You might have gathered from reading my reviews that I’m a fan of Dr Who. By association then, it won’t come as a great surprise that a film like Looper – with its time travel/causality theme – would be of interest to me.
I actually went into it knowing only three things about it. That it was about time travel, that it had Bruce Willis in it and that it was pretty highly regarded.
So what did I think?
What’s It About
Time travel is invented in the late 21st century and is controlled by Organised Crime syndicates. At that point in history it’s impossible to dispose of a dead body thanks to profiling technology, so their way round it is to send the people they want bumped off back 30 years in time to 2044, where contracted young men – known as Loopers – execute them and get rid of the evidence.
The catch is that by agreeing to become Loopers, they also agree to being sent back in time and killed themselves, 30 years hence. The idea is that they are paid handsomely to live a good life for 30 years and then if they are still alive they must surrender themselves to them. And in the future, a shady character called the Rainmaker is busy making sure all the Loopers are being disposed of in short order.
Can you guess then what the catch is?
Of course, what happens is that the main character’s older self is sent back in time and manages to escape before he’s killed by his younger self.
The older version (Bruce Willis) plans on killing The Rainmaker while he’s still a young boy, so his younger self can avoid the situation.
With me? We’ll see…
I’m going to split this into two parts.
The first part will give my basic thoughts on the film so that if you haven’t seen it you can maybe decide whether or not it’s for you.
The second part will focus on why I don’t think it made much sense.
Part One – Non Spoiler Edition
On the whole I didn’t mind this film, but like I say, I didn’t think it made much sense.
Part of the problem with time travel in fiction is that it’s based around a concept that is exactly that; fictional. We can’t travel in time so we only have logical theories about what is possible when it comes to changing the past.
For reasons I’ll get into further down in the spoilers section, I felt that Looper didn’t apply those logical theories enough. Indeed, not only did the writers manage to contradict themselves entirely with what happens, but they also gloss over any potential problems by having a character say ‘That time travel shit will fry your brain so I try not to think too much about it.’ They may as well have had Jeff Daniels look straight into the camera and say ‘Don’t expect this to make sense, because we can’t be bothered thinking about it’.
And I know people will read this review and the areas of the plot that I highlight as problematic below and say ‘Don’t think about it too much’, but I shouldn’t have to disengage my brain that much in a film that is trying to take itself seriously.
Put it this way; Back to the Future made a lot more sense and had a better grip on the notion of causality than this, and that was a comedy.
Beyond that issue it was a decent if predictable affair. I’m not too keen on the way the future is always portrayed as a grim dystopia where everyone lives in squalor in a world controlled by organised crime though. It happened in films 30 years ago and it still happens now. It’s unimaginative and over-done, especially considering this film does it so half-heartedly. Personally I prefer films to try to speculate positively about the future – like Back to the Future 2.
Anyway, it had a reasonable plot even if it wasn’t executed all that well and in the absence of seeing The Rainmaker as an adult, it relied too much upon a Biff Tannen style thug antagonist who wasn’t even taken seriously within the context of the picture.
I feel many people will forgive those problems because they’ll either not follow what’s going on too well anyway or they’ll just sit with a sort of boyish glee because Bruce Willis is back on film killing people for the first time in ages. In fact, the whooping delight of the Lad McLads sitting along from me only seem to confirm this.
The Spoiler Edition – Don’t Read From Here If You Haven’t Seen The Film
The Grandfather Paradox; I’ve spoken about it many times on the blog. It’s the idea that you can’t go back in time and kill your own grandfather before you are born because if you did, you’d never have been born in the first place to go back in time to kill him.
I’ve always managed to get my head round that with the greatest of ease, but it’s something neither my brother nor my best mate can comprehend. They don’t see where there’s a paradox because – presumably – they are stupid (and I write this knowing that it’ll reignite the debate).
Anyway, the result of this film sees a form of that paradox happening. The older version of Joe – Bruce Willis – comes back in time to try to prevent the Rainmaker from growing up and becoming the head of the crime syndicate because it’ll prevent him from dying but it’ll also mean his wife won’t be killed either.
So he comes back in time, finds the kid to kill and it turns out that by doing that it looks as though he’s the one who created the problem in the first place because he ends up killing the young boy’s mother and that’s what makes the child bitter and angry against the Loopers in the first place.
Now that I can accept. It’s time working in a loop. We’ve seen it explored in Dr Who stories like Day of the Daleks and Earthshock reasonably well.
But the problem is that the resolution to it is that the young Joe works this out just before it happens and decides the way to prevent it from happening is to kill himself, thus allowing the child to grow up into someone different.
That I can’t accept. That makes no sense.
He kills himself to stop the older Joe coming back in time and creating this whole sequence of events. But if he kills himself then the older Joe would have never been there to come back in time for the younger Joe to meet and therefore engineer this whole set of circumstances. It’s a paradox
To make matters worse, the film uses that same paradox earlier on in the script where Young Joe initially manages to kill himself by accident and time resets itself to the point where Old Joe came back in time because that was the trigger for what followed.
If the film had ended with the revelation that Old Joe was the one who created the whole mess in the first place it would have been predictable but reasonable. Instead they went with the other ending which – while giving the young boy a happy ending with his mother – made absolutely no sense, and was simply washed over with the idea that ‘It’s time travel; don’t think about it too much’.
Well sorry, I do.
And as such it ruined my enjoyment of it a bit.
Should You Watch Looper?
Probably not. Despite it going alright until the finish, the last part knowingly made no sense, so it’s annoyed me.
As such, I say Nay to going to see Looper.