Transforming a reluctant hero

01:43, Jan 31 2009
JUMP TO IT: Director Doug Liman and actors Samuel L. Jackson, Hayden Christensen and Rachel Bilson attend the premiere of the movie Jumper.

Hayden Christensen is best known as Anakin Skywalker but as David Rice he can teleport himself. So why do people wan tto kill him? Jumper director Doug Liman explains.

Most people know what teleportation is thanks to the "Beam me up Scotty" scene in Star Trek. But instead of needing a machine to be instantly transported to the next room or across huge distances, what if you could do it at will?

 American sci-fi writer Alfred Bester explored the possibilities in 1956 in his novel The Stars My Destination, now a classic of the genre. But it has never been fully explored in film.

 In television show Heroes, Japanese office worker Hiro Nakamura has a similar kind of ability - but has little control over where he can travel to in space or time.

But in new movie Jumper, from Doug Liman, who directed The Bourne Identity and Mr and Mrs Smith, David Rice - played by Hayden Christensen - discovers that he can teleport instantly to any spot on Earth.

He can have breakfast while watching the sun come up over the Sphinx in Cairo, spend the day surfi ng in Australia, jump to Paris for dinner and have dessert in Japan.

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There are only two limits to his power. He can only jump to any place that he can see, even in a photograph, or to anywhere that he's been before, so long as he has a strong visual memory of it.

In the film Rice zaps around the world through wormholes in the fabric of space and time.

Some of the visual effects were created in Wellington by Oscarwinning studio Weta Digital. Rice has made himself wealthy - he can even jump into bank safes.

Everything is dandy till he encounters another "jumper", Griffin - played by Jamie Bell, last seen in Peter Jackson's King Kong - and discovers that there are many like him with the same genetic anomaly.

 He also finds out that a secret organisation has sworn to kill all jumpers and they have been waging a secret war for centuries.

 "Most of the stories we see about superheroes were actually written a century ago," Liman points out.

 "But what I loved about Jumper is that it felt very fresh and modern. Ultimately, it became the biggest creative challenge of my career."

 The film is based on two books for young adults by Steven Gould. But screenwriter David Goyer - who wrote Blade and Batman Begins - expanded on the story, including new character Griffin.

"What I loved about David Goyer's original draft is that it was about somebody who gets superpowers and the first thing he does with them is go out and rob a bank. I really liked the honesty of that," says Liman.

"It was something I hadn't seen before and as a character-driven director it really interested me. I was also drawn to how imaginative and outrageous this canvas would allow me to be. Having done two action films in a row, I was attracted to the challenge of working with these profoundly human, complex characters."

In developing the film, producer Simon Kinberg gathered a team that researched beliefs about teleportation in religion and history, as well as cuttingedge theories in physics that could make teleportation possible.

"We talked to a lot of physicists so we could understand the science of how teleportation might work and we used that to ground the story in reality. But we also researched the mythology of teleporting, which has been part of the cultural imagination for thousands of years," says Kinberg.

"Sufi and Hindu mystics supposedly practised teleportation centuries ago. I think the idea of being able to put yourself instantly on a mountain that no one can climb, or just the ability to do mundane, everyday things in life such as being able to skip over the line in the passport office, offers huge appeal to the imagination."

But producer Lucas Foster says the wide-open nature of jumping also offers equal opportunities for evil-doers.

 "Instead of using jumping to do cool, fun things like eating breakfast on top of the Sphinx then going surfing in Australia in the blink of an eye, someone with bad intentions could take a nuclear weapon and drop it in the White House, or do other evil things. So while jumping is amazing, it can also be a kind of curse."

That fear is part of the reason for the secret organisation - the Paladins - that has been trying to stop jumpers. They use electronic weapons known as "tethers" to ground, trace and eventually eliminate their teleporting nemeses.

 But despite the fantastic concept, the film-makers wanted the film grounded in reality.

"We wanted this story to feel like it could truly take in our world in our time. It's not something you've seen before in the superhero world. It's not the bright and shiny universe of Spider-Man. It's not the dark and gothic netherworld of Batman. Doug's strong sense of realism brings some very fresh blood to the superhero genre, and twists and tweaks it in playful ways," says Kinberg.

 "David Rice doesn't wear a cape, he doesn't have a code ring. In most ways he's an ordinary guy with a single incredible, abnormal ability - and how he deals with that is really the core of our movie. How would any of us react if we suddenly discovered we'd inherited an ability that could make our lives very exciting and free?"

" David has a very human impulse to use his teleportation to better his own life. It's only in the course of the story that he learns that he can do much more than just rob banks and live in penthouses. He begins to see that he can help his loved ones and even strangers."

 Christensen, best known as Anakin Skywalker in the recent Star Wars movies, said despite being another venture into sci-fi , Rice was different to any other character he's played.

 "Although David has become very acclimated to life as a jumper it's a very solitary life because he has this secret he can't share with anyone," he says.

 "He has every toy any man could want but he's still insecure and lonely. He really believes that he just wants to be left alone. But I think what's so interesting about David is that he begins to change. He's a very reluctant hero who resists his transformation into one the whole way, which makes him so interesting. The events around him force him to mature, to come clean and face his past as well as his uncertain future."  

 

The Dominion Post