Monday, February 18, 2008

"Jumper": a movie review

I went to see "Jumper" because it is based on a book by a Texas writer, Steven Gould, who I met a time or two at local conventions, and he was fun on panels. "Jumper" is a story of a guy who puts his powers of teleportation to a "good use" by teleporting into bank vaults, robbing them and setting himself up with a life of leisure. He continues to do that until he attracts attention of a guy who hunts jumpers. Yes, that's a plural: there is handful of other people in the world who have this inborn psychic ability. Confrontation ensues, wherein the two parties chase one another across the world's most scenic backdrops. To be sure, I haven't seen other movies that exploited the potential of teleportation to spice up boring old fistfights. You punch a teleporter in the face on Mount Everest, and he lands on a pyramid in Egypt. Or something like that. But that's where artistic and conceptual merits of the movie ended. The plot was completely empty. The stakes were not high enough to keep the plot suspenseful. There was no "the fate of the world hinges on the good guy's success" cliche to make you care about the outcome. While the protagonist was easy to sympathize with, I personally didn't see why we, the viewers, should be on his side, as if he was entitled to the life of luxury and ease he made by abusing his unique powers. On the other hand, the motivation of the guys who hunted the jumpers is even harder to fathom. It's not like they wanted to avenge the harm done by jumpers robbing banks. Rather, they come across as far more evil than jumpers, because they torture and kill jumpers for no good reason, except perhaps a supernatural revulsion. The only justification that escapes the main baddie's lips is "only God can be in many places at once".

Or maybe the baddies were just jealous of the jumpers ill-gotten gains? Maybe not, because towards the end of the movie we find out that the bad guys have a teleportation machine! This strikes another blow to the movie's credibility. Are we to understand somebody invented a teleportation machine, and kept it secret from anyone else on Earth? That's plain ridiculous.

I chatted with some FACT people after the show, and they said the movie had hardly anything to do with Steven Gould's book! The hunters were entirely a Hollywood invention. They don't exist in the book. Instead, the story is about the guy facing the consequences of his actions (bank robbing) and coming around to use his powers for the good of the humanity. I think I would have liked this kind of plot much better, but apparently that's not what the Hollywood allows me to want.

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