We’re going to talk about Looper. As you might expect with a film like this it is very difficult to discuss the things I want to without some pretty egregious spoilers. So, you’ve been warned. This is a spoiler warning. A warning of spoilers. Go see the movie before reading this, because despite everything I’m about to say I still recommend the movie and want you to form your own opinion of it. That all being established, let’s tuck in.
I want to like Looper. I want to like Looper more than I do. I’m ‘trying’ to like Looper. I can’t reconcile it though. Looper doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. The pieces that construct it are all very interesting and dynamic, but the fact is they don’t fit together to make a total picture. The math doesn’t work.
Here’s my problem. When a movie uses time travel as a central plot device it has to have rules. Continuity only becomes more important the less linear your plot becomes. It’s like synchronized swimming; the components can all be chaotic as long as at that crucial moment everything lines up just so. Looper doesn’t really have that. It tries to, but in so doing it only succeeds in tripping over itself.The moment I’m talking about is when Young Joe has has his epiphany before sacrificing himself. The implication of this scene is that Old Joe’s attempt to kill the boy Sid, to prevent him from becoming the Rainmaker, is precisely the event that sets in motion Sid’ eventual transformation. A paradox. A loop that Joe can only undo by removing himself from it. This is all fine… except earlier we see that original timeline where Old Joe was killed and Young Joe’s journey back to that moment. In that timeline the Rainmaker still exists, despite Old Joe being dead in the past and unable to initiate the events of the film. This can’t really be reconciled. There is a token effort to do so, but its flimsy at best. Certainly one can come up with any number of fan theories that make the script work (I’ve come up with three just since last night) but that fact is nobody should ‘have’ to. I’m not saying movies shouldn’t make people think. Far from it. What movies shouldn’t do though is make the audience cover for their lazy storytelling. That’s the heart of it. Looper is kind of lazy. For having such a clutch premise Looper seems content to sleepwalk through it. Really the problem keeps coming back to those two scenes I mentioned. They cannot coexist in the same film. Remove one, either one, and the gears stop grinding (or at least don’t grind nearly as loud).
The thing that frustrates me so much about Looper is that its so close to being great. I wanted it to be as good as it could have been, and its painful to see it shoot itself in the foot with such lackadaisical and easily correctable stumbles. Maybe I shouldn’t have expected more of it. I’ve been told that I’m overthinking it. Regardless, I did and I am. I need Looper to show its work on the exam, and for that I’m docking points.
All that said and done though, you should still go see Looper if you didn’t heed my warning and haven’t already. I’m extending to Looper the same consideration I gave to Prometheus. If a movie gets you talking about it after the lights come up, then at some level it was successful. It wasn’t All You Zombies, or La Jetée, or even Brick, but I can’t say with any conviction that Looper is “bad.” You might love it, you might hate it, but I don’t think you’ll want your money back.