Doug Liman has done it again: he's made a worthwhile but unspectacular action movie. Jumper, about a young man with teleportation abilities, is a fun, mindless sci-fi thriller that never ceases to entertain but constantly begs the question, Why couldn't it have been better?
Jumper stars Hayden Christensen as David Rice, a young man who can teleport to any place in the world in the blink of an eye, as long as he can picture his destination in his head. After running away from his deadbeat father while still in grade school, David has grown to accept a life of riches and carelessness, as he uses his abilities to rob banks. He spends his days traveling to different parts of the globe, experiencing new cultures and meeting beautiful women. Then, one day, a man named Rowland (Samuel L. Jackson) shows up, determined to kill David for his "actions without consequences." David suddenly finds himself on the run from an international organization devoted to killing "jumpers" like him.
The movie is fun, and should appeal to most sci-fi fans (and comic book fans). Its visual effects are pretty good, though I've heard some critics complain about the very ones I'm giving props to. The action is decent enough, with a few fairly elaborate sequences that take advantage of exotic locations and quick cuts. More than anything, the concept is top notch; it's really an idea with so many possibilities to explore. And that's where Jumper goes awry...
My complaints are going to outweigh my praises, but keep in mind that it's simply easier to criticize a film than to embellish on its qualities. Jumper is an enjoyable movie, but at the same time it wastes so much potential it's almost a travesty.
For starters, the movie begins with a narrated segment with Christensen sitting atop the Great Sphinx. It's a minute-long segment, but a terrible one. Movies should rarely begin with narrations, especially mindless thrillers like this; if Liman had lopped off this first minute and instead started out with a young David in middle school, it would have made a much better first impression. Anyway, once the narration is over, the movie kicks into high gear with a well done sequence with David falling through the ice, and picks up its pace from there.
I have three specific issues regarding the plot, none of which kill the film but are still head scratchers nonetheless. The first, why, after David learns that he is being hunted, does he travel back home to visit his childhood sweetheart, Millie (Rachel Bilson)? You'd think that if you'd learn someone was trying to kill you that you 1) wouldn't return home to a place the person could potentially track you and 2) involve the love of your life in a death plot? Perhaps this is supposed to play into David's carelessness, but I don't think that was the intention. Of course, one wonders why Millie would run off to Rome with David after assuming him dead for six years, and presumably not being great friends with him beforehand. Also, why doesn't the film make a joke about the fact that David isn't used to flying on airplanes and sitting in one place for ten hours?
Second, the quarrel between David and Griffin (Jamie Bell), another jumper, just doesn't make much sense. Most of the final action sequence is about David and Griffin duking it out, but while watching it I never got the impression that this was meant to be anything more than special effects. When David leaves Griffin trapped in a bunch of electric coils in war torn Chechnya, I suddenly realizes that Liman was taking the fight seriously. Under attack by a common enemy, it didn't make sense to me why these two would end up at each other's throats.
Third, the entire third act just feels rushed. It's as if the screenwriters had this great premise, but had no idea how to write a quality plot to fit within its bounds. The ending isn't just a bunch of special effects, but it just as well could have been; there's nothing particularly interesting or unique about it. Furthermore, the follow-up scene involving David's mother seems out of place and anticlimactic; the movie alludes to bigger things, but then never delivers on them. Liman was clearly going for a sequel, but that's not a good way to approach a story.
All that being said, Jumper still works on an entertainment level. If you're willing to get over the plot holes and ignore the film's lost chances to really do something great, you'll have fun with this movie. Hayden Christensen, who a lot of people hate for his work in the Star Wars movies, isn't all that bad, and I'd argue with anyone who calls him the next Paul Walker. For the type of movie this is, Christensen is a pretty good choice to headline.
Jumper has a great concept and some action to back it up; however, a little more depth to the plot and characters could have gone a long way to make this a summer blockbuster rather than a B-grade winter hit. Still, recommended for fans who want some mindless excitement.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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