Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Samuel Jackson, Rachel Bilson, Jamie Bell
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 53
A young man discovers he has the power to teleport.
The action, pace, and premise of Jumper are intriguing, but the weaknesses with unsatisfactory story development and equally shallow characters hold this film down. Disappointing to see this film not reach its potential.
My greatest concern as I sat down to watch Jumper was that they would muck up the intriguing premise. When you give an individual the power to teleport, you run the risk of your movie falling apart in a hash of illogical plot holes. Well, I’m happy to report that the film does an admirable job of sticking to its premise. Unfortunately, other problems with Jumper keep this film entrenched in mediocrity.
In a lot of ways, Jumper feels like a half of a movie. The story starts nicely enough, as we see the fifteen-year-old David Rice (Hayden Christensen) learn of his teleportation (jumping) powers. After a somewhat plodding development into adulthood, we rejoin the 23-year-old bachelor living an egotistical life of world travel, parties, and self-gratification. And then everything changes in an instant when the Paladins—hunters of Jumpers—locate David in his urban penthouse. The rest of the movie is basically David and his girlfriend (Rachel Bilson) trying to escape the relentless Paladins, led by Roland (Samuel Jackson).
On the surface of things, this might not sound like such a bad movie, and it’s not. The movie had enough thrills to hold my interest. The action, although it gets a bit repetitive, is engaging and decently edited. There are some frantic jump fights amidst some spectacular cinematography. The film’s pace, with the exception of a few plodding spots, keeps moving things along briskly enough. Rachel Bilson helps with some nice eye candy from the female side, and Christensen (a Theo Epstein clone?) is pleasant on the eyes from the male side. The script is unmemorable, but suffices.
But one of the major problems with Jumper is that we simply don’t get enough answers. Why are the Paladins hunting the Jumpers? How do the Jumpers get their powers? Why is David’s mother who she is? I love mysteries in a movie, but you’ve got to give me some bones along the way. Jumper gives us lots of questions but few answers. The movie simply doesn’t build on its premise enough to sustain interest over its 88-minute length. The ending, in particular, leaves everything hanging and concludes nothing. In many ways, this film plays like an excellent pilot for a television series.
They might have gotten away with this secrecy and lack of information if they had created characters that were easy to care about, but David Rice is one amazingly shallow protagonist. In essence, the guy is a thief living a hedonistic life of luxury. In one defining scene David watches a news report of drowning flood victims. The reporter mentions that the people are certainly doomed because no one can get to them. David’s heroic response? He jumps to a London bar, has a one-night stand, and then jumps to go surfing. David’s shallowness has to be intentionally portrayed, but because David stays essentially the same throughout the film, there is little to like about the guy. The rest of the cast is essentially in the same vain. Millie, David’s girlfriend, shows little to endear her to audiences. Griffin, another jumper that meets David, is equally self-contained. In many ways, you get the sense that they’re saving all development for a sequel.
Jumper is quite mediocre in other ways as well. Christensen and Bilson never find any electricity in their love interest. Samuel Jackson acts convincingly, but his role is one-dimensional. On a bright note, Jamie Bell infuses his character with a frazzled, hunted vibe that makes his character the most intriguing in the film.
In the end, however, while the action, pace, and premise of this film are intriguing, the weaknesses with shallow story development and equally shallow characters hold this film down. It’s a shame, really, as this film has ample unrealized potential.
Consistent Premise: 88
Body Count: 15
Time to First Dead Body: Unknown
Special Effects: 77
I took in Jumper over the weekend. I will be posting a review later this week.
One of the big questions I had going into the film was whether they could hold the thing together in light of the film’s interesting yet potentially problematic premise: teleportation. I envisioned a film ridden with plot holes. But I won’t give anything away yet. Tune in later this week for the full Jumper review.
This will be the first 2008 film that I’ll review.
Director: Andrew Adamson
Starring: William Moseley, Georgie Henley, Anna Popplewell, Skandar Keynes, Tilda Swinton, Liam Neeson
Kaboom Review Action Movie Rating: 46
Four children find themselves in a magical land that is imprisoned in winter by an evil witch.
Narnia is a disappointing film. Despite some impressive visual effects, Disney’s influence neuters any sense of realism to the ferocity of the film, the child actors lack force, and the film flows like mud.
At a glance, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe could be a remarkable action film. We’ve got a zoo’s worth of digital creatures filling the story, including a lion for a king and wolves for secret police. The sets are compelling. The story is sufficiently epic. Yet about halfway through this first film of Narnia, I was thoroughly bored. There are too many deadening flaws in this film.
First and foremost, Narnia drags interminably in places. In the film’s defense, I may have been more sensitive to this than others, because I had read the book before seeing the film. In the more important details, the film’s plot stays faithful to the book, so if you’ve read the book, you know what’s going to happen. And part of the problem is that the producers turned a short novel into a two-hour and fifteen-minute movie. There’s just not enough meat in the story to sustain this length of film.
But even with this in mind, Narnia lacks any sense of velocity and pace. Much of the sluggishness stems from scenes that simply go on a few seconds too long. I found myself waiting for the next scene, waiting for something to happen. This film would have been much better with crisp editing that lopped off 20% of the footage. By the halfway point, I was waiting for the damn thing to end.
And then we get to the acting. I’ve commented in other reviews how risky it is to have children attempt to carry an action film. While Narnia never totally flies into the crapper because of its young cast, the major actors lack punch and conviction. Their rawness reminds you again and again that you are watching a film, and it holds you back from any sense of immersion in the story.
The film’s Disney-esque action and violence adds more bricks to the wall that prevents viewer immersion. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the conclusion of the film: Narnia culminates in a long battle in which not a drop of blood is spilled. Now, I’m a big fan of escapist action, but Narnia takes this to a new level. I felt like I was watching and entire cast “play” war. On top of this, the action for the most part is generically choreographed. With the exception of a handful of fast, powerful sequences, the action is static and lifeless. Toss in the children actors and you’re left with a final confrontation that looks fake and has the emotional impact of a dress rehearsal. The shame of this is that the digitally created Minotaurs, Cyclops, and aerial creatures look fantastic. Aslan, the lion king, is a work of art. Used properly, these creatures could easily have created a memorable climax to the movie.
In other areas, the film is decidedly mediocre. The script works well enough, but contains nothing particularly memorable of moving. The White Witch makes for a potentially strong villain, but Tilda Swinton never quite convinced me of her utterly evil nature: perhaps we can blame this on a softening Disney influence as well?
As for babes and hunks ratings, Tilda Swinton has good enough looks and gets enough of an evil vibe going to get the film some points on the babe scale. From the hunk perspective, there are a few centaurs that turn heads, but it’s not a good sign when the hottest males in your film are half horse.
In conclusion, Narnia is a disappointing film. Despite some impressive visual effects, Disney’s influence neuters any sense of realism to the ferocity of the film, the child actors lack force, and the film flows like mud.
No real lions were used in the film.
Consistent Premise: 78
Body Count: 39
Time to First Dead Body: 1 hours, 26 minutes
Special Effects: 60
I was finally able to slow life down enough to watch The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, which had been sitting in its red Netflix envelope for over two weeks. I’ll be posting this review on Tuesday.