February 14, 2008


The first person to show any emotion loses the game.

Grade: B
Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson, Samuel L. Jackson, and Diane Lane
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Even the presence of Hayden Christian in the lead role does not cripple Jumper, a surprisingly satisfying actioner about a young man (Christian) who discovers the ability to instantly teleport to anywhere he has seen, either in person or in a photograph. It is a tele-comic book for the CW-generation, and while that description might speak to the film’s many deficiencies, the overall result is a visually flashy, sufficiently grounded phantasmagoria that is more entertaining than its February release-date portends.

Director Doug Liman brings with him the same welcome degree of backstory and character development seen in his previous efforts (The Bourne Identity; Go; Swingers). Moreover, he avoids the pitfall – plaguing many superhero movies – of failing to fully appreciate and embrace the extraordinary everyday enjoyed (and suffered) by fictional beings endowed with near-omnipotent power. Although the villains – a group of religious/government fanatics led by Samuel L. Jackson – are vaguely drawn, one can understand why the powers that be could not allow a subset of humans the unfettered ability to steal, trespass, and even kill. That the film’s protags turn out to be petulant, flawed, and often unlikable is not a fault of bad writing but rather an acknowledgment of God-like power in the hands of fallen mortals; it is the same subtext seen in everything from James Whale's The Invisible Man to Bruce Almighty to the Spiderman series.

The romantic subplot feels tacked-on and soapy, a sentiment furthered by the casting of ex-The O.C. cast member Rachel Bilson as the beleaguered, clueless girl-in-the-middle. On the other hand, Jamie Bell stands out as a rapscallion jumper bent more on war than coexistence. The battle is due to continue in the inevitable sequel – assuming enough people pay to see act one.

Neil Morris

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