For the generation that won’t wait for anything, the teleporting protagonists of Jumper may have more appeal than the likes of Spiderman and Wolverine. If you skip ads, sneak a peek at the last chapter of a book, have ever wanted to fast forward through a boring flight, or truncate the dull commute to work, it may be your fantasies that Hayden Christensen is living in Bourne director Doug Liman’s globe-trotting sci-fi outing.
Not content with such mundane shortcuts, gadabout Christensen is disposed to good living – financed by teleporting away the contents of bank vaults (though he does leave sweet I.O.U. notes) – in a New York penthouse; he breakfasts on top of the Sphinx, checks out London from the clock-face of Big Ben before going on the pull, and flits in and out of a series of holiday hot-spot locations that resemble a fast flick through a travel-agent’s plushest brochure.
But one day jumper-hunter Samuel L. Jackson – wearing the daftest hairpiece since Morgan Freeman impersonated R. Lee Ermey in Dreamcatcher – is waiting for him with a wake-up call. Jackson is a Paladin, a sect that has been hunting those Godless teleporters since at least the middle-ages, though the invention of electricity has given them the ability to pin the fidgety globetrotters down while they run them through with a nasty hunting-knife.
Fleeing Jackson, Christensen returns to the hometown he gladly fled as a youth, popping in for a brief visit with his drunken father at the dismal family home his mother abandoned when he was only five.
Not ready to confess his life yet, he whisks his long-lost childhood sweetheart Millie (Rachel Bilson) off to Rome by plane, and sneaks them into the Coliseum after hours. It’s here that Christensen meets Griffin, another jumper – an excellent turn by Billy Elliott actor Jamie Bell – and the first of the big Paladin/Jumper fight sequences takes place. Informed that Jackson’s crusade will mow down everything in the way – including a jumper’s family and friends – Christensen puts his bewildered girlfriend on a flight home and tries to persuade Bell’s scruffy and reclusive jumper to help him take out Jackson and his clan before her plane lands…
The globe-trotting Bond-aping antics of Liman’s Bourne series are easier to swallow in the fantastic set-up of Jumper; there are no trains, planes or automobiles to edit out. A punch is thrown in Tokyo and the follow-up dodged in New York; a detonator dropped over the side of the Empire State building is recovered by free-fall teleporting, and at one point a handily-empty London bus is plucked out of Piccadilly Circus and thrown about as a sucker punch in a fight in the Sahara desert.
The cinematography is excellent, as are the special effects, but this is all a given with Liman. Christensen is effective but given little to do – outshone by Jamie Bell’s crazed globe-trotter, the ex-Sith will still have to rely on kudos from Shattered Glass to prove that he is an actor of worth, but here he furnishes a convincing and guileless action hero. Rachel Bilson is characterless, conventional and generally humpy, and it is only the fact that Christensen’s character has been obsessed with hers since he was a child that gives the courting couple any remote credibility.
Samuel L. Jackson once again plays…Samuel L. Jackson, and does a workmanlike job as a nemesis who believes he is doing God’s work by eradicating the near-omnipresent jumpers. Diane Lane has barely enough screen-time to register in the film, and the sole purpose of her contribution seems to be to set up a story arc element and the sequels…if there are any.
For all its international pyrotechnics, Jumper is held up by Jamie Bell, in spite of a few dropped aitches too many (the new sign of English credibility in Hollywood); Christensen is burdened with the kind of emotional baggage that would too easily stray into Peter Parker territory given free range, and Bilson is given only templated love-interest material with which to work.
The choice of a February release for such a high-profile sci-fi action film would normally indicate cold feet at Fox, but Cloverfield’s winter glory confuses the issue. This is one to walk, not run to, but a series may prove to be fun if the relationship elements can be more credibly approached, and if Bell stays on board.
Jumper is on general release from Friday 15th February