A Jumper jumps. That’s simple enough. Paladins are regular people who want to kill Jumpers… which is also simple enough, as long as you don’t want to know why, because I can’t tell you. I never manage to get around to reading the novels these movies are based on, it seems, and usually I suspect that’s for the best. This time, though, I have the feeling that if I had read the book, I wouldn’t still be sitting here wondering exactly what all that jumping was really about.
The main character, David Rice, is played by Hayden Christensen, so right there you know you’re in trouble. He still can’t act, but at least he’s finally figured out that he needs roles where all he has to do is look good and not react or emote much. He’s pretty good at that sort of brooding look, and that’s all that’s required in a lot of the scenes here, so the casting isn’t quite as disastrous as it seems. I did occasionally feel sorry for Rachel Bilson as girlfriend Millie, who spends most of her scenes looking at him a little pleadingly, hoping for some sort of feedback on what she’s saying, just so she knows he’s listening.
At 15, David nearly drowns, and in his panic to get out of the water, lands himself in the Ann Arbor Public Library. Strangely, he doesn’t seem to get in any trouble for drenching half the fiction section, and after a bit more experimenting, he decides to go on the run. His mother (Diane Lane, of Untraceable fame, though fortunately for her she has only a tiny little part here) ran off ten years ago, and his father has been stern and distant ever since. So in his teenage angst, he packs up some clothes and some money and heads for New York. The big city being so expensive, though, his cash doesn’t last long, and he has to find other resources. But when all you need to do is once to have seen a particular place to be able to go back there in the blink of an eye, robbing a bank is pretty simple. The next thing you know, he’s literally wallowing in money, in his closet-sized room in a fleabag motel.
Soon he has a fancy apartment, filled with gadgets and toys. It’s sort of like in Big, where the suddenly grown-up Tom Hanks jams his house with all the latest stuff. David hasn’t needed to grow up, so he hasn’t — the toys have just gotten bigger and more expensive. He surfs in Fiji, picks up girls in London, and has a drink on the top of the Sphinx’s head, and never gets jet lag. Then Samuel L. Jackson shows up, and with him the beginning of the end of David’s sweet life.
|Maybe it’s the hair, but somehow Samuel just isn’t his usual scary self…
For some reason Samuel has perfectly snow-white hair, which is pretty distracting, but does make him conveniently easy to recognize and describe. He’s apparently the leader of the Paladins, and moonlights on the side for the NSA, CIA, and even the IRS. Whoever these Paladins are supposed to be, they apparently have unlimited funds, endless supplies of fake IDs, and can smack around anyone whose looks they don’t like.
This brings us to the only explanation I could come up with for why the Paladins want to kill the Jumpers — they’re jealous because the Jumpers get to have unlimited funds and push people around, too. One Jumper, Griffin, has started his own one-man crusade to try and stop them, but if he knows why the Paladins started all this, he isn’t telling. All he says on the matter is that they’re fanatics — or maybe phonetics; his English accent sounds a little strained at times. But they are fanatical; at least Samuel as Roland is. We don’t really get to see any other Paladins in action, but he keeps insisting that the Jumpers are abominations.
And so, unfortunately, is the film. Two and a quarter idols is the best I can do, and half an idol is just for the cinematography. It’s a huge, chaotic mess of exotic places and strange sights — fun, dizzying, and almost completely plotless. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fascinating to see an apartment in Michigan catch on fire because of some kid wielding a flamethrower in the middle of the Sahara; and the scenery is gorgeous. The music is good, too, but as a friend of mine once said, if you’re noticing that much, then you would have been better off to stay at home and just buy the soundtrack. So that’s my best suggestion here. It’s about time someone organized a boycott of Hayden Christensen movies anyway… or at least to organize some money for acting lessons.