Rating: PG-13 (scenes of intense action violence, language, brief sexuality)
Length: 88 minutes
Release Date: February 14, 2008
Directed by: Doug Liman
Stars: 3 out of 5
“Jumper” is about a young man named David Rice (Hayden Christensen), who is a “jumper,” someone who has the ability to teleport himself to anywhere in the world. This is definitely a superpower to have, but this isn’t a superhero movie, at least not in the conventional way.
Most superheroes become that way because they realize they have a great power (or the ability to mimic great power with toys and suits, like Batman) and then use it for the greater good. David has no compulsion to do any such thing. In fact, he uses his powers for his own selfish purposes for many years.
The film begins with him as an awkward teenager (Max Theriot) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He has an unrequited crush on Millie (AnnaSophia Robb) but is stopped from expressing himself at every turn by the school bullies. He secures a snow globe to give to Millie as a gift, in the hopes of professing his feelings for her. The bullies stop him once more, throwing the snow globe into a frozen river. A despondent David goes over the bridge trying to get to the globe. It is then that he first realizes he can teleport, or jump, as he ends up in a nearby library.
David’s home life is really terrible, due mostly to his alcoholic and abusive father, William (Michael Rooker). He realizes that he has a wonderful opportunity to leave his present behind and make a new life for himself. He decides to leave Ann Arbor and let everyone, including Millie, think he perished in the frozen river.
The film shifts gears completely at this point, with David learning through a lot of trial and error how to hone his powers. He thinks he is the only jumper on the planet, so he has nobody to ask about what the whole thing means or what the rules are. He quickly does a few tests and learns that he can transport not only himself but objects and other matter as well. He uses this knowledge to rob banks, leaving behind an IOU at each one, as if he intends to pay them back. He uses the money to bankroll an increasingly extravagant lifestyle. He starts easy with a Hawaiian vacation, then goes lavish with a picnic on top of one of the Egyptian pyramids.
He enjoys his playboy life until one day he begins to reminisce about Millie (now an adult played by Rachel Bilson) and his squandered opportunity to woo her. Despite the fact that everyone thinks he is dead, he decides to return to Ann Arbor to check in on her and see how she is. He finds her working in a bar and realizes that the only thing that has changed in his hometown is him. At first, she rebuffs his advances but is soon taken aback like so many women before her by David’s newly acquired charm.
The two begin to fall in love and take what is supposed to be a romantic trip to Rome. While there, David meets another jumper named Griffin (Jamie Bell), leading him to realize he isn’t alone. He also learns that there are other people with superpowers at work, who are called paladins.
The paladins are headed by Roland (Samuel L. Jackson), whose day job as a federal agent leads him towards David’s path due to his bank robberies. At first, you are meant to think Roland just wants to put David behind bars for stealing money. Soon, it is revealed that he has more nefarious plans, which could endanger Millie as well as David and Griffin. He wishes to kill all jumpers using some electrified cables and a machete. The rest of the film sees David trying to save not only himself but Millie as well, turning him into a very reluctant superhero.
Hayden Christensen and Bilson are bona fide stars who know how to handle themselves and keep a film interesting. They are matched in their intensity by Theriot and Robb, who play them as teenagers. That is no small feat for two actors who were relatively unknown at the time. The true standout of the film though is Bell, who comes out of nowhere and nearly steals the movie right out from under Christensen’s feet.
The film checks in at a somewhat scant 88 minutes, though it could have been much longer. It is fairly obvious that director Doug Liman anticipated making at least one sequel. Though there is some resolution to the most pressing parts of the story, there are many plot threads left dangling. Those who must find out more about what happens can read the novel by Steven Gould that it is based on. The rest will have to wait and see if a sequel to this fun, sometimes frenetic, sci-fi thriller will be made.