C-

Jumper

One of the reasons superhero comics so often get held in contempt is because the shallowest (and commonest) ones are wish-fulfillment fantasies for adolescent boys, and adolescent boys tend to be pretty unnuanced, id-driven critters. For instance, they should be pretty pleased with Jumper, a naked power fantasy in which an ordinary kid abruptly gains a super-ability, quickly followed by wealth, ultimate freedom, no-strings sex, and the panting admiration of his hot dream-girl. What did he do to earn any of this? He was so very, very special and different from everybody else that he gets to do whatever he wants, and still get framed as the film's shining hero.

First seen standing atop the Sphinx in Egypt and boasting to the audience about how he used to be "a normal person, a chump, just like you," Hayden Christensen plays a mildly dorky kid who discovers he can teleport. So he runs away from home and starts robbing banks. Eight years later, he's a smug asshole living in a swank high-rise full of stolen cash and shiny toys, and he's using his power for trivial things like approaching a random bar hottie a little faster, or getting the TV remote without having to lean forward. But then Samuel L. Jackson appears and opens up a case of Mace Windu-style whoop-ass on him. Shortly thereafter, Christensen learns that there are other teleporters—or at least one, played with rakish charm by Chumscrubber star Jamie Bell—and that they're being hunted by fanatics called paladins. Why? The paladins' supposed philosophical underpinnings come out in one tossed-off line about how only God should be everywhere at once, but basically, they're around as an excuse for a lot of big, explosive fight scenes, which director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) seems to have imported directly from an X-Men movie.

Those scenes are easily the best part of Jumper: They're unlimited by logic or physics, which makes them dynamic and unpredictable, and Liman brings them off well, with a lot of literal flash and bang. But no exciting action can cover the film's profound shallowness and repulsive attitude toward everyone but Christensen. It isn't bad enough that he's a swaggering bastard who uses his powers exclusively to break laws and get whatever he wants—one scene even pointedly shows him ignoring a situation where he could save otherwise unsaveable lives. Another has him using a moving car as a weapon by jumping it to Chechnya, then leaving the startled driver to be crushed by a tank. And a good chunk of the film is devoted to him easily impressing his high-school crush object Rachel Bilson, who's less a character than a bright-eyed mirror for his awesomeness. Come to think of it, maybe adolescent boys won't like Jumper after all; its irritating protagonist is more school bully than underdog hero.

Filed Under: Film

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