Watch a promising sci-fi premise disappear into thin air.
After conquering the spy thriller genre with the much-hailed Bourne franchise, director Doug Liman takes on science fiction with Jumper, the big-screen adaptation of Steven Gould's teen-oriented novels "Jumper" and "Reflex."
Employing a husky, faux-tough-guy voice markedly similar to the one he used as Bob Dylan (officially credited as "musician" -- no doubt to placate Dylan's famously tenacious lawyers) in Sienna Miller's little-seen Edie Sedgwick biopic Factory Girl, Hayden Christensen stars as David Rice, a gawky Ann Arbor teenager tormented by bullies at school and an alcoholic single dad at home. But David is no ordinary gawky teenager, as he soon discovers when he saves himself from drowning by spontaneously teleporting to a nearby library. According to the movie's parlance, he's what's known as a Jumper, an otherwise normal human blessed with a unique genetic mutation that allows him to teleport (aka "jump") anywhere in the world.
Upon growing accustomed to his remarkable new ability, David does what most immature, hormone-driven teenagers in his position would do: He robs a bank, sets himself up with swanky apartments around the world, and embarks on one long, hedonistic vacation. He lounges atop the Sphinx, surfs a monster wave in Fiji and beds a pretty lass in London. His ultimate prize, however, is lifelong crush Millie (Rachel Bilson), and soon he's back in his hometown, using his newfound powers to woo the girl of his dreams.
Meanwhile, David's globe-trotting, womanizing ways haven't gone entirely unnoticed. Hot on his trail is Roland (Samuel L. Jackson, inexplicably wearing a bright white wig), the zealous leader of an enigmatic group of assassins bent on ridding the world of Jumpers and their cohorts. Fortunately, David also gains a powerful ally: Griffin (Jamie Bell), a young, ornery Scottish jumper who informs him that the nasty folks trying to ruin his fun are called "paladins." Armed with brain-scrambling super-tasers (dubbed "tethers") and wormhole-opening devices that allow them to follow jumpers wherever they go, the pseudo-religious paladins ("Only God should have the power to be all places at all times," rants Roland) have been ruthlessly hunting the mutant prey for generations. It's all part of an epic, centuries-long war that will surely be explored in future sequels.
If there are any future sequels. Jumper may very well be "one-and-done" for director-producer Liman, who took care to pack this lackluster flick with plenty of fancy camera work, exotic locations and impressive visual effects, but failed to pay proper attention to story and character development. For his part, Christensen is unable to lend any real depth to his stubbornly bland -- and bewilderingly selfish -- character. Jackson, on the other hand, is mostly one-dimensional, as is eye candy Bilson.
With an interesting -- albeit highly implausible -- premise, Jumper had the opportunity to lay the framework for a fun, Highlander-esque mythology that could have helped compensate for its other flaws. But Liman and screenwriter David Goyer are frustratingly stingy with the details, leaving us precious little to grab onto.
Disagree? Let me know at tleupp@Reelz.com.