With great power comes no responsibility in the high-concept science fiction adventure "Jumper," about a young man with the ability to teleport wherever he wishes.
David (Hayden Christensen) discovers his talent for intercontinental parkour at 15, leaves small-town Ann Arbor, Mich., for Manhattan and lives the high life, making withdrawals from the city's sturdiest bank vaults. In young adulthood, living in a cool bachelor apartment that looks like a showroom for Toys for Multimillionaires, he watches a live news report on stranded flood victims who could be saved only by "a miracle." And -- he does nothing. With an insouciant shrug, he goes about his business, setting off for a round-the-world tour of beaches and singles bars that will have him back in his cozy bed by nightfall. Big Ben, Rome's Coliseum and the Great Sphinx of Giza are seldom so slickly and appreciatively photographed.
It's a testament to Christensen's amiability that we don't dislike David. You might feel guilty for laughing at his caddish complacency, but you probably will laugh nonetheless. How many of us, given unlimited powers, would make it our business to alleviate human suffering? George Clooney, maybe. David's immaturity seems a natural byproduct of his ability to do whatever he wants and get off scot free. "Jumper," which soon upshifts into over-the-top chase and action scenes, is gorgeous pop art on a grand scale, but it's also a painless morality tale about taking responsibility, treating women as individuals and growing up.
Maturity is thrust upon David when a mysterious cabal of assassins called "paladins" track him down. He is not unique in the world, explains Griffin (Jamie Bell), who arrives out of thin air to rescue him, but doesn't intend to make a habit of it. As Griffin details, paladins snare "jumpers" in electrified nets that disable them, then gut them alive because "only God should have such powers." These killers are more than willing to kill anyone their targets hold dear. And because a hop back to Ann Arbor has rekindled David's feelings for his home girl, Millie (Rachel Bilson), he finally has something in his life worth fighting for.
And what battles they are! David tangles with the paladins' ferocious leader (Samuel L. Jackson) in hyperactive brawls that turn the screen into a pinball table where the ball is hitting everything: lighting up, buzzing, clanging, ka-chinging. Doug Liman ("Mr. & Mrs. Smith," "The Bourne Ultimatum") directs in deliriously dynamic punk-rock style. A punch thrown in Tokyo could knock an opponent into the Sahara; every showdown becomes a maelstrom of shifting locales and sly visual surprises.
Liman is in on the joke of superhero movies; the overkill here is laced with dark, ironic humor, a knowing wink to the audience that says, "You ain't seen nothin' yet." Griffin has a moment involving a red London double-decker bus that must be seen to be disbelieved.
The film's mythology is very lightly sketched. We're left to surmise for ourselves how this teleportation gimmick works and how the paladins operate. The battle is no deeper than a scrimmage between shirts and skins, and burdening "Jumper" with expository details would only have slowed down its careening momentum. This is a movie about young romance, sightseeing and blowing things up, not necessarily in that order. Despite plot holes big enough to jump through (so to speak), it's a thoroughly satisfying mash-up of action-mad spy thriller and sci-fi blockbuster. It's positioned as the first installment of a trilogy and, if Christensen follows through on the character's promise of greater charisma and depth, I'll willingly line up for the next two.
Colin Covert • 612-673-7186