Film Corner: Looper, A Review In Tweets

[Content Note: Looper Spoilers]

And here is my final word for tonight:

If every single one of your plot-holes is going to be filled after the fact with the statement That's Just How Time Travel Works, then you need to say that in the actual work itself. It's not the viewer's job to go googling after the fact. Because if they do google after the fact and that's all they receive by way of an excuse, they're not going to go aaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhgotitthx. They're going to call your plot-hole excuse out as malarkey, because they're justifiably bitter about going to all the trouble to google what should have been ten seconds of in-work technobabble.


Ana Mardoll said...

And now, actual spoilers.

1, why bother to kill the Loopers at all? Seriously, why? And after a 30 year hiatus, whut. It can't be to cover up the criminal activity because 30 years is a lot of time to tell people about your illegal time travel shenanigans. I QUESTION YOUR METHODOLOGY.

2, why send the Loopers to their past selves? If they just rounded them up at the 30 year mark and sent them to random Loopers, no one would have even *known*. Because, really, no one could foresee people pulling a runner? No one imagined that a Looper might work *together* with his future self? COLOR ME SHOCKED.

3, why are the Loopers even necessary? If they can dump people in the middle of Kansas, they can dump them into the bottom of the ocean with chains around their ankles. SEEMS MORE COST EFFECTIVE.

I actually mind 3 less, because hey, why not. But 1 and 2 should have been briefly summed up with a "they have to do it this way because flurble wurble gobbledy gook". I mean, the Muppet Swedish Chef would have been FINE, really.

Morgan said...

Huh. I just enjoyed it as an action movie after deciding very early on that, nope, they weren't going to try to have the time travel make any kind of sense so I wouldn't bother to stress about it. Was it supposed to make sense? That makes it rather worse than if they just hadn't been bothering.

Elise Kumar said...

I... actually thought the movie made plenty of sense, given that it was a time-travel movie. Way more than most time-travel movies!

1. Well from the POV of the people in charge they don't actually have access to the "past" 30 years. They can only work with what they have which is that they kill any loopers they find. One presumes that "30 years ago" is the best/safest time for them to travel to/from and the illegality and consequences of timetravel make it too risky to just go bopping around everywhere. And from their "present" the loopers clearly haven't spilled about the time-travel activity (I don't know why they didn't, but they haven't! they're still running their operation) but they have no guarantees that the Loopers will continue to stay silent from now on. So they kill them.

2. If they set it up so that the loopers kill each other (which does seem to make more sense!) then what if the loopers find out? What if I find out that you, my supposed buddy, just killed future ME? I'm not exactly going to be cool with that. We already know that people who are stable and well adjusted don't sign up to become loopers. So it makes more sense if you make them kill themselves and give them a big reward for doing so.

3. Who says they can dump people in the ocean? Can they move people through space as well as time? I figured that their time machine was in that spot, so that's where people end up.

I actually thought that the way time travel worked in the movie was at least fairly consistent in that clearly there is only one timeline, but the "written over" timelines are necessary to set up the current timeline and paradoxes aren't possible. And the movie did basically say "this is the way timetravel works, just deal with it and enjoy the ride" when Joe and Old Joe were talking in the diner and Joe asks Old Joe how it works and he basically says that it would be a boring conversation and would end up with them just arguing and playing with straws. I think that was one of my favourite parts of the movie because the movie was basically saying "Calm down, just enjoy the movie". And I really really did.

Ana Mardoll said...

1, sure, they don't have access to the past 30 years. But, as you point out, the Loopers are clearly not a threat because everything is still running smoothly. So... why round them all up and kill them? There's no point that I can see, and it's too likely that something JUST LIKE THIS will happen. They're betting that human nature *won't* let one's self escape and wreak havoc on the time stream. 100%, every time, each person will kill their self. That's a really stupid bet to bet all of history on.

