‘Jumper’ fails to soar

An A-list cast teleports amid a backdrop of travel guide landscapes, conveying little.

Becky Lang

Someday there will be a movie that takes the concept of teleportation, explores its philosophical implications, and does it so well that it leaves little kids through the ages pressing on their belly buttons or jumping off sheds in an attempt to do it. Sorry to the Hollywood-force behind “Jumper,” but this isn’t it.

“Jumper”

Directed by: Doug Liman
Starring: Hayden Christensen, Samuel L. Jackson, Rachel Bilson
Rated: PG-13
Showing at: Area theaters

In this quasi-universe, a few people can manipulate the fabric of space-time at will, jumping from, say, the back of the line at Subway to the front, buying a sub sandwich, and teleporting to the head of the sphinx, just in time to eat their chips and soda during a desert sunrise. This ritual in particular is favored by main character David Rice, who Hayden Christensen plays with more talent than necessary, sporting an uncharacteristically beefy neck and trimmed sideburns. He discovers that he can jump when, on the verge of drowning, he ends up in the public library.

For some reason, the concept of teleportation struck screenwriters David Goyer and Jim Uhls as not quite interesting enough on its own, and they decided to make this film into a cops-and-robbers story with such a thin concept of justice being enforced that it practically begged for Samuel L. Jackson to be inserted, just to suggest a tone of importance. But this isn’t the same role Samuel L. Jackson always plays; this time his hair is painted Easter egg white. Alright, so maybe it is the same role.

But as an antagonist, he lacks a convincing motive for wanting to kill the jumpers, simply explaining that “Only God should have that power.” He pretends to work for various government agencies, most of which would have been more plausible as enemies to the space-hopping lifestyle.

Turns out jumpers happen to be expert bank robbers and poker chip swipers, and don’t think twice about camping out in off-limits sections of the Seven Wonders of the World.

The central conflict in this film could have easily been about David’s severed relationship with his mother or the effects of having an abusive father, like in the Steven Gould novel that this film is based on. But instead it became a special-effects-a-thon with a get-the-girl subplot on the back burner.

“Jumper” may be completely formulaic, but at least it never gets boring. Rachel Bilson is refreshing outside of her bubbly O.C. persona, and the editing of the actual “jumping” often uses such rapid cuts that the continuity of time seems to be broken and the eeriness of teleportation sets in.

Sci-fi has been depicting parallel universes and light speed travel for decades, but “Jumper” may be a symptom of a trend that uses ideas from quantum physics outside of the comfy bespectacled world of sci-fi.

“The Golden Compass” was one of the first children’s movies to offer children an atheistic perspective with trippy scientific ideas to compensate for older metaphsyical ones, and it wasn’t well-received. It may be that it will take time before science characterized as “un-conceptualizeable” can successfully translate onto the screen. Given that Australian scientists recently teleported a single photon one-and-a-half miles, filmmakers may need to be more cunning if they’re going to catch up with the science.