Add 'Jumper' to the pile of great Hollywood high-concept ideas in search of a well-executed movie. The neat premise is this: a secret society of genetically-gifted humans can teleport around the globe at will and battle each other using their powers for good and evil. Unfortunately, the film is so sloppily constructed that it makes you want to teleport right out of the theater and over to the next theater in the multiplex in hopes that it might be showing an old print of 'Highlander.' Despite some glossy production values, 'Jumper' would feel right at home on a drive-in double bill with any old '80s sci-fi B-movie.
Loosely based on the cult novel by Steven Gould, 'Jumper' stars Hayden Christensen as David Rice, who we learn discovered the power of teleportation after an accident in his youth. Able to "jump" to any location on Earth in a blink of an eye, David eschews using his skill to help mankind, and instead parties it up like it's 1999, robbing banks to finance an extravagant, empty lifestyle.
David's hedonism will come to an end, however, after he meets Roland (Samuel L. Jackson, slumming once again), a member of a secret sect called the Paladins, who have apparently lived for centuries attempting to eradicate all the "jumpers." Hooking up with the more experienced jumper Griffin (Jamie Bell), David decides to take on the Paladins. That won't be so easy, however, especially when Roland traps David's sweetheart Millie (Rachel Bilson), attempting to use her as bait.
The opening scenes of 'Jumper' are promising. David's backstory achieves moments of resonance, especially his charming romance with the young Millie (AnnaSophia Robb). And by adding the nicely pessimistic twist of having David be a bit of a Han Solo, 'Jumper' appears poised to avoid the silly superhero trappings and go to thematic places that few sci-fi films have traveled in recent years. Unfortunately, the script (which required no less than three writers -- David S. Goyer, Jim Uhls and Simon Kinberg) quickly gets bogged down with the Paladin nonsense, and goes from intriguing to utterly cheesy in a matter of moments.
It's a letdown that 'Jumper' squanders the interesting moral implications inherent in time travel and "jumping" for a standard-issue good versus evil plotline. The whole Paladin sect is pretty silly, and Jackson doesn't help by phoning in another over-the-top performance. Bell at least injects the storyline with some much-needed scrappiness, but by the time Millie gets sucked into the drama, we know exactly where 'Jumper' is going about three scenes ahead of any of the characters. Also not helping is Christensen, who seems to still be doing a stiff Anakin Skywalker impression, displaying little of the complexity that so impressed in more serious films such as 'Shattered Glass.' Sadly, his David is a vapid center to a series of vapid script contrivances.
As directed by Doug Liman ('The Bourne Identity,') 'Jumper' is certainly a stylish film. The travelogue-like setpieces (David seems to travel to just about every hot spot on the map) are fun for a while, and the "jumping" effects are rather nifty. The pacing is also way over-torqued, so even if little registers, at least I was never bored. Unfortunately, glossy surfaces are far from enough to rescue 'Jumper' from the dustbin of the potentially interesting sci-fi film that just doesn't hit the mark. As is, 'Jumper' lacks the ambition to be anything more than a decent Saturday afternoon time-waster.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment brings 'Jumper' to 3D Blu-ray on a Region A locked, BD50 disc that also contains a 2D version of the movie. It comes packaged inside a blue, eco-cutout case with lenticular slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to an animated 3D menu screen with music and graphics showing full-motion clips.
Doug Liman's sci-fi adventure flick makes a completely pointless and largely unnecessary jump into the third dimension with a generally disappointing MVC-encoded transfer. Granted, a few moments of decent dimensionality add a tiny bit to the movie's enjoyment — though frankly, nothing could ever improve on its badness. Background information can be seem at a distance, especially during daylight sequences, giving a couple scenes of appreciable depth. Many of the special effects, like the residue David and Griffin leave behind when they teleport or the small debris they create after a jump flies all around, do a nice job of reminding viewers they're watching a 3D movie, or at least, the most inexpensive conversion.
However, those moments are very, very few and far between, creating a frustratingly inconsistent and futile viewing experience without a single moment of impressive depth. Indeed, most if not all of the video feels flat and as if we're still watching the regular 2D version of the movie — only, now you're watching while wearing sunglasses in the dark! The picture has that ugly pop-up book effect where characters and objects simply look as if they're cut-out and then layered on top of one another. Yet, everyone and everything still seems like they exist within the same plane, a space that feels artificial with an entirely unconvincing separation between the foreground and background. Essentially, those few sequences of decent depth are overshadowed by a mostly unattractive presentation.
Like we saw last year with Alex Proyas' 'I, Robot,' Fox's joint efforts with JVC's 2D-to-3D conversion workstation, which basically means a set-it-and-leave-it machine, is generating some terribly substandard and unsatisfying results. Also like Proyas' film, 'Jumper' is presented in an open matte aspect ratio of 1.78:1 (the previous Blu-ray has a ratio of 2.40:1), and this unmated format is used for the 2D version of the movie contained on the same disc. It's possible that doing this might create a more immersive experience in 3D, but sadly, that never happens here since there's never a genuine sense of space. Ultimately, the presentation fails to impress in the least, and JVC's machine should probably be retired.
On the 2D front, the video remains the same, which shows several great, demo-worthy moments of razor-sharp definition and crystal-clear fine lines in clothing, architecture and various other objects. One or two negligible instances of aliasing does creep up, but they're easy to overlook. The rest of the photography displays spot-on contrast with crisp whites and excellent visibility of background information in the far distance. Primaries are full-bodied and quite animated in several areas with natural flesh tones which also reveal outstanding lifelike textures during close-up. Secondary hues provide a good deal of warmth and accuracy to the image. Black levels, on the other hand, waver noticeably, particularly in nighttime and dimly-lit interiors where shadows appear fairly murky and grayish, only adding to the movie's generally flat presentation. Nonetheless, the 2D version is the preferred method of watching.
Five years ago, when the movie first teleported unto Blu-ray, the high-rez audio was an impressive feat. That same track is ported over to this 3D Blu-ray, but somehow the presentation just doesn't quite stack up to the latest and greatest. That's not to say it's bad. In fact, the DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is still highly enjoyable with several great moments of envelopment. Action sequences, of course, do most of the work, spreading various noises, like the electrified chains clanging and whizzing all around, throughout the room with excellent directionality. There are some very nice moments of subtle ambience that convincingly expand the soundfield.
Much of the runtime is spent in the fronts where channel separation is very well-balanced with appreciable discrete effects which on several occasions create an engaging wall of sound. The mid-range exhibits precise detailing and amazingly good clarity during the many high-concept action scenes, but quieter, character-driven moments suddenly feel dull and plain. This is most apparent in John Powell's score where there is very little distinction between the instrumentation, making the music seem rather stale and uniform. Low bass is also on the weak and mild side though it has just enough heft and oomph to give teleportation jumps some weight. Dialogue is clean and well-prioritized, making Christensen's stiff, bland performance all the more noticeably boring, yet conversations largely flat and monotonous.
In the end, this lossless mix is very good but it has its weaknesses.
This is a bare-bones release.
Based on Steven Gould's sci-fi novel, 'Jumper' teleports with a less than satisfying — more like a hop than a jump — to the silver screen as a largely dull action thriller from Doug Liman. Hayden Christensen gives a terrible, leaden performance in the lead role and despite having a strong cast of actors to support him, he fails to create a sympathetic character worth cheering. Fox forces the movie to jump unto the 3D Blu-ray bandwagon with a terribly disappointing and weak conversion although the picture quality in its original 2D format remains mostly the same, and that includes a very good lossless audio presentation. With the lack of bonus material, however, the overall package is an easy one to skip.