Eye For Film >> Movies >> Jumper (2008) Film Review
Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths
If there’s one thing sci-fi thriller Jumper’s got, aside from a title open to all manner of knitwear punning, it’s pedigree.
Hayden Christensen and Samuel L Jackson return to the genre following their stint in Star Wars, while the British Jamie Bell turns his hand to it for the first time. David S Goyer (Blade, Batman Begins) and Jim Uhls (Fight Club) worked on the screenplay, based on the popular novel by Steven Gould. Effects supervisor Joel Hynek was instrumental in developing the watershed ‘bullet-time’ in The Matrix and director Doug Liman reinvigorated the action film with The Bourne Identity and Mr & Mrs Smith. Knowing there are such proven talents behind Jumper makes it all the more frustratingly disappointing.
This is not a bad film. There’s character investment and development, dazzling and innovative visuals and some striking action scenes, but the component parts don’t mesh together to make a truly satisfying whole. By the end you’re left with the impression everyone is really looking to get into stride in the tee-ed up sequel; here they’re just introducing the franchise mythology.
Christensen plays David Rice, a once shy teenager who discovers he has the ability to teleport himself to wherever he chooses. As long as he can see the place before him, in a photograph or in memory, he can ‘jump’ there instantaneously. It’s the perfect way of escaping his unhappy life with his single parent father. Refreshingly, rather than do-gooding he first robs a bank and then starts seeing the world.
While his adventures cater to teenage fanboy wish-fulfilment, Rice starts attracting the attention of others. First there’s Griffin (Bell), a rebellious worldly-wise fellow ‘jumper’ who opens David’s eyes to a more dangerous world he never knew existed, to the Paladins. The Paladins are members of a secret organisation who have hunted jumpers for centuries, believing them to be a threat to humanity. When the white-haired Roland (Jackson), the chief jumper hunter and slicer, catches on, David’s top of the Paladins' hit list. Then there’s the spiky Millie (Rachel Bilson), his long-time crush from high school whom he’s just decided to rope into his increasingly perilous life.
Jumper necessarily makes a virtue of zipping around the world to exotic locations, such as Cairo, Rome, Paris and rainy old London, with the jumping sometimes a violent, physical process. In filmic terms this is intriguing, as each time Liman is, in effect, visually realising an edit into which the viewer is then viscerally sutured. It’s also an example of great effects work serving rather than grandstanding the story. When Liman then combines sudden and rapid jumping with some exhilarating chase and fight sequences, such as at the ancient Coliseum, the inventiveness for which he is renowned is clear.
Unfortunately, Liman’s camera flights, and playfullness with the fabric of film and not just space-time, are tethered down by the galumphing screenplay. Despite the fact the basic story seems aimed at a comparatively young 12A demographic, the heavy-handed dialogue can feel very ungraceful, regardless of energetic performances from the likes of Bell and Jackson. This might sit less comfortably with more mature viewers who will note the wider themes at play.
Jackson’s Roland is a driven character, dispatching jumpers as he believes they are an abomination, unnatural and an offence to God. The overt religious reasons he brings to the conflict, the ongoing killing, are monolithic in tone. To set him up as the villain in this vein, with scant exploration of his zealous actions, doesn’t provoke so much a debate about the theme, rather questions about how it’s being handled irresponsibly. In comparison, David’s lessons in consequence and personal responsibility are more tame, although they have far less substance or originality than their almost directly quoted source, Spider-Man.
With an ending that deliberately doesn’t wrap up anything significant in anyone’s story arc with any satisfaction, you’re left with all the pieces of a good film, but without anything to tie them to. There’s also a worrying indication of David developing into a saviour-cum-Neo character. Whatever the criticisms of the Matrix trilogy, the Wachowskis at least kicked it off with a superior first film that could stand alone. Disappointingly, despite its winning formula of talent, concept and visual execution, Jumper feels more like a slightly anaemic first instalment.
It’s enough to make you feel a bit crochet-y.Reviewed on: 12 Feb 2008