Though I’m far from considering myself a fan, I’ve always held a singular respect for director Doug Liman. His original Bourne Identity is a meaty and highly serviceable thriller (not to mention the high water mark of an otherwise empty and overrated trilogy), and his Mr. and Mrs. Smith—though no great shakes by any account—a slick and honest (which is to say, blatantly superficial) indulgence in kiss-kiss bang-bang celebrity worship. One can only wonder what has happened in the three years that elapsed between his Brangelina vehicle and his latest feature, the science fiction thiller Jumper—or how big a paycheck he got for a film he obviously held little creative interest in (if he did, pity then, for none of it is apparent on screen). Jumper is the kind of movie that formerly defined the direct-to-video market. It barely interacts with itself, let alone the viewer. As far as falling trees go, even the forest animals wouldn’t pay attention to this one.
The gist: David Rice (Hayden Christensen) has life easy thanks to his ability to “jump” from one place to another—instantaneous teleportation shared by a select few uniquely gifted individuals the world over. How or why this ability works is barely investigated, and though complexities are hinted at (such as the need to establish “jump spots”), they are but petty details the film seems unconcerned with. Someone should have contacted J.K. Rowling. After using his newfound ability to escape from his broken home, David takes to the luxurious life, living in New York but globetrotting daily so as to eat lunch atop the Sphinx before bedding a London hottie in the evening. His extravagance catches up with him, though, in the form of the villainous Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), a particularly zealous member of an unnamed religious organization out to kill the jumpers. “Only God should have this power,” snarls Jackson, but his performance is one disappointingly in sync with the rest of the film, coasting on charm with nary an ion of displaced energy or attempted conviction.
David catches up with his childhood crush and makes unlikely friends with a fellow jumper also on the run from Roland, but Jumper merely drags on as little more than pure exposition granted an inadequate special effects budget, its chases and brawls shot and edited with a spastic anti-rhythm intended more to obscure their lousiness than to create any sense of tension or excitement. Relying less on plot than on constant conflict—a would-be daring quality for an effects feature, here rendered mindless by a lack of visceral or thematic force—Jumper is a film crippled from the start; it isn’t so much a movie as it is a feature length marketing pitch, so lazily assembled and unenthusiastically performed that it could very well be an alternate cut of itself, assembled from takes that were justly consigned to the cutting room floor. It’s so apathetic that it saps one’s impulse to think about the film that might have been. For an example of science fiction action done with style and energy, rent X-Men 2 and watch the teleporting Nightcrawler’s opening attack on the White House. It tops Jumper and then some—and in less than 10 minutes.