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Looped



Saw the movie Looper last night. The film has much critical acclaim and filmgoer kudos. I thought it was just okay. There are some issues with its pacing, and very much with its plot. If you haven't yet seen Looper, and plan to, then don't read any further. Otherwise, let's get down to business.


Premise: First and foremost, I have an issue with the basic premise of Looper which, as I understand it, is that the the loopers, themselves, are so named because they are caught in a loop of doing their job of killing people for thirty years, then being sent back in time to be murdered by their past-selves. To make it simpler, using the movie's chronology: The 'current' setting of the film is the year 2044. Joe (played in this time period by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) receives a mark from the year 2074. It is his future-self (played by Bruce Willis). He has to kill him, otherwise see his life ruined by mobsters. The thing is, that does not constitute a loop.

Really, the lives of loopers are fairly straightforward. They live, they die. This is no different from the rest of humanity. The only difference is when they die. Instead of dying in 2074, old Joe is sent back to die in 2044, but he's still going to be dead. And, because of the fact that he is sent back in time in the first place, his future from 2044 to 2074 is pretty firmly established. There is no loop to be had. The film, of course, likes to play with this theory, as do most fictional postulations of time travel. Fair enough.

Hitler Theory: Looper invokes what I prefer to call 'The Hitler Theory,' in that it conjures up the old philosophical query of, if time travel were possible, would you go back in time and murder a young Hitler in order to save the millions of people whose deaths he would command? You see, in Looper, there is a shadowy character operating in 2074 known as The Rainmaker, and he is the one ordering all of the loopers from that time period to be rounded-up and sent back to 2044 to be killed.

Old Joe (Bruce Willis) who was rounded-up, and saw his wife/lover shot dead by those capturing him, vows to kill the child version of The Rainmaker once he is sent back to 2044. A fair bit of the movie involves this quest, and sees old Joe willing to murder any kid he thinks may be The Rainmaker. When it comes down to it, the film prefers to side with nurture over nature, when it comes fine-tuning the future of The Rainmaker. I don't know, though.... aren't we all a little of both? You could give someone a great, loving life, and they could still go on to do extremely bad things. I am therefore unsure if young Joe's final choice in the film will ultimately prove beneficial.

Paradox: As in most tales of time travel, paradoxes abound within Looper. For example, why would the older version of Joe's friend Seth, once he was heavily mutilated in 2044, have been able to run  away from his younger self once he was sent back in time to be executed? Shouldn't the mutilation have been there all along? And, would't many of the events in the film have been rendered mute by young Joe killing himself at the end? All of the people that old Joe murdered in his quest to find the young Rainmaker? Not to mention his life with the woman who loved him? None of it should have happened.

Of course, one way to explain a time paradox is to claim that there are alternate realities, some of which are created when a person goes back in time and changes things. While some scientists contend that alternate realities are a very real possibility, I'm not sure that time travel would be their cause. No, my (admittedly odd) contention is that time exists at all points simultaneously, and that we travel through it along its various points.

Consider time to be a 500-page novel. The novel is there. It exists, but we just haven't finished it yet. We both write it and read it. Currently, let's say we're on page 195. That doesn't mean that page 230 doesn't exist, simply that we haven't reached it yet. This is the same theory that our current year, 2012, existed back in 1944, except that folks in 1944 hadn't yet gotten to 2012 yet. And so on and so forth. If anything, the event of Looper support such a theory.

Did I enjoy Looper? Yes, to a certain degree. Would I recommend it? Still unsure. It definitely gets you thinking about its plot, although the more you think about it, the less likely you may be to give it full marks. There are many plot holes and inconsistencies. And, as stated earlier, the film's pacing could do with a bit of polish. But, hey, it got me thinking about time travel, and that's always fun. Even if it is just a fiction.

Comments

  1. Another friend of mine mentioned that he had high hopes for Looper and how it might deal with the paradoxes. He hadn't seen it yet. I haven't been to see a movie at the theater for a couple years, and probably won't be going to see Looper, but I might pick it up on DVD when it's in the sale bin.

    Time travel stories are not easy to do well, it seems. I've always been a fan of Jack Chalker and the way he deals with it in his novels. He has a penchant for body switching and multiple realities.

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