The first time I saw Go, I didn’t just see another intersecting storylines movie of the sort that had become popular in the wake of Pulp Fiction’s success, I saw a movie that casually balanced offbeat humor and action and that was brilliantly directed. The only time I actually watched an episode of the O.C., it was the pilot and it was only because Doug Liman, who had directed Go and Swingers, was directing it. While the story was mediocre overwrought teen soap opera of course, Doug Liman’s brilliant direction brought an effusion of natural light to every scene, bold yet carefully calculated shots and the other hallmarks of Liman’s style made it worth sitting through. Yet as weak as the O.C. pilot was, Doug Liman’s Jumper passes it on the way down and not even Doug Liman’s hand on the camera serves to redeem Jumper.
Many critics complain that movies are becoming video games and Jumper is a case in point, with 88 minutes that shift between frenetic action and tedious moping by Hayden Christensen, it’s more of a video game than a movie. Comparing Mass Effect and Jumper, any serious critic would be forced to decide that Mass Effect is a film on a console and Jumper is a video game on the big screen. When George Lucas decided to create his Star Wars prequel trilogy, he helped usher in digital movies filled with special effects that turned them into hollow CGI confections where nothing meant anything anymore and the actors were cardboard characters animating themselves against a bluescreen. In Jumper, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith’s Hayden Christiansen waters down the Attack of the Clones formula even further mixing wooden acting with bouts of special effects that never add up to anything.
David Goyer’s scripts are very much hit and miss and they depend on the director but Doug Liman’s sensibility completely fails him here. Christiansen’s David Rice is a blank with superpowers and nothing the movie does changes that. Jumper reunites Christiansen with Samuel L. Jackson, who has never turned down a bad movie yet, and Jackson charges into his role with his usual screen devouring enthusiasm. What makes Samuel L. Jackson so worth watching is that he clearly enjoys whatever he does on the screen but in Jumper, he’s the only one having fun. Liman’s bold directorial perspective is swallowed by the scope of the special effects and Christiansen swallows Goyer’s dialogue leaving Jackson to romp through the movie like a big kid in a sterile playground.
Jumper smacks of an attempt by Doug Liman to grab onto a paying project in the wake of the fallout over his role on Bourne and there is little doubt that he is phoning it in. Like its director and star, Jumper is devoid of ambition and like many action and comic book movies Jumper can never move beyond trying to wow audiences with its premise to actually deliver a watchable narrative. Instead like its main character’s journey across the world, Jumper is sadly fragmented. Watching Jackson chase the white bread Christiansen, I could only think what a far more interesting movie Jumper would have been, had it reversed the two men’s roles.