Every once in a while I still come across a movie that I have to make a decision on whether or not it falls into my criteria of a superhero movie. Sometimes, like with the film the Destructor, it falls just outside of that criteria for one reason or another. Other times, like in this case, it falls just inside. This is a film about kids with super powers, set in the real world in the current era, and it’s hard to think of another actor that could be a more theatrical villain than Samuel L. Jackson with stark white hair leading a group called “paladins”. There aren’t any costumes or alter egos, and it was based on a novel rather than a comic book, but I think there’s enough here for me to go on. Replace jumping with telekinesis and you’ve got Chronicle which very few people argue against it being a superhero movie. But as for the actual quality of the film itself, it stars a post-Episode III Hayden Christensen as a rather bland character, but at least the film does have quite a bit of fun with the teleportation concept.
What would you do if you could teleport anywhere you’ve been to before? That question becomes just a little bit more difficult once you add that caveat to it. If you could go anywhere with no limits, then all sorts of places spring to mind. But when you have to get there on your own first before you can go back to it instantaneously, then it becomes a little bit trickier. Luckily, this film does skip past that one caveat with a convenient jump in time and the explanation of visiting a local bank vault that will eventually fund any initial globetrotting destinations before we get to see a well traveled Christensen living the high life and treating teleportation as a convenience more than a responsibility. Why take that extra step over to the remote control when you can just teleport yourself there?
It’s questions like these that could make this film quite fascinating if it were to play out on its own, but that would ultimately be a little too boring, so of course there has to be a bit more of a conspiracy to back things up along with a rekindled teenage love story that both get in the way of exploring what is really happening and instead give us some casual post-teen romance and some admittedly cool teleport-driven fight scenes. Granted, there’s not anything that quite rivals the White House scene in X2, but it does offer a slightly lower quality in return for a much greater quantity. Vehicles are used as weapons, and they will jump from place to place within a fight scene effortlessly and without the telltale cloud of smoke. It also adds in a nice little addition with the “jump scar” or the trace of the wormhole that allows other jumpers as well as the paladins (with some extra effort and technology) to follow even if they don’t know where exactly they are going.
One of the downsides of the film does come with the acting and overall plot. The requisite love story generally falls flat and neither Christensen or Rachel Bilson have very fleshed out characters. Christensen was the quiet kid who got picked on, then disappeared and returned as an overly confident douchebag who has seemingly changed in every single way and yet Bilson still falls for him because he takes her to the Colosseum. For Jackson’s part, he plays the mysterious paladin who is killing these jumpers simply because he believes they shouldn’t exist. There’s also an added twist where Christensen finds out that his mom who left him at age five was also a paladin herself, but that doesn’t really add anything to the overall plot or to the character. It merely adds an extra wrinkle that didn’t really need to be there in the first place.
We also have Jaime Bell playing another more experienced jumper who has killed his fair share of paladins and is on the hunt for more. He’s more of the amped up, comic relief character who isn’t entirely bad, but like most jumpers that we see, he uses his abilities for selfish reasons. Jackson’s character at one point says that all jumpers go bad at some point, and while we really only get to see two of them, that does hold true for both of those characters. But it doesn’t really get the chance to explore that statement. Just because he says it, and Christensen refutes it, we never really get to see Christensen do any good. The best thing that he does is not kill Jackson when he had the chance, though he likely did cause the deaths of the other paladins that were in the room with them at the time, and he never really seems repentant about all the banks that he’s stolen from. It’s really a mixed message that doesn’t get resolved in this movie and that’s a problem. Similar to other movies of this ilk, notably Surrogates, it takes this interesting sci-fi concept, adds some flashy action beats to it, but dumbs it down to its basest levels in order to try and please the audience. And based on the box office numbers, it doesn’t even do that. The look of the jumping is one of the best parts of the film, and while it does occasionally use the money-saving trick where it sets up the jumping via a great looking visual effect, but repeat uses take place off-camera with only the sound effect, it doesn’t rely on that technique and does give us plenty of jumping effects throughout the entire course of the film. Once again, it’s just a shame that it takes this great concept and isn’t allowed to run with it as far as it could go, instead it trips and falls short with a mediocre, but still enjoyable, action flick. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.