Tuesday, October 2, 2012


Looper - **1/2

Directed by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dino, Piper Perabo
Review: Time travel has been a singular fascination of ours for quite a while.  ‘The Time Machine’ by H.G. Wells was written in 1895, over 100 years ago.  We are no closer and no further away from time travel than we were then, and our perception of it has largely remained the same.  What has changed over the years is how that is explored by different creators.  No longer just a means to tell a story, what made ‘The Time Machine’ so great all those years ago is always what makes these stories so intriguing today: what happens to us and how that knowledge does/would affect us in our current lives.
While ‘Looper’ drifts in this direction, it doesn’t quite go all the way.  Interesting questions are raised, unique hypotheses are, well, hypothesized, but it even gets to the point where Willis suggests “let’s not start talking about time travel otherwise we’ll be here all day drawing diagrams with straws.”  The point is easy to see, everyone knows that paradoxes are part of the deal and the very nature of a paradox is that it leads you in a circle.  No need to flesh that out when there are other important matters at hand.  All the same, it seems a tad bit lazy to me to suggest that we shouldn’t think about this kind of stuff simply because a character doesn’t want to, and more importantly, the writer doesn’t want to either.

This is not to say the movie is poorly written or the writer is actually lazy, just that this is a lazy way to go about this particular plot point that hangs over the head of the entire movie.  This is also not to say the filmmakers didn’t give any time to the idea of how traveling to the past changes the future.  Matter of fact, by trying to simplify everything as much as possible they actually get the message across very well. 
What Willis has experienced is one version of his life, one distinct possibility amongst many others.  What they don’t delve into is why his life and his memories change based on what Gordon-Leavitt’s character does.  Essentially, any divergence from what has already happened should simply result in another branch to the tree of time as it spread along and widens its reach.  The multi-universe theory posited by William James in 1895 (the same year as ‘The Time Machine’ interestingly enough) would ascribe to this belief.
Then again, this is getting into far too much science for a typical movie review.  The ultimate I’m trying to make here is simply that the movie could have gone further.  With the exception of one powerful scene where Willis does something he isn’t entirely comfortable with, the weight of the decisions and changes that are made aren’t explored.  If the future isn’t written and this particular timeline can be changed, then the smallest of decisions would have massive repercussions when fanned out 30 years later.
No faulty science here but an opportunity to give weight to every instant that is lost.
The main question the movie brings up is the idea that has been thought of before (not that that’s a bad thing).  If you knew that someone was going to grow up to be a horrible person, and you could go back in time and kill them as a child, would you?  If that child was going to grow up to be Adolf Hitler or Osama Bin Laden?  Is compromising your moral fiber necessary for the greater good? 
The question failed to be raised is what would Hitler do if he knew he was going to grow up to be Hitler, as we knew the dictator?  Chances are a man like that would probably be the same, but the question is an interesting one.  What power does knowledge of the future have? 
Instead of focusing on this question ‘Looper’ focuses on the “would you change it if you could,” dynamic.  Perhaps where the movie succeeds the most is taking that a step further and wondering whether or not we’d really care if we knew it was something that was 30 years down the line.  If the future’s not written in stone, then anything could happen right?  Is JGL’s laissez faire attitude the most selfish, or Willis’ desire to protect his memories of the last 30 years?
While it may seem that I didn’t enjoy this film, that’s not entirely true.  ‘Looper’ was a very entertaining film with very solid performances from JGL and Emily Blunt.  The questions and ideas raised were intriguing and ripe for exploration.  Unfortunately, with the majority of the questions raised, the remained unanswered. 
A small subplot involves a drug addiction to a future intoxicant that one drops into their eyes.  Yet, all this does is serving as a method to have some crazy club scenes and then is forgotten about halfway through.  The idea of “TK” or telekinetic powers manifesting in random people is brought up, then largely ignored for most of the movie.  There is an overwhelming vagrant population that breeds violence within their city, but no social issues are discussed outside making them get out of the way of their cool cars.
By no means is a bad movie, ‘Looper’ simply as a movie that could have been so much more.  Its fun, its entertaining, its ballsy, but doesn’t quite follow through.  This is a film whose bark is much greater than its bite, even if it is one hell of a bark.
This movie is worth your time, especially if you’re looking for something unique from Hollywood.
P.S. I didn’t address the makeup because it’s not a huge deal, but its comically bad and unnecessary.  We’re already suspending enough disbelief, what’s the harm is a little more to make-believe JGL is actually Willis?  It just served as a distraction.

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