Jumper (UK - DVD R2)
Scott McKenzie checks out the DVD release of this recent sci-fi action movie
When David Rice (Hayden Christensen) suffers a traumatic experience in his youth, he discovers that he has the ability to teleport. He abandons his life with his alcoholic father and moves to New York, where he establishes himself as a globe-trotting teleporting playboy, leaving IOUs at the banks he robs to fund his lifestyle. His life suddenly becomes complicated with the introduction of Griffin (Jamie Bell), another ‘jumper’, and Roland (Samuel L Jackson), who is sworn to kill the jumpers.
Jumper opens well, with a brief origin sequence narrated by Hayden Christensen, but with the central character played by a younger actor that looks a lot like him. Once we’ve discovered how David can jump around and understand the limits of his ability, we’re back to the present day and for those of you who have a problem with Anikin Skywalker, it starts to go a bit downhill. I’d like to say that Hayden Christensen carries the movie, but he looks just as wooden here as he did in the Star Wars prequels and he seems to be becoming more divisive among cinema-goers with each movie he makes. It’s also a bit difficult to root for him when some of the things he does (like robbing banks) are typical of supervillains rather than superheroes.
The action picks up with the introduction of Jamie Bell’s character as the second jumper and we effectively end up with a teleporting Anikin Skywalker versus a teleporting Billy Elliot. Bell’s performances always have an edge to them and he has a strange voice that makes him stand out among the largely American cast. I found the character of Griffin to be more compelling than that of David and I was left wondering if Jumper would have been a better movie if it had focused on him instead. In the very short running time, Samuel L Jackson isn’t given a lot of screen time and unfortunately he’s rarely given any material to allow him to break out of ‘bad guy with silly hair’ territory.
In a movie that is based on a set of young adult science fiction novels, stars two of the main actors from the Star Wars movies and quickly but effectively sets out the rules of the story early on, I would say this had ‘fanboy potential’ written all over it. However, there isn’t enough depth of mythology or character development to really draw thirteen-year-old boys (which it is clearly aimed at) in as far as it could have. Religious elements are touched on but quickly discarded and I thought there were plenty of strong opportunities like this to expand the universe and leave the audience dreaming of the sequel that it sets itself up for.
On the commentary track, the director and producers discuss the fact that the story is wish fulfilment for teenagers. The movie was rated 12A in UK cinemas, but I thought the movie was quite brutal in places. Obviously the tone is firmly based in the science fiction genre and no one could mistake the action for reality, but there are just one or two moments that push the boundaries of the 12A rating. Click here to see what the BBFC have to say about their classification. I thought this made the tone a little uneven throughout, with the director not knowing whether he wanted to make a kid-friendly romp or a full-blown adult action movie.
Jumper is not a bad movie by a long shot though. The premise of jumping allows for some inventive action sequences and the filmmakers have clearly spent a lot of time perfecting the visual effects. At eighty minutes (without end credits), the short running time does mean that plot and character development are rushed, but from another perspective this can be seen as a brief, fast-paced action movie with science fiction elements. It may not win over legions of fanboys, but as a slice of forgettable popcorn entertainment I’d say it does its job.
Jumper is a visually rewarding movie, with many different locations around the world filmed in a combination of sweeping establishing shots and handheld camerawork when we get down to the action. Visual effects are very important to the movie and the detail is impressive, although while I was flicking through looking for screenshots for this review, there were moments where I could almost see the joins with some effects. This made me wonder if the Blu-ray release may highlight this even more. However, this DVD release looks very good, with no obvious artefacts and a colourful picture that makes the most of the changing locations.
Sound effects also play an important role in Jumper, with each teleportation accompanied by a decent thud of bass that will sound great through your surround system. John Powell has recorded a very cool-sounding score, both light-hearted at times and darker when the action gets going and it sounds clear and powerful on this release. Dialogue, effects and music don’t fight each other for presence on the soundtrack and the content on the whole is clean and crisp. It’s worth noting that this disc also comes with an audio description option.
First up we’ve got a commentary track with director Doug Liman, writer/producer Simon Kinberg and producer Lucas Foster. They go into detail about the changes that were made between the novels and the movie, which is almost everything since they took the premise apart and pretty much started from scratch with an original story. The ‘Jumping Around the World’ featurette is a travel diary that focuses on the large number of locations where Jumper was shot. Most interesting of all here is the fact that the crew were allowed to shoot on location at the Colosseum for two hours a day and then meticulously recreated the set in a studio back in the USA.
‘Doug Liman’s Jumper: Exposed’ focuses mainly on the director himself, with interviews with the cast and crew and footage of him getting his hands dirty on set during the shoot. There’s also a lot of talk around constant script changes that were inflicted on the cast on an almost daily basis. ‘Jumpstart: David’s Story’ is an animated graphic novel telling another story from the Jumper universe, which is definitely worth a watch if you enjoyed the movie. ‘Making an Actor Jump’ shows how the visual effects of jumping were created, from the first trial shots right up to the finished fight scenes in the movie.
‘Jumping From Novel to Film’ contains interviews with Steven Gould, the author of the original Jumper novels. He discusses the metaphors in his stories and his desire to tell a story of someone with superhero powers that is also coming to terms with personal issues. There are six deleted scenes, some of which are not as polished as the movie, with the green screen and the crew still visible in the background. One scene involving Samuel L Jackson’s character and his son was quite obviously removed from the movie to stop the audience sympathising with the character who's supposed to be the bad guy. To round out the set of extras there is a compilation of pre-viz animatics showing the action scenes as they were planned in pre-production, which makes the movie look even more like a video game than it does already.
Jumper is an enjoyable enough ride while it lasts, but it’s not one of the most memorable action or science fiction movies ever made. On this DVD release the movie looks and sounds very good and the decent selection of extras that complement the movie well make this a worthwhile purchase for those of you who are already fans. It’s difficult to wholeheartedly recommend this disc as a blind buy though, as there’s not quite enough meat on the bones of the story to warrant multiple viewings.
Review by Scott McKenzie
Suitable only for persons of 12 years and over
Release Date: 16th June 2008
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English
Extras: Commentary, Jumping from Novel to Film, Making an Actor Jump, Doug Liman's Jumper: Exposed, Jumping Around the World, Animated Graphic Novel, Previz, Deleted Scenes, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Doug Liman
Cast: Hayden Christensen, Samuel L Jackson, Diane Lane, Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson, Michael Rooker
Genre: Action and Sci-Fi
Length: 85 minutes
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