2, how would the loopers find out? They don't usually even look at the guy, and even if they did, the loopers can't all know each other. It's established that the administration keeps very close tabs on the loopers -- they know which sex workers they favor and they watch how much money goes in and out. So it should be tiddly winks to send Bob to James, who never met Bob, and vice versa. Really, I'd count on human nature not wanting to see the face, chalking similarities up to coincidence, etc. rather than expecting people to kill their selves.

For that matter, this is a CRIME ORGANIZATION. It would not be hard to make the face unrecognizable before the jump. We have that 'technology" *now*. (It's a silly criminal organization indeed when I could do better.)

3, if they can only move people through space, that means they apprehended Old Joe in China, killed his wife and badly covered it up with a fire (the whole *point* of Loopers is that you can't cover up murders in the future), and then traveled HOW MANY MILES to Future Kansas in order to send him back to Young Joe. Because... why? Like, literally, that is the worst plan ever.

The silliest thing, to me, about the Don't Think About Time Travel conversation is that they immediately start talking about Time Travel. If the characters themselves refuse to ignore the hand-wave, they can't expect me in the audience to do so. But, really, my issues in this movie aren't with Time Travel. My issues are with the criminal organization being run by people with seriously strange concepts of efficacy.

Ana Mardoll said...

CN: Weapons of Mass Destruction

Also, by telling the Loopers precisely *when* they will be killed, they're practically DARING them to try a Suicide Gambit. How hard would it be for one Looper to get hold of a thermonuclear device, or a bio warfare bomb, or whatever they have in the future for killing large swaths of people? Set it to go off after your loop, or when you're tossed in the incinerator and BOOM. A mushroom cloud over Kansas (not to mention killing Young Looper before he could grow up to be Old Looper) wouldn't change the time stream AT ALL. *eyeroll*

Indeed, this is exactly what a more fatalistic (and less optimistic about seeing his family again) Bruce Willis would have done: blow up Kansas. His wife would be (probably) safe, and the Rainmaker (who lives in Kansas) would be dead. And Bruce Willis wouldn't care because, you know, he's dead anyway. That's significantly more safe and sure than trying to track down three different kids while being pursued by everyone in the entire city thanks to Bounty Economics.

Of course, we can argue that Kansas *can't* blow up Because Stable Time Loop, but if the future can't be altered then the movie is a downer ending in the extreme. (For the record, I *do* think Cid grew up to be the Rainmaker anyway, because 1, jaw injury, and 2, would explain why he suddenly rounds up the Loopers for no adequately explained reason, but I'm GRIM like that.)

Morgan said...

I'm not sure why you think that, Ana. The point as I saw it was that everything was set up for him to become the Rainmaker, except the single biggest factor - his mother's death at a Looper's hand - which young!Joe prevents. So... yeah, he has the jaw injury, and in the "original" future he had an obvious reason to hate Loopers, but... what in that suggests he's still on the same path?

As far as I can tell the rule is that an entity from the future can be affected by changes to the past, but those changes only take effect after they actually happen in the past. So old!Seth loses bits of his body at the time in the past when they're removed from young!Seth, but the fact that young!Seth would have had to go through the next thirty years missing those bits and somehow returned to the past without them is completely ignored. Old!Joe can wink out of existence as soon as young!Joe kills himself, but all his actions in the present still happened even though he didn't live to come back in time to do them and had no reason to do so even if he had lived. It's perhaps the most bizarre mishmash of "single, consistent timeline" and "jumping timelines to change the past with the inertia of an unaltered future" I've ever seen.

Ana Mardoll said...

I'm not sure why you think that, Ana. The point as I saw it was that everything was set up for him to become the Rainmaker, except the single biggest factor - his mother's death at a Looper's hand

His stated character motivation is that his mother was killed in front of him, no? (Did I mishear? I don't remember " a Looper" being stated in the diner.)

He's already seen his "mother killed in front of him", if you count the Aunt whose name I don't remember. So Sarah being saved from Old Joe doesn't necessarily alter the time stream because we never knew for certain if she died or not in the original timeline. It's ambiguous which 'mother' was meant by that -- birth mother or adoptive mother.

