So I went with the missus to see Jumper over the weekend, as I was flat-out unwilling to see Fool's Gold. (And everyone she told about my unwillingness chimed in with a "It got half-a-star in the Post," even the waitress at lunch. Which irked her.) I knew that the reviews weren't great for Jumper either, but I can sit through a mediocre sci-fi movie way more easily than I can a mediocre romantic comedy.
The biggest problem with Jumper wasn't that it was bad. (Which it was. It's as if Doug Liman thought that the last 30 minutes of Mr. and Mrs. Smith—where he gives up any pretense of caring about story and proceeds to simply blow shit up—was the best part, and decided to make a whole movie like that.) No, the problem was that I could see all the pieces, all the building blocks for a good movie, just sitting there...wasted.
To break it down (and FROM HERE ON OUT, THERE BE SPOILERS): There are people who can teleport, called jumpers. There are people who, for reasons unknown, want to stop them, called Paladins. Our main character, David (Hayden Christensen), robs banks by jumping in, snatching a bunch of cash, and jumping out. No higher purpose than the amassing of money, so he can buy shit—he's the enabled slacker. He's also a bit of a douchebag. Meets girl he had a crush on in high school, but keeps his big secret. Which blows up in his face as Big Bad Paladin (Samuel L. Jackson) follows them on their trip to Rome and gets electro-sticky with it. Meets fellow jumper (Billy Elliot), who hunts Paladins for fun and profit. Big fights, lots of jumping, roll credits. Oh, and David remains a douchebag; he never pays for his crimes and gets the girl anyway. Lesson unlearned. Oh, and he finds his absentee mother, who is also a Paladin, and left the family to protect him...because she loves him.
As we're leaving the theater, I just couldn't help but think how it could all have been so much better. Here's my infinitely better Jumper (or, if not "infinitely better," has the virtue of both having an internal logic and not sucking):
The Paladins—who've been hunting jumpers for (according to the film) centuries—finally have a secret weapon: one of their own has just given birth to a jumper. Once they discover his ability, he's pulled from his suburban life, and the beginnings of a relationship with a high school girl, and they train him. He is to infiltrate the loose society of jumpers around the world and, eventually, lead the Paladins to their quarry.
So, David goes undercover. He's set up in a series of ever-more-lavish flats all over the world so that he looks the part. Jumps all over the place, leaving enough jump-scars (momentarily visible rifts in the space-time continuum) so that any fellow jumper could follow him. David believes he's bringing these people in for the greater good. He was raised to believe as much. He was also told that the captured jumpers are given a cure for their condition—an amped-up pacemaker that would disrupt their ability—and released back into the public. What he doesn't know is that the jumpers are all killed; the cure is a bullet to the head.
Confused, David returns to his childhood home to find his father, who he hasn't seen in a decade. He learns that pops was killed—in a manner that reveals Paladin involvement. He reconnects with the girl he left behind, they share a little something, and she grounds him enough to realize that the life he's led has been wrong, and he's gotta do something about it. He's the only one who can.
He assembles a small group of jumpers, reveals who he is, and convinces them to band together for an assault on the Paladin headquarters, and bring them down. Big explodo ending, the bad guys are shut down, the good guy gets his girl, and the jumpers are told to change their larcenous ways. Because, despite the destruction of the Paladin HQ, there is one Paladin left and he's the most dangerous of all: David. And, for him, anywhere is possible.
Sweet Jesus, was that so hard?