Doug Liman obviously felt he had unfinished business following his premature removal from the Bourne franchise. With Jumper he presents a thinly-disguised superhero romp complete with characters as ambiguous as Jamie Bell’s accent. Unfortunately however, Liman is not Paul Greengrass and Hayden Christensen is certainly not Matt Damon.
It says a lot that Christensen is consistently out-acted by The OC’s Rachel Bilson, who hasn’t exactly been fighting off the award givers this season. His delivery of a typically flimsy, lazy script by David Goyer is frequently so stale and forced it gives the impression that he is reading from an auto-cue that he can’t quite see. His potential as a leading man is evident after a decent performance in Star Wars: Episode III and a nuanced turn in Shattered Glass but here he turns in a performance so flat he doesn’t even deserve credit as a supporting role.
The plot centres around Christensen and Bell’s characters ability to teleport to any place they have seen before, including the inside of bank vaults various people are kind enough to show them in advance. It has potential but the mythology of a comic book tale without the comic book feels screwdrivered in to facilitate convenient developments. Samuel L Jackson’s character needs a way to follow the boys through their ‘jumps’, suddenly he has a ‘machine’ which allows him to do it. Bilson and Christensen need to be together, she drops everything to go to Rome with a man she hasn’t seen since High School and who’s just beat up her boyfriend. And so the convenience keeps on coming.
If this mythology was introduced with skill and tentativeness then there might be a good story brewing round about but Goyer’s script sticks to the bare minimum; ‘I’m a Jumper. You’re a Paladin. What happens now?’ Christensen’s character mouths at one point before having it explained to him in language babies could understand.
In a film where it’s difficult to like the hero it’s even more difficult to hate the villains of the piece. The aforementioned Paladins have a nasty fanatical religious steak (again seemingly shoe-horned in to make them seem a bit more evil!) but other than that they seem to be no more evil than a CID unit, attempting to track down a pair of highly-skilled bank robbers. The plot adds no real malevolence and Liman’s slap-happy direction fails to add fuel to the fire.
Michael Rooker, Jamie Bell and Jackson add some much needed weight but are typically given short-shrift with a film which more often than not appears to have both eyes on its inevitable sequel than on the job in hand. If Liman was hoping to exercise his Bourne ghosts then this is not the film to do it with because in the end we can only hope that Greengrass comes to the rescue and directs the sequel, preferably with Damon in the lead.