The biggest problem with Doug Liman’s new action film Jumper is that, well, it’s boring. There’s not enough action in it to keep the plot moving and not enough drama to really engage the viewer. Ultimately, it feels like an engine misfiring on three out of four cylinders – you can feel the power there, but it’s just not getting through.
The story is easily digestible and doesn’t tax the brain too much. David Rice (Hayden Christensen), the class wimp, discovers he has the power to teleport himself to anyplace he’s seen and so, at fifteen, he quits school and uses this new found ability to rob banks and generally live the life of an international bon vivant. When a shadow law enforcement agency, in the form of Roland (a white haired Samuel L. Jackson) suddenly shows up, knowing about David’s strange power, things start to unravel. He thinks the best course of action is to go home to Detroit, find his high school crush Millie (Rachel Bilson) and jet off to Rome. No, this doesn’t make much sense to me either.
In Rome, about a third of the way through the film, we are introduced to Griffin (Jamie Bell), another Jumper, and the action picks up slightly. Through him we get a bit of a back story – Jumpers have been around for centuries and they’ve always been chased by Paladins (Roland’s group) who are trying to kill them. Nothing more is ever said about what causes this mutation, how it’s passed from generation to generation or how the Jumpers are found. The only quasi-explanation we get for a centuries-old battle (which is rife with story potential) is that Roland thinks there are no good Jumpers, that eventually they go bad and hurt people. Unfortunately, the script by David S. Goyer, Jim Uhls, and Simon Kinberg doesn’t support this thought process. At best, we see David ignore a situation in which he could have helped someone, but he’s never malicious in his actions. In fact, he leaves I.O.U. notes at the banks he robs. He’s not a bad guy, just naive. But then, if you had the power he has, you might take advantage of it as well.
And this is where the film falls apart. Instead of giving us a shaded, nuanced portrayal of a man with too much power, Liman and his writers try and give us an action film. But then, the action is sidelined by futile attempts at character development. They needed to pick one direction and go full throttle. Either one would work, but the two in combination are like oil and water, never blending successfully. Add in to this mix wooden performances by all the leads with the exception of Jamie Bell, and you’re left with a mess worthy of Joel Schumacher. We’re given plot contrivances in place of story development, characters who act in ways no sane individual would act (when David shows up after an 8 year absence, Millie never asks a single question about his time away, but immediately gets on a plane with him to another country) and effects which get tiring after the ninth time they’re used.
And, because it needs to be said, Jumper opens with a narration, which, I suppose, is used to set the scene. It doesn’t work. Then, since this seems to be the trend, the narration device gets dropped completely. This kind of thing never works in the best of situations and this is hardly the best. When all is said and done, Jumper has some talented people doing mediocre work. And it really jumps out.
(originally published at FirstShowing.net)