Location scouts, CGI specialists, and editing room workers had a field day summoning up the jittery magic on this definitely globe-trotting, time/space continuum-hopping sci-fi ditty. The screenwriting/directorial team, on the other hand, were happier working on slacker time, allowing the breezy tale of a teleporting young “jumper” and his foes to unfold with all the brain-lean hokum of a video game. And just like the gaming realm, radical changes occur without notice.
Before you know what happens, our protagonist has teleported from suburban Massachusetts to China to the pyramids of Egypt and back, without a passport or a TSA pat down. Watching this film becomes dizzying and a bit sleep-inducing after one too many venue changes. You feel as if the narrative is being manipulated by the click of a mouse or a joystick.
Our main man (Hayden Christensen) has discovered his teleportation powers as a slightly directionless high schooler with a scattered family life. Suddenly, his sense of alienation from the here and now of his life is liberated by his ability to beam himself up, over, and around the world. He is able to take his love interest on a Roman holiday instantaneously, but also learns about a nasty war between the “jumpers” and the “paladins,” which keeps him on the run and on his guard.
But despite the action, the acting level in the film rises no higher than the mediocre writing and concept at hand, although Samuel L. Jackson shows up for one of his wise rogue roles, and Diane Lane pops by for a brief but ultimately pivotal bit part.
All that said, the film has its nervous charms, partly to do with the sheer energetic machinery of the thing. Director Doug Liman is best known for his box office smashes, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity, both of which contain trace elements of the action and location vagabonding of Jumper. But a riper point of comparison is Liman’s spunky 1999 film Go, another stylistically amped-up movie with an aptly verb-based title. Go goes, and Jumper jumps, if without the same focused gusto or plain sense of cinematic fun.