Sci Fi is my favorite channel, and Science Fiction is my guilty pleasure. I love the speculative so much that I've often wondered why I don't try to write in the genre. Well, actually, I did write a manuscript called STONE ANGEL some time back about reincarnation and time travel. This was before paranormal hit it big. The manuscript was mixed genre, kind of a murder mystery/psychological thriller/paranormal/romance.
Yeah, you can see why it never was published. No one knew where to shelve it I guess if it were published. The rave comments it always received at each outing always concluded with, "however...." (I still love it and think it's great, but I gave up on it so it lives inside my file cabinet.)
Pop Culture Ahead
Anyway, I tell you all this to explain how eagerly I looked forward to the movie JUMPER. Saw it with my daughter and husband the day it came out. It fizzled like a leaky helium balloon. Sure, I know it made gazillions, but it just didn't work for me. Whenever I have that reaction, I try to understand why it didn't. Here's what I came up with.
Why Jumper Doesn't Work
Insufficient characterization. Here's a prime example. The hero (can't even remember his name which is not a good sign) has had a crush on a girl since they were both young teens. Now in his twenties, he re-enters her life. (Keep in mind that they were never boyfriend-girlfriend. He had the crush. She didn't.) She always wanted to see the world so he takes her, first class flight, to Rome.
In the swanky hotel, he goes to her, kisses her, and begins to take off her shirt. My daughter and I looked at each other and said, in unison: "Time to pay for that first class ticket." Then we burst into laughter.
That reaction from us was because there was no genuine motivation, other than him expecting payment and her acquiescing, for them to have sex at that moment. Oh, and the fact that the movie makers needed a little sex.
Where was the building of the emotional relationship or, barring that, at least the physical attraction and desire? It was sex because the movie called for a sex scene.
Now, the special effects were great, but the rest was just another forgettable movie despite the overt effort to have a cliffhanger ending that would ensure a sequel if the box office receipts hit a certain number.
The ending itself was irritating in that it was too obvious in letting the villain live when he could easily have been done in. If the villain is going to get away, it must be unexpected yet believable at the same time and not just because the hero wants to show that he's not what the villain thinks.
Another thing, the ending wasn't the ending. It had one of those scenes tacked on. In a book, you'd call it the Epilogue. This scene was supposed to be shocking, but anyone with a brain would already have figured out this "surprise" plus this further setup for a sequel was also blatant and contrived.
This movie belongs in the growing list of movies where there are no transitions, no logical segues, no motivated characters. One of the first things you learn as a writer is that if you're going to shoot someone at the end of the book then you have to show the gun (that's called foreshadowing), and you have to show why the character is capable of shooting someone. I think Foreshadowing is an element that contemporary movie makers abjure in the belief that it spoils a surprise. Without it, an action or scene becomes just one of those things that make you roll your eyes and sneer, "Oh, come on. You've got to be kidding."
Too bad. Jumper could have been so much more.