The studios have given Doug Liman another franchise to get started off on the right foot. After The Bourne Identity why wouldn’t you? It’s unfortunate that Jumper has a hard time getting up the energy or nerve to even begin lift off. The first strange thing you see is that this comic book movie was based on a book and not a comic book.
It doesn’t begin badly, following a young David Rice as he attempts to woo his childhood sweetheart Millie (any character without a last name you know isn’t going to be developed well) and ends up falling into an icy lake. It’s a frightening moment. The only one in the film, and the only one that we care about what happens to our hero. Luckily this is when he discovers his special powers. Teleportation. What a cool power. He runs away from a horrible home, run by a horrible father (the always wonderful Michael Rooker) and traipses around the world, pulling off the cleverest of bank heists, ones in which he doesn’t have to open the doors to the vaults.
The movie then jumps into the future and our young David Rice has grown up to be Hayden Christiansen. This is the first mistake of the film. I would love to like or at least enjoy Christiansen as an actor (he was Darth Vader after all), but not unlike his time as Anakin Skywalker, he brings zero charisma and that blank look to his portrayal of someone with a great deal of power at his hands. And since the character walks on the dark side of empathy already (apathy folks) Christiansen can’t bring anything to the character to make him even a little bit likeable.
Quickly though he’s discovered by Roland. A Paladin played by a white haired Samuel L. Jackson. And this is where the characters get even more paper thin. What is a Paladin you ask? Why nothing more than a story device that wants to kill all Jumpers. And why? Because they have too much power. Only God was meant to have that kind of power Roland proclaims.
The Paladins are supposed to be a group of religious extremists that were behind the infamous witch hunts of past centuries. The only problem is you don’t see that extremity in their eyes or their voices. They treat their duty as nothing more than a day job. Where’s the gritting of teeth, the intense eyes, the fervor that these villains call for. Where’s that inpassioned trumpeteering that Jackson brought to his bible quoting in Pulp Fiction. Where’s that mystery that follows a secret sect when it has been in existance for centuries. None of this exists. Everything they say or do you realize is nothing more than a reason to give these Jumpers something to fight.
Then before you get to know anything about Roland other than he wants to kill. The movie starts over and Rice decides to go back to find his childhood love Millie (Rachel Bilson.) Bilson isn’t bad, but the movie really doesn’t develop who Millie is. Their romantic trip to Rome is consumated in a way that reminded me more of a Levi’s Jeans commercial than, well, a trip to Rome. Enter another Jumper played by Jamie Bell, who kind of steals what little of a show there is.
And then the characters spend time jumping here and there. Fighting and jumping. They even manage to jump their way around a story. Like the Jumpers themselves who have no place to let their roots dig in, the audience has nothing to sink their teeth into and really care about or enjoy for that matter. Tension and excitement is lacking. The locations are sapped of their historical beauty and mystery and become nothing more than battle grounds.
But finally in the last five minutes of the film you see a twinkle of a story that could have been told. One that the writers and director should have told. One they were probably saving for the sequel. One that would have included Diane Lane of all people! It’s too bad that this origin story is so lame and without heart that I could care less about what happens next. And since the two heros of the film laugh off the oncoming storm merely wanting to go someplace warm, you wonder if the filmmakers even wanted you to care that there could be a second one. This Jumper is the cinematic equivalent of crying “wolf”.