Posted by: kfugrip | February 21, 2008

When bad movies aren’t so bad

The easiest way describe the film I’m about to write about is to state a simple fact: Jamie Bell = good actor, Hayden Christensen = bad actor.

I’m talking about Jumper, directed by Doug Liman, about a world where some people can teleport anywhere they have seen and another group, Paladins, hunt them down and kill them because they are an abomination of God. Davy (Hayden Christensen) is a young jumper who has just been introduced to the war between jumpers and paladins, a war that goes back into the middle ages (inquisition if you didn’t guess), by Roland (Samuel L. Jackson) and during his adventures he involves his high school crush Millie (Rachel Bilson) and meets Griffin (Jamie Bell), a jumper who hunts paladins. It seems like a lot to digest but the information is spooned out over the course of the first two acts. If you like science fiction then this type of introduction to characters and setting will be easier to assimilate.

What I liked: I have vowed to watch more Hollywood blockbusters (regardless of poor reviews and genre) this year in an effort to understand what I do and don’t like about them. Jumper is an excellent example and a great movie for me to see. The reviews are terrible, so my expectations were really low going in but the concept is appealing. I liked a lot of the ideas that were present in the movie. I watched one review (here) where they were questioning the rules associated with the jumper’s abilities along with many other aspects of the story. I can see where they were coming from but there seemed to be an internal logic to them, which would be too boring to describe, and I applaud Liman for choosing not to explain that bit of logic. He should have concentrated on other things however.

Jamie Bell, as Griffin, was my favorite part of the film. He had little to work with but comparing a simple line delivery of Bell‘s and Christensen‘s and you can see why I lead off with my observations. Bell has a natural manner and an energy that matches perfectly with the character. Though there is a lot of posturing going on with Griffin, Bell portrays more levels beneath the exterior and brings more life to the character than Christensen can in the entire film.

The action sequences, when they were understandable, were exciting. They were also well integrated into the story. Often I find that action sequences stick out from the rest of the story but I felt like jumper’s flowed with the story. It is a story that I was involved in and it kept me in my seat in spite of my need to urinate. That’s a feat.

Also there is a Marvel Team-Up reference which appeals to the comic fan (re: geek) in me.

What I didn’t like: Besides hating Hayden Christensen and his wooden approach to the character I thought that Samuel L. Jackson was grossly miscast. He plays the badass paladin Roland and because of Jackson‘s trademark coiled-spring/bad-motherfucker acting style we lose the religious fervor that should surround the paladins. These are people who kill jumpers simply for being able to jump. They do it for God. I think that’s a great idea but Jackson plays too much of the anger in most of the scenes. As written the character should be holy and the hunting and killing of jumpers should be a religious act. In this movie it’s not and it has everything to do with Jackson.

SPOILER ALERT

Diane Lane, as Davy’s mother, was supposed to be a big reveal but anyone who didn’t get that she would be involved as either a paladin or a jumper is an idiot. I could see it a mile off. What is she doing in this movie? This is like an episode of Law and Order where a famous actor is in the episode so you know he (or she) is going to be the murderer*. Ditto for Lane in Jumper. I suppose it’s possible that she would have been the standard, Hollywood, throw-away female, but here she is set up to be in the sequel.

The action sequences have a tendency to get so kinetic and so cute with the multiple famous locations that it becomes uninteresting after the second time. I realize that if I were in a fight (and I’ve been in quite a few) that it’s difficult to tell what is going on but as an audience do we have to spend the entire fight in that state? Don’t we get the idea after one fight? In this case I felt that Liman‘s kinetic style, which worked so well in The Bourne Identity, did a disservice to how interesting a fight between two people who teleport can be.

Christensen is the real failure of this film. I will go on record as someone who thinks that action stars can have acting chops and should. So, I’m not a fan of the Keanu Reeves school of casting where you get an attractive lead who can barely read a line and stick him in every scene of the film. Christensen‘s performance is so wooden that it becomes distracting. Listen to the voice over in the beginning of the film. It sounds like he is reading from a teleprompter. It’s flat and uninteresting. It’s not underplaying if you can’t convey the emotion. There is a scene where his girlfriend now hates him (I’m paraphrasing) and she wants to be left alone. There is a beat (maybe two beats) where he’s supposed to tell the story by emoting. Instead he avoids her gaze and purses his lips before uttering a nonsensical line. Acting is part of storytelling and even in Hollywood action movies you need to be able to act.

