Whether it’s been unjustly forgotten or not, Jumper is a film that could easily have been on our list of movie with genius premises (okay, maybe “genius” is a stretch, but it’s intriguing, at least) – however, it certainly didn’t live up to its potential.
With Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, The Bourne Identity) directing, and Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Jamie Bell, Rachel Bilson, Michael Rooker, and Diane Lane starring, you’d think that Jumper would have some semblance of a legacy. However, over a decade after its release, it’s only occasionally remembered as a punch line, or as the worst film in Liman’s impressive filmography.
Jumper is loosely based on the Steven Gould’s 1992 novel of the same name, and its massive deviations from the book’s established plot are often the first complaints leveled at the film. However, judging Jumper entirely on its own merits, it has far bigger issues.
The most glaring problem with Jumper is its dialogue. Each and every character is so wooden and uninteresting that it’s really hard to engage with the film’s plot, because Jumper does nothing at all to make its audience care. This isn’t for lack of trying on the actors’ part, either – they all seem willing, it’s just that the script really doesn’t give them much to work with. This is particularly strange when you consider that the screenplay was penned by David S. Goyer (Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy), Jim Uhls (Fight Club), and Simon Kinberg (The Martian, the X-Men franchise).
It’s not just bad dialogue that hampers the film, though. Its story is a little incoherent in places – perhaps due to attempting to establish so much in a mere 88 minutes (although I’m certainly not suggesting that Jumper should have been longer). The film’s antagonists, “Paladins”, are religious fanatics who trace and kill “Jumpers”, and their motivation for doing so is barely established at all. Instead, they’re set up as generic villains, and none of them are given any real depth whatsoever.
The use of “jumping” (or teleporting, to you and I) is one of the film’s stronger aspects. It’s achieved with minimal effects, which means that visually, Jumper has aged relatively well. It’s somewhat jarring, particularly when used multiple times in a short span, but it makes for a solid gimmick that enhances the film’s action scenes to make them marginally interesting.
Jumper‘s biggest problem is that it simply feels cold and soulless. There are some aspects to the protagonist David (Christensen) that make him fairly sympathetic to the audience, but there are no other characters that have any semblance of depth to them. Again, the actors do try to bring their roles to life – Jamie Bell in particular can be seen trying to wring some personality out of his character, Griffin (another jumper who has spent his whole life on the run), but it simply can’t be done.
By the end of Jumper‘s 88 minutes, odds are you’ll be left feeling numb. It’s hardly a cerebral film, but it’s still somewhat confusing, mostly down to its quick pace and reluctance to explore even the most integral elements of its story.
Ultimately, it’s a shame, because Jumper has a lot of promise. Visually, it works – the “jumping” can be achieved with minimal special effects or CGI, and the constant teleporting means that the film makes use of a variety of landscapes and locales – but Jumper is ultimately too much like its main character: it’s flighty and generally uninteresting.
Given the way it plays out, it’s not surprising that Jumper has been all but forgotten. Attempts to keep a franchise alive failed, and it seems as though the film will simply continue to disappear from our collective memory. All things considered, it’s probably not worth remembering, anyway.
Summary: Jumper is a film with an abundance of wasted potential. Somehow, despite a talented cast, a talented director, talented screenwriters, and relatively popular source material, it still manages to be supremely uninteresting. It’s a little like someone made a superhero movie drained of all the charm and excitement.
Highlights: Jamie Bell’s overeager performance in an underwritten role in this underwritten movie deserves some acknowledgement. Also, Hayden Christensen delivers a few moments of genuine emotion.