Based on Steven Gould’s novel of the same name, “Jumper” (Doug Liman) delves into the life of a young man whose super-human capabilities afford him the greatest convenience and burden. David Rice’s mother (Diane Lane) left him under the oppressive care of his father (Michael Rooker) when David was five years old. At age fifteen, David (Max Thieriot from “Nancy Drew”) discovers he possesses the physics-defying ability to jump from one place to another after an incident where he nearly drowned while retrieving from a lake a snow globe present for his friend Millie (AnnaSophia Robb from “Bridge to Terabithia”). One second he’s submerged in the icy water and the next he is in the Ann Arbor Public Library. Not wanting to waste time or squander this newly found talent, David flees to New York City in search of a father-free existence. Eight years later, grownup David (Hayden Christensen), has applied his method of transportation to support his extravagant, globe-trotting lifestyle.
Unfortunately, while not meaning any harm, David quickly learns that he should have considered the consequences of his choices. One cannot successfully steal money from banks forever; somebody is bound to get suspicious and know exactly how the crime was committed. This somebody is Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), head honcho of the Paladins, a group of assassins determined to hunt down and exterminate every Jumper. Upon encountering Roland for the first time, David’s jumping talent shifts into overdrive as he simultaneously sight-sees in Rome with his childhood crush Millie (Rachel Bilson), eludes the Paladins, and partners up with another Jumper named Griffin (Jamie Bell) to stop their killers.
The trailers for “Jumper” I saw in theatres presented a premise that I knew would benefit from computer-generated visual effects, but it was actually all the promos and replay graphics from Fox’s NFL and Bowl Games broadcasts that convinced me to watch the film. It’s a grab-bag of high points and low points. The concept of teleportation is brought to visually tantalizing life in Doug Liman’s film. I could almost forget about the delights of flight (a la “Superman”), telekinesis (like “Carrie”), and pyrokinesis (“Firestarter”). Being able to participate in “space-travel,” or essentially real-time elliptical editing, as the film depicts is mind-boggling fun. You’d even get a sound effect—a combination of thud,thunk, and whoosh.
Hayden Christensen narrates occasionally and his non-emotive acting isn’t as bothersome as I had expected because the plot privileges spectacle and suspense over heart-wrenching monologues on his part. His manner of speaking isn’t as strong of a distraction in “Jumper” as it was in the second “Star Wars” prequel. In contrast, Jamie Bell steals the show with a charisma that knows no expiration date. Rachel Bilson performs solidly. Just when I think she should stop asking questions and do as David tells her, the way she resists him begins to make sense (you’d behave as she does if you were in her shoes). Samuel L. Jackson is mean enough as the villain; I just can’t help but think of “Unbreakable”.
The major weakness in “Jumper” is the piling on of action and narrative in the last ten to twelve minutes. It’s as though the editor was rushing to meet a deadline and did the best he could with too much footage. Moreover, as nifty as the jumping tricks are in the last few sequences, couldn’t they have been incorporated into earlier parts of the film?
The ending doesn’t blaze a neon-lit “sequel” sign, but it definitely lets the chimes ring “to be continued.” Given the amount of the information that is addressed and introduced (David’s mother) as well as referenced but unanswered (narrative and thematic significance of the Ann Arbor public library) in the final scene, you’re going to need a “Jumper Two.”