Going back to the voice over at the opening of the film for a moment, it’s poorly done. You can’t have voice over in the opening ten minutes and not have it in the rest of the film. That is lazy filmmaking. Also, when you have voice over from the lead actor the film should be from his point of view. That would mean that there is never a scene where he isn’t present because in theory the film is taking place in his head. In this film there are a number of scenes where we are with Roland and Davy is nowhere to be found. That is a broken bit of filmmaking and I found it very distracting.

Last, the ending. The scene with Diane Lane and Davy’s confrontation with her. It felt tacked on and it repeated things we already knew. Why couldn’t this information have been delivered during the film? It was a needless epilogue with only one good line.

In conclusion the film is flawed and stumbles over itself more than once but when compared with similar action/sci-fi pictures it wasn’t so bad. I chalk this rating up to low expectations.

3 stars

jumper-movie-poster.jpg

*Kelly turned me onto this idea.
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Responses

  1. I know you give your reason in the review, but WHY would you see this movie? Seriously.

  2. Good review, though.

  3. It is a good review, but man I can’t believe you’re giving this 3 stars. It looks terrible. And boy do I hate Hayden Christensen…ugh.

  4. I enjoy the science-fiction genre and have asked you to review more of them. I feel like I could have written a similiar review from seeing the unending the previews of this movie shown during football games.

    Seems like a cool idea for a movie.

    In a way Im glad youre reviewing more mainstream movies, but Ill be honest, I kinda rely on you and the Charles Theatre here in Baltimore as a guide to what I really should be watching. Just throwing this out there, maybe do a simple preview list of flicks youre planning on seeing, or a blind recommendation section.

    Im still waiting on reviews of Nightwatch and Daywatch.

  5. Excuuuuse me. Action movies have changed markedly TWICE because of Keanu Reeves. Maybe three times. He changed the entire sci-fi genre, and if you piddle-poo him as a lucky guy, I’ll laugh in your face. He’s a cutting edge performer whose style is not to everyone’s taste (usually virile men who are threatened by his looks) but is not only accepted but loved by uber millions. It’s very trite to use him as the yardstick for bad acting. It’s like you don’t even watch him. You watch what your mind has been programmed to see. This is the reason most people can’t draw.. their minds won’t let go of preconceived ideas of how things are supposed to look so they can’t transfer reality to a piece of paper.

    Watch Keanu in The Last Time I committed Suicide, The Gift, Devil’s Advocate and A Scanner Darkly. Try to think for yourself, mK?

  6. Joshephina:

    Gotta disagree with you on this one and side with The Stallion. Keanu is likable enough and attractive enough in a way, which is why he is a “hollywood star” but he is NOT a good actor. I have seen all those “good” performances you listed and probably dozens more (River’s Edge, Dangerous Liaisons, Parenthood, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure; Point Break; My Own Private Idaho; Dracula; Much Ado About Nothing; Even Cowgirls Get the Blues; Little Buddha; Johnny Mnemonic; Feeling Minnesota; Chain Reaction; The Matrix; The Replacements; to name a few) and cannot think of one truly good performance. He is enjoyable enough in Speed and Point Break because they are “those kind of films” where an actor’s performance doesn’t necessarily break the movie, but a good actor, really? C’mon. His few acceptable performances to me have been where he has been a sideline character that was able to slip in and out without destroying the film in the process, I think he was the best I’ve ever seen him in The Gift, but by no means does that mean I think he’s a good actor because of one adequate performance in a sea of many terrible ones. And Devil’s Advocate? Whew. That performance is just horrible…I would list that as one of his worst performances of all time. Forgetting the fact that he slips in and out of his accent every two minutes…it is by far one of his most stilted performances.

    Also, how is it that Keanu Reeves has changed the action genre markedly TWICE (maybe three times)? Because he starred in the Matrix? This is the only thing I can assume you are referring to…but are you saying that without Reeves starring this film would not have been so revolutionary? If this is the case, I completely disagree. Put almost anyone young, talented, and attractive in there and that movie still would have been “revolutionary” so to speak. I’m not sure what other action movie changes you might be speaking of, but I still can’t think of anything significant that wouldn’t haven’t been equal or better without Reeves in the role.

    Also, as a sidenote, though The Stallion obviously doesn’t need my defending…he IS actually an artist, quite a good one in fact, which kind of blows the whole “reason people can’t draw” analogy bizarrely out of the water. He is also pretty much the definition of a person that thinks for himself…all the time… sometimes to an aggravating degree.

