ASCII by Jason Scott

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Jumper and Childhood —

I saw the movie Jumper last weekend with a few family members. I enjoyed the movie immensely, but for entirely wrong reasons. I am not recommending it for you unless these reasons have meaning to you as well.

Jumper‘s plot is simplistic by even high-concept standards, so I will provide it for you in a few simple sentences: An abused boy whose mother left him at 4 discovers in high school he can teleport short and long distances. He leaves his town and runs roughshod on the world for seven years, until he finds out there are people who can stop him from doing so and possibly kill him. He goes home and picks up an old girlfriend, gets into a fight with another jumper, and ultimately finds out his mom works for the people who are trying to kill him, which is why she left. He is victorious until the sequel.

Most of the movie is, therefore, exotic shots of locales he teleports to, fights he engages with another jumper or the people trying to kill him, and short conversations he has with people before doing one of the other two activities. It is truly and utterly soulless.

It is entertaining, though, in that way that watching a basic acrobatic act is entertaining; people come out, they do the trick, they move on. Eventually, someone changes up a trick so you go “woo” and then you’re back on the track for the next trick. But sometimes you get surprised and you’re basically more entertained than if you stared at a brick wall for an hour.

This review probably sounds cynical. I don’t entirely mean it to be. But why do I enjoy this film?

Simply put, it is just the kind of film I designed in my head when I was a teenager.

You have a lot of spare time as a teenager, or, more accurately, you are often put in a position of powerlessness as a teenager meaning you have to wait around a lot or you’re unable to make the most of your time. People tell you where to go or not go and what you’re allowed to think about and while it’s not entirely successful, it can be rather oppressive sometimes.

I loved movies so I would often make movies in my head. However, they were not very good movies. I’d have some basic ideas or a neat little trick, and then I’d construct this film in my head (which I thought was fantastic) and when I walked around the various towns I lived in, I could imagine them as locations or what I’d want to capture in the film and so on. It’s one of those time-passing things you do.

Looking back, of course, these movies are often quite shallow. A kid who is suspiciously like me gets some crazy power and he shows everybody up. Over and over. Until the movie ends. This is basically the plot of Jumper. Even the name, Jumper. You might as well call it Teenage Power Trip Movie with Samuel Jackson. Did I mention Samuel Jackson is in it? He is. He has white hair and he’s the “bad guy”, sort of, although you have to admit, watching it, his character kind of has a point.

Actually, looking at the movie from almost any angle but the central character’s self-centered point of view is a somewhat unhappy exercise, because then you realize nearly every other character is betrayed, mistreated or punished, often for no good reason. Alcoholic dad has his son run away one day, is really sad about this, cleans himself up a bit, thinks he hears his son nearby seven years later, comes in and finds he isn’t there, then is killed. Pretty sad, really. Dad was a bit messed up and he then gets killed. He doesn’t even find out why his wife left him, which was basically to avoid killing her own son.

But I am overthinking that aspect of things. Thinking of how Jumper came about, it’s as if I was given a nice office on the movie lot, and asked to make a film, and then some nice people worked out the logistics, and I was so happy someone was finally paying attention to me, that I let them make a few changes to make it easier to film. I wonder if, somewhere down the line in the production, there really was a twelve year old calling the shots. I know it’s based on a book, so I guess I’ll pick that up and see how it reads.

Either way, it was kind of fun to see this movie from this perspective. I can’t imagine it being a lot of fun from others, though.

I can’t wait for the sequel, in which people teleport a lot and fight.

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  1. Chris says:

    What Jay isn’t telling you is that he possessed many of the same Jumper skills as those in the movies. The trouble was, he didn’t have the ability to transcend time, and he could only JUMP between relatively useless locations: the Home Town Deli’s Space Invaders Machine, Radio Shack, the 84 Diner, the school computer lab, and his own Atari 800 computer. Like I said, not much help for the kid in his own teen and pre-teen hell. And Jay didn’t do drugs, which made things worse.

    Alas, poor Jay has lost his Jumper abilities. Time, age and illness have robbed him of these skills. It’s a sad, sad world.

  2. Daphne B. says:

    This is just to say, the book is different and (it sounds like) a lot better — the guy is still a self-centered teenager at the start, but by the end he’s… grown up a little? (Man, I make it sound crappy, but it isn’t.) Most of the “people want to kill me” thing is gone.

  3. Flack says:

    I think we all did the same thing as kids. I remember coming up with probably hundreds of “good ideas” for books that only got fleshed out into short stories. I was pretty good at coming up with “Twilight Zone” endings but found writing the beginning and middle too much work. And sure, lots of those stories starred “me” and were born from real situations (“what if the school’s computer geek was able to make the school’s bully head explode?”)

  4. Patrick says:

    > I wonder if there really was a twelve year old calling the shots.

    There might have been one doing the editing too. A friend said:

    “Two guys are walking around in Tokyo talking to each other. They are in Shibuya and Hayden Christensen says something, cut to the other guy who’s suddenly in Ginza and then back to Hayden in Shibuya and so on. They’re literally jumping all over Tokyo even though they aren’t teleporting in the movie.”