Jumper is what Heroes would be about if the super-freaks on the hit TV show actually used their powers like they would in real life – in other words, selfishly.
David Rice (Hayden Christensen) was just your typical American kid, though one who had to deal with an abusive father, until a high school accident revealed to him a rare genetic gift that allows him to teleport, or “jump,” through mind-made wormholes. Now, if I woke up one day and found out I could do this, I certainly wouldn’t go knocking on Professor X’s door. I wouldn’t sew up a leotard to go fight crime in either. Would you?
Real people, if they’re honest with themselves, would rob a bank, and that’s just what Rice does. A lot. Years pass, and he amasses a small fortune and habits to go with it; for example, he spends his mornings surfing off Fiji and Australia, easily jumping away when a wave might kill him, then eats lunch atop monuments like the Sphinx. Personally, I’d go with the Great Pyramid, but I’ll forgive the filmmakers, which include director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity), because they chose my fantasy dining hotspot as a fight set piece later in the movie – along with the Empire State Building, the Roman Colosseum, the Sahara Desert and the battlefields of Chechnya.
But, hey, I’m getting ahead of myself; I’ve forgotten to mention the villainous Paladins, an organization of religious zealots led by Roland (a white-haired Samuel L. Jackson) who have been hunting the “unholy” jumpers since medieval times. Rice, you see, is not alone; there are many others like him, such as Griffin, a persnickety Brit who’s actually hunting the Paladins back and wants nothing to do with Rice (even though he’s tracked him for years, a story hiccup that’s never explained). When Roland, in his savage quest to eliminate Rice, murders Rice’s father and kidnaps his girlfriend, Millie (Rachel Bilson), Rice pulls a Marvel-style team-up with Griffin and decides to take Roland out once and for all.
At this point, it might be pertinent to mention that Jumper was penned by David S. Goyer, the comic-book wunderkind who also wrote the Blade trilogy, Batman Begins and its sequel, as well as the upcoming Flash and Magneto movies. In fact, despite being based on a novel, almost every moment of Jumper plays out like a comic you wished you had read as a kid, except that none of its so-called heroes are really heroes at all.
This is a big problem since, except for Christensen's inherent likability, there’s no real reason to root for the guy. I mean, he seems nice enough, but he’s kind of a self-serving douche. So’s Griffin. Sure, he had a rough childhood, but that doesn’t mean he can’t grow up a little and maybe use his gifts to do a good deed every once in a while. An early scene in the movie even suggests this is an eventuality; while watching television, he listens to a reporter explain that only a miracle could save a family floating to their deaths along a flooded river. But by the end, he still couldn’t give a crap. At barely 90 minutes, the movie begs for more character development.
Despite all its problems, which include way too many loose story threads meant to be explored in sequels, Jumper delivers an international visual thrill ride that overcomes its deficits. If anything, it will make you want to travel more.