    Did you even read any of the other reviews on here? Did you see what this blog was about before you started calling him out as a sheep? Just the movie choices he generally makes are of the “think for yourself” variety.

    Second Sidenote: Why have I seen so many fucking Keanu Reeves movies? *sigh*

  7. Dear Joshephina,

    Thank you for reading my blog and commenting. Like a local band, it’s nice to see that people who aren’t my immediate friends are reading and interested.

    As for Keanu Reeves. I’ve seen The Gift, Devil’s Advocate, and A Scanner Darkly as well as many of his other films. Does that qualify me to talk about his ability to act? How about this? When in film school one of my professors was Hank Moonjean. Hank was a producer of Dangerous Liaisons (great movie) and he told a detailed story about how Keanu Reeves couldn’t get to the correct place emotionally in the scene where his character kills John Malkovich’s character. Reeves’ character should have been upset in the scene and crying but he couldn’t do it. He was unable to get to that place emotionally even while acting with a fantastic performer in Malkovich. Watch that movie, watch that scene in particular, then attempt to explain how Reeves is a “cutting edge performer”.

    Joshephine, the only reason I’ve taken umbrage with your defense of Reeves is that you’ve accused me of being programmed to see that Reeves is a terrible actor insinuating that my opinion isn’t legitimate. Read my blog. I don’t follow the shepherd when it comes to my opinion of art, storytelling and film. I don’t attack you for your opinion. That is the sign of a weak argument when you have to attack the other debater in order to make a point.

    I am no more threatened by Reeves’ good looks than I am by his mode of dress. I don’t care about how attractive someone is unless they are unattractive playing a part that is supposed to be attractive (like the role of Evelyn Mulwray in Chinatown. in the script she is described as beautiful. the actress playing her has to be beautiful… which Faye Dunaway is) otherwise who cares. Sure there are people out there who don’t like Reeves because he is an attractive guy who gets cast in tons of movies but those people are ignorant. I’m in agreement with any attack you would make on people who make their decisions like that but I’m not one of those ignorant people. I know what I’m talking about. I hope you stick around are read more.

    Also, excellent use of piddle-poo. 🙂

  8. To Keanu or not to Keanu. That, is the question.

    I was about 3 sentences away from finishing Josephina’s reply, when I realized that she provided the literary equivalent of performing the “Gas Fight” scene from “Zoolander”, by bringing up Keanu Reeves to The Dude.

    For the record, “The Devil’s Advocate” is one of my favorite rainy-day-what’s-on-tv movies. I’d never own it, but I’ll quote the living shit out of it, simply because it was overacted to poorly, it’s comical to the trained thespian. Or the trained lesbian. Or the trained circus seal.

    I have to go piddle my poo now.

  9. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Keeanu Reeves!

  10. Piddly poo indeed!

    Keanu Reeves changes the game like a 3 dollar pistol can be used in a murder. Could Keanu Reeves be used to kill a scene, sure, but would you use a $3 pistol to kill a mother fucker? Not if you wanted to make a statement.

    Dont front and act like theyre arent .45 Desert Eagles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFJjaj7pXsA&NR=1) that could do the job and make twice the statement (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqryBfWxP6A).

    ESPECIALLY in A SCANNER DARKLEY, which I just watched on the BluRay today. How much better would that have been with Viggo Mortensen or Hugh Jackman as lead?

    By the way, that movie is animated and the only redeeming part of that movie is Wynona Rider’s animated titties. Big ups AND respect.

    Keeanu nails his parts here and there, Bill and Ted’s and Speed, but you really wrote a post defending the acting chops of Keeanu Reeves?

    Are you Momma Reeves?

  11. Also, Joshephina, its cool my man is getting some attention from people outside his group of friends. If Keeanu is your boy stick up for him. Were more than happy to tear him down for you.

    That being said, youre allowed to like what you like, even if a bad actor is your nephew.

  12. Man, does this blog come with a two drink minimum? Man.

  13. I love watching Keanu.

    It gives all of us unknown and unskilled actors hope that there might be a place in Hollywood for us.

  14. Nice positive spin, Scott.

  15. Dude, when Keanu Reeves checks his RSS reader and reads all about this, he’s going to cry. You bastards!

    Meh. He’s completely forgettable as an actor, despite the blockbuster films.

  16. Nice use of “Meh”.


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