In this unique sci-fi/fantasy adventure, a socially awkward teenager (Hayden Christensen) finds himself in a life-threatening situation when he discovers that he has incredible teleportation abilities. After choosing to use them to rob banks and travel the world, he attracts the ire of an organisation led by Roland (Samuel L. Jackson) which views him as an affront to the omnipresence of God…
Hayden Christensen is most well known for his portrayal of Anakin Skywalker/pre-suit Darth Vader. So much so that his return for the recent Obi Wan Kenobi series was seen as a “homecoming” by many fans. However, after the release of Revenge of the Sith in 2005, there was a brief window where Hayden was viewed as a potential major star by Hollywood. And it can be argued that Jumper was the biggest budget attempt to test that theory.
To set the stage, Jumper was after the initial superhero boom initiated by Spider-Man but just before the MCU was truly a thing. It is obviously a superhero film with a twist. In fact, Marvel comics are openly referenced. However, the minor tweaks to the superhero formula suggest a slight lack of confidence in the genre’s staying power. And as laughable as that sounds now, it does make some sense historically. Spider-Man 3 the year prior suggested that some fatigue was setting in and there were already some murmurs of this boom being creatively spent. So with all that in mind, Jumper does feel like it’s trying to be a little different, with a few more shades of grey mixed into the superhero palette. Does it succeed at standing out? Superficially, yes but it unfortunately can’t untangle itself from tropes long enough to ever feel truly unique. Let me try to explain.
Firstly though, Christensen performs solidly throughout. From his rather cliched beginnings as a social outcast to the swell in confidence, bordering on arrogance once he understands his abilities, the actor gets the chance to show a decent amount of range. However, this film is rather short at 88 minutes (84 without the end credits). This means that everything feels rushed. To the point that most of our main character’s backstory is filled in with exposition dialogue and his origin story is run through within the first 10 minutes. In fact, we casually jump forward (no pun intended) 8 years at one point without realising until it’s once again mentioned in dialogue.
Jackson’s character of Roland suffers from similar issues. The actor himself seems to be enjoying the role and in truth, there should be a lot to theoretically sink his teeth into. The idea of a religious zealot taking offence at people capable of teleporting at will is an intriguing and logical concept. And if you’ve seen Sam in Pulp Fiction, you know he’s extremely capable of delivering religious speech with entertaining zeal. And yet, very little is done with the idea here. Yes, he calls ‘jumpers’ abominations and alludes to knowing that they all “go bad” in the end but that’s it. There’s no attempt to even hint at a backstory. We as an audience are given no clues as to why he feels this way (beyond his paper-thin religious beliefs), making him a one-note character with no lasting impact.
Thankfully, there is one bright spot in the supporting cast. Jamie Bell’s Griffin, a fellow jumper who serves as an antihero alongside Hayden’s David. He’s actually given enough time to have somewhat of an organic backstory and even undergoes somewhat of a character arc. Yes, he occasionally exists as an exposition delivery system but that makes more sense as he effectively grudgingly mentors the main character. Again, we’re talking about a sub-90-minute film here, so Griffin isn’t exactly three-dimensional but two dimensions is still better than one.
Admittedly, my opinion of Griffin may be biased due to his participation in perhaps the strongest element of this picture. That being the action sequences. Yes, considering the fantastical abilities on display they are rather dependent on late-2000s CGI. However, when caught up in the moment they are chaotically entertaining to watch and are one of the few times where this premise lives up to some of its potential.
However, there’s one character I wanted to talk about that I’ve intentionally left until last because I think she’s a perfect example of how this film cannot ever truly rise above tropes and therefore squanders much of that aforementioned potential. That is Millie (Rachel Bilson), David’s love interest. She’s very briefly introduced during the initial origin sequence as the only friend David had as a teenager. Unfortunately, the character isn’t really developed much further than this. Well, she also mentions that she’d also like to travel the world but that merely serves as an ironic joke in reference to the main character’s globe-hopping abilities. For the rest of the film, she has no agency of her own. She does what she’s told and becomes a damsel in distress as the plot demands it. Even her attempts to stand her ground against the chaos around her never last long and she quickly resets back to loving David no matter what he does. When the only major female character is a mere plot device, it leaves the experience feeling rather hollow.
And in summary, I think that’s how I’d describe Jumper: hollow. In a pure mechanical sense it has all of the elements of a solid blockbuster film. But in practice, nothing is given any depth. I think this may be because the film had the hubris to believe it could be a franchise (Jumper was adapted from a series of books, so the material was there) but Fox apparently took that to mean that they could worry about world building later. Therefore, we’re left with a shell that is fun on the most surface of levels but devoid of anything truly memorable. It’s a shame, because I like the premise but am always disappointed all over again when I rewatch it.
Ranking: 2 stars out of 5
Disney Plus Presentation
Jumper is available on Disney+ in a maximum resolution of 1080p Full HD on compatible devices. This is in-line with the worldwide Blu-Ray release.
Jumper does not currently include an “Extras” tab on its page as of writing, meaning that not even the standard “promo clip” is available.
Presentation Ranking: 4 stars out of 5
“Jumper” is available to stream on Disney+ now in many countries including the UK and Ireland, Australia and New Zealand and more. U.S. readers will find the film on the Cinemax Amazon Prime Channel.
What are your thoughts on “Jumper”?