The Bourne Identity was easily one of the best action films of the last decade or so. Doug Liman, director of the indie flick Go, burst into the action movie scene with a film that not only kicked arse, but was a step ahead of its competitors as a consequence of its pretty solid grounding in reality. Alas, since then, his films have become more comic booky – and I mean this in the degrading sense of any person who makes high/low art distinctions. Mr. & Mrs. Smith was entertaining but lacked substance, and it’s the same story with Jumper.
This film has two things in particular in its favour. Firstly, it stands out from other superhero movies by only including one super-power. This means that the writers were free to explore a single idea (teleportation) to the nth degree – something you’d only witness if you were a regular reader of a particular comic, and stuck with a superhero through years of issues and multiple writers. Without fail, creators of superhero sequels feel the need to escalate the action quotient, and we usually end up with messes like X Men: The Final Stand, which had scores of super-powered moments, none of which were worthwhile.
Secondly, Jumper features a superhero who obviously didn’t listen to Uncle Ben. David Rice (Hayden Christensen) doesn’t seem to realise that ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. After the origin story we see that he basically does all the stuff us mere mortals dream of when reading comics. This basically means using his power to rob banks and go globetrotting. He even teleports thirty centimetres rather than lean over to reach the remote control. This lack of moral fibre makes for an interesting narrative.
Unfortunately, once the shit starts to hit the fan, Jumper becomes more and more mundane. The budget doesn’t seem able to match the increasing magnitude of the action scenes, so that by the end the special effects are truly awful. The plot also seems to unravel, getting stuck in third gear when it really should be powering down the freeway.
Hayden Christensen has proven that he has acting chops when George Lucas isn’t present, and here he does what he can with a fairly sparse screenplay. Love interest Rachel Bilson (Millie) is unfortunately out-performed by AnnaSophia Robb of Bridge to Terabithia fame, who plays her younger incarnation. Billy Elliot himself, Jamie Bell, has the most fun, however he’s given some pretty poor punch lines. Samuel L. Jackson’s talent is wasted (a fairly common occurrence), as he’s given only a single line of (repeated) dialogue as the rationale for his rather extreme vendetta.
The film feels a lot like Liman had hoped to start another franchise, but as a consequence the resolutions are lightweight and unconvincing. Diane Lane is present, though surely only because she was promised a meatier role in any sequels.
Jumper is a good enough use of 90 minutes, but is let down by an increasingly lazy script (not to mention redundant voice over) and rushed special effects.Rating: