There’s every reason to have high hopes going into this. Director Doug Liman’s form is sound – from Swingers to The Bourne Identity, he has produced mature, suave flicks that sit well in the mainstream. After tackling action, a bit more shouldn’t pose too many problems.
Jumper introduces us to teen loser David (Christensen), who discovers he has the hidden ability to teleport after a near-fatal drowning incident. Deciding to use this power to rob a bank, it enables him to flee his humdrum life and ultimately engineer a reunion with his childhood sweetheart Millie (Bilson). But his little secret isn’t so secret, as fellow “Jumper” Griffin (Bell) and a shadowy operative (Jackson) drag him into a deadly battle that has raged for centuries.
Based on a young adult novel by Stephen Gould, Jumper falls victim to the trap that ensnared the Wachowski’s Speed Racer and one that Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids dodged – overestimating the target audience and pitching the marketing too high. Liman’s demographic is quite savvy, but the material he’s working with here is resolutely juvenile. Jumper’s notion of liberation is a pre-pubescent one – it wouldn’t have been a surprise for David to teleport into a girls’ changing room after robbing a bank. And any moral balance is handled with boxing gloves.
Having Christensen in the lead role doesn’t help matters. Carrying over the sullen feckless Anakin vibe sustains the emotional retardation and floors proceedings. Jeez, I partially blamed his role in the Star Wars Prequels on George Lucas’ long-noted inability to coax performances from actors – but nope, he is that limited. It even seems that this malaise has stretched to big Sam Jackson, here he appears bored and unmotivated, when the film cried out for an engaging bad guy to balance Christensen’s anaemia.
So trumpets and whistles for Jamie Bell then, for emerging from this with his rep intact, if not enhanced. Sparky, human and full of beans, he’s the only source of any personality, even on the featurettes, where his e-numbered-up banter stands apart from the default Hollywood Stepford mode.
In the extras, Liman refers to Jumper as an indie in Hollywood clothing, but I’m struggling to find anything edgy or left-field. The cinematography showcases the global location shoots perfectly, but everything else is lumpy. The script feels like it was written in felt tips – it’s all outlines and no colouring in. The lead character is a selfish crook, yet by the end we’re supposed to believe he’s made of nobler stuff, with no evidence of it whatsoever and the reasoning behind Jackson’s Jumper hunter’s crusade of destruction is negligible and laughable; the plot could be covered in one paragraph of Cinematic Clichés For Dummies. Even the teleportation FX looks like it was swiped from a Jamiroquai video.
This is surely a glitch for Liman. Mr And Mrs Smith proved he can do bubblegum and his skills won’t have left him overnight. I’m blaming the material. You know what they say: "You can build the Eiffel Tower out of a piece of s***…"
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Samuel L Jackson, Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson
Directed by: Doug Liman
Extras: featurettes. Commentary from Liman and the film’s producers. Deleted scenes. Graphic novel. Blu-ray features a bonus picture-in-picture function.