Jumper barely transcends shortcomings

Personally, I have always had a fascination with teleportation. I wouldn’t say it has anything to do with being nerdy or going to Tech or any such nonsense; it has to do with the very concept of defying spatial continuity. Popping in and out of existence may not be a physical possibility at the moment, but it seems I can live vicariously through Jumper until we get the chance to bend the space-time continuum.

First, to get this out of the way, Hayden Christensen is a very poor actor. Most people already know this, having seen him whine his way through the last two Star Wars films. And his performances in Life as a House and Shattered Glass are no less whiny. It seems like it’s all he does—gripe and moan and ask hollow questions that the audience is already up on. Sadly, Jumper is no different in that respect. We still get the whiny Christensen—though here, we also get a concept in teleportation that saves the film, in many respects, from total mediocrity.

In addition, Jamie Bell, as another so-called Jumper named Griffin, entertains enough to make up for some of Christensen’s shortcomings. What is strange in this film is the role reversal between Griffin and Christensen’s character, David Rice. Griffin is the seasoned jumper, the supposed outsider to both Rice and the audience. He introduces foreign terminology and guides Rice and the audience through the world of Jumpers and those chasing them, Paladins. Yet when the action begins, Rice is so clueless that the audience surrogate becomes Griffin as he stays up on the chase that ensues between the two Jumpers and the Paladins, who are led by Samuel L. Jackson. Rice looks so out of touch that Griffin’s jabs and quick quips resonate that much stronger with the audience. In those glaring moments, we see how Bell’s acting skills outclass Christensen’s own paltry ones in every possible way.

Aside from the acting, the special effects are extremely well done. Now, the concept has much to do with the impact the special effects have on screen, but nevertheless, the execution of the “jumps” and “jump scars” left over by the Jumpers is impressive.

A few key scenes stand out with respect to the special effects, including one such sequence showing Griffin and Rice battling and chasing each other over five different continents. The other singular shot that resonated with me in particular was Griffin teleporting several times down the length of a long, narrow hallway, bolting towards a bewildered Jackson. Griffin must teleport three or four times before hurtling Jackson through a solid wall before teleporting him instantaneously to a secluded desert. Griffin’s unique ability to jump any moving object later allows him to nearly drop a charter bus directly on Jackson’s head, creating a perfect tone of playful action.

One quibble I have with the execution of the special effects is the placement of the camera. A few times, the camera feels too close to the action or even too close to the Jumpers, so that when they jump towards the camera, it is difficult to gauge the entire scope of the movement. Certain scenes are lacking this wider dimension which would provide a richer landscape for the jumps. Yet despite this aspect, Jumper has the concept and execution that makes it enjoyable. Forget the teen romance and the nonexistent plot. Enjoy the teleportation. For now, it’s all we have.