22 August 2008
I realize I'm a little late to the party in bashing Jumper, but I felt (uncharacteristically as of late) like writing, and hadn't dissed the movie thoroughly enough when last I mentioned it. It's not a good movie.
When I described it to my friend yesterday I detailed the first twenty minutes being passable, if not faithful to the book, and those twenty minutes being let down by the ensuing hour or so of crap.
I should point out that I have not recently read the book sharing a title and a few moments with this movie, but I recall liking it enough to be unhappy this movie is so bad. I can't remember it in enough detail to really criticize the film for accuracy, but from what I do recall, and what reviewers have written, there's not much left of the original idea.
Spoilers abound ahead - for the last few of you who ever intend to watch the movie despite my warnings (Don't watch it!) you may want to look elsewhere*
The movie begins with what is probably a common occurrence for the protagonist, David (played by some kid other than Hayden Christensen): he's trying to give a cute girl a snow globe, and a bully thwarts his plan and humiliates him. The globe gets chucked onto a frozen river, through the ice of which David soon plunges. Panic ensues, but nobody could anticipate what happens next: swept along by the river current under the otherwise intact ice, he doesn't drown but finds himself (and a large puddle) suddenly appearing amidst the stacks of his local library. Several books (shelves worth of them, really) are likely destroyed, in what can only be seen as a literal attack on literature, namely the source novel.
In that one scene (or perhaps the later one where he drops an entire house on said library) pretty much every suspicion I had about what the movie's producers thought should be done with Gould's novel should've been confirmed, but I kept going.
And it only got worse. Sam Jackson appears, stabbing some random flickering kid (another jumper?!) in a jungle somewhere. And he's got white hair, which I could see as an unsubtle nod to the fake albino antagonist of The Da Vinci code, which I have neither seen nor read. Regardless, from that point on the movie is more or less a cliched chase action movie.
Now, there's the element of the chase to the novel, too, but it's surrounded by the story of a kid coming to grips with learning to use his power, and to become a well-rounded, decent human being at the same time.
The movie dispenses with the former in a quick montage, and never gets around to doing the latter. David, as played by Hayden Christensen, is a brooding, spoiled brat who finds fit to steal lots of money, but leave childishly-scrawled IOUs in the vaults, to pay for all the toys with which he fills his massive apartment. Davy in the book preferred a cave out west along with the amenities of his childhood house, but the idea of a lair like that only shows up in the movie when we find Griffin, another jumper (and star of Gould's tie-in prequel) who has apparently taken over a small cavern system based on how much space he seems to have.
Key to several plot points is a new jumping mechanic in the movie: so-called "jump scars", a residue left after a jump that allows other jumpers, and Sam Jackson with advanced technology, to follow the first jumper around. Why the screenwriter found fit to add that, and the whole Paladin/jumper war, and all the rest is beyond me inasmuch as the book was pretty good on its own without any of those elements. Davy in the novel also grows up considerably over the arc of the book, whereas even late in the film David's talking about comic books and whining and overall acting like a petulant toddler.
There was a sequel to the book (Reflex) that tends to get shelved with the grown up books (not in Young Adult as Jumper, and it's a good read. From what I've heard a sequel to the movie is also planned, and as David, after half-befriending, teaming up with, fighting, and abandoning Griffin and marooning Sam Jackson somewhere out west, gets the girl and learns the shocking truth about his mother, stands, girl in arm and wistful gaze in his eyes looking vacant at the end, such is not an impossible thing. But it's going to need to be a lot better for me to consider watching it. And re-casting David wouldn't hurt.
* Which, frankly, is sound advice ("look elsewhere") to those people when faced with the movie, but I suppose I'm repeating myself. Don't watch it!