchise (iron man, avengers, gi joe, star wars, jumper, the spirit, xXx, the incredibles and even the ones that aren't getting sequels for some reason like SWAT, Shaft or the ones where his character doesn't continue Die Hard, Jurassic Park

it's really getting ridiculous. At this point it's taking me out of the movies he's in. I'm like "ANOTHER FRANCHISE?" every single time I see him. And immediately i'm not even thinking about the movie any more but their sheer laziness.

I've never seen anything like it, actually. What other actor is in that many franchises? There are other black actors in existence. And talented ones, too.


and i forgot the super-power focused UNBREAKABLE in that list, too... and Patriot Games and The Long Kiss Goodnight and...

so many action franchises, failed and successful.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Samuel jumped the shark...well when the shark jumped him in that crap LL Cool shark movie, what the hell was that...deep blue something or other.

Or maybe it was when he appeared as a jedi in the star wars series! somehow Ewan McGreggor was so cool being Alec Guinnes as Obi Wan. Samuel was not.

And maybe the young Heyden actor in the movie is a genius acting as bad as christian....you never know.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Ok, so Deep Blue Sea and SLJs stunning performance of Mace Windu came out in 1999.

You all gotta see that moment in the Deep Blue Sea where the shark jumps him...it's classic!

Glenn said...

I saw it for free - I won a pass - and I was so glad. Jamie Bell was, obviously, the best thing about it. I didn't quite get how or when Bell and Christensen's characters went from being partners to Bell being left in a Bosnian warzone (?!) but it happened.

Nat, you said the exact same thing I did about Hayden's narration even being poorly acted. I leaned over to my friends and said the same thing. Funny, that.

The main thing that confused me about Jumper was how come Hayden's character would just jump anywhere without worrying that somebody would see him. The only person who does see him jump into that NYC bar is - conveniently - Jamie Bell. No sense!

Anonymous said...

Would it have killed you to post a photo of Diane Lane since she is, and always will be 'teh awesome'?

No it would not have. :P~


Anonymous said...

"Jumper" and "Wanted" both made me think "now, THERE'S vicarious wish fulfillment for teenage boys". So often I read that movies are made for 14 year old boys, but the movies seem to actually be made for either nobody or for 35-40 year old couch potatoes. "Jumper" I could see immediately as being a 14 year's old fantasy. Hey, even I woudln't mind having my cappacino on top of the pyramids.

I've adored Jamie Bell since Billy Elliot, and I agree with Janice that in "Nicholas Nickleby" I ached for the tragedy of Bell's character, and couldn't care less about the hero.

And I like Hayden Christiansen. He's utterly gorgeous and is a competent (although unexceptionable) actor. I certainly wouldn't engage in an argument trying to sell his acting skills.

But he doesn't have that sleazy edge some actors do. He looks like a nice guy who'd come to work on time, get along with the rest of the cast, and not get arrested for whatever. Maybe those are big selling points for actors of his age group. Also- teenage girls love him, and teenage boys would like to be like him. Isn't that the classic selling point?


eroslane good point. I feel the guilt. she sure is purty

anon to tell you the truth i had never once thought of that but that could be a selling point for sure (if true). I once read about emma thompson a director or other actor saying 'if you had a part to cast and you have emma and someone else and they'd both be just as good you cast emma because she's fabulous to work with' or something to that effect.

not that we should be comparing hayden to emma (OY --SORRY) But if he is easy to work with ... that would be a big selling point.

and he is from canada so maybe he is. they're all nice right? ;)