For that matter, he could kill Sarah himself the next time he slips down the stairs. It's been established that he can't control himself. Or she could die later because they live in a crapsack world. Etc.

In the interview with the guy I referenced upthread, someone asked if all the gold/silver Sarah finds at the end is how Cid finances his criminal organization and he said that was a good question, so it seems to me that Cid's future is supposed to be a question mark to the viewer.

Antigone10 said...

Yeah, on a scale from "urg" to "awesome" this was definitely an "eh" (Or, you know, 3.4/10). So, not the worst movie I've ever seen, but not worth the price of the theatre. For pretty much precisely the reasons you said- and also "Why don't you kill them in the future and just have to people in the past be the clean up the corpse if "because of time travel" bullshit sends them to that exact spot and time?" That way they don't even have the OPTION of running away. Or, if there's some sort of unexplained bi-metrics something or other that tells when people die and they can't kill them in the future because that would alert someone (except that they totally did), give them some fast-acting, particularly painful poison so your past self is doing them a favor by shooting them, or at least there is exactly zero incentive NOT to shoot them because you know they are already going to die.

I think there WAS an interesting concept buried beneath the stupid, distracting, unexplained time travel- present self isn't always thinking about the best interests of future self, and who you grow up to be doesn't necessarily like the person you were. As explained in a couple of notable lines:

Young Joe: This job doesn't exactly attract the most forward-thinking of individuals.

Young Joe: This is MY life.
Old Joe: This is OUR life.

Old Joe: She took this stupid, dropped-out (forgot insulting noun) and held him as he got the drugs out of his system and turned him into a real man.

Also, I'm kind of annoyed at the entire lack of women in this movie, and the ones we do see are WAY into the Madonna/ Whore dichotomy. You're either a soulless whore, partying and paying the bills with no motivation to do anything else (and probably a bad mother to boot) or you're a completely self-sacrificing mother stripping herself of all pleasure to raise a child (sometimes in the same person). Or raising a grown baby into a man. And even then, it's probably not enough because you're single-mom self is going to raise a serial killer.

Why wasn't there any female Loopers? Could you honestly tell me they couldn't hold a Blunder Buster and drag a body as easily as every other guy? Are "prostitute", "server" "wife/mother" literally the only jobs available if you're female? We never see background criminal women, or really a lot of background women at all except as bordello dancers.

Ana Mardoll said...

This. I was wondering the same thing about killing them in the future, and I like your idea of poison. One way or another, they're dead at that point.

And I completely agree that the underlying idea was interesting. (I like the way you phrased it, that you don't grow up to be the person you were.) Really, I thought Willis was the most sympathetic character in the movie, from start to finish, and I was mildly annoyed that apparently I was supposed to see him as a villain at the end.

Also, YES WOMEN. WHAT-THE-FARK. That irked me so, so much that there are no women loopers, that the only women we see are sex workers, mothers, or sex workers who are also mothers. And I'm *not* a fan of the whole "it's all on me to make sure he's raised right" crap. No, film-writers, someone who turns out to be a serial killer or whatever didn't automatically have a missing/failed/awful mother. Ick, ick, ick.

Ana Mardoll said...

Also, this is done so often, that I think there needs to be a trope for it:

The Only Work In The Future Is Sex Work or something. It's annoying.

MotherDemeter said...

It's also the only work in Game of Thrones universe :).

I haven't seen Looper, but I don't often do well with movies like that when they don't even try to make sense. In Time is an example of that for me - I couldn't get past the nonsensical premise of time = money = life left.

Source Code was pretty good if you haven't seen it, though the ending felt rather tacked on. Like they tested another ending on audiences and got negative feedback so they went with a cliche. I appreciated the women characters in the movie, and the general diversity it showed.

Antigone10 said...

And honestly, I didn't think future Willis was that sympathetic (my most sympathetic character goes to favorite sex-worker: she loves her daughter and is smart enough to say things like "silver comes with strings" even though I felt that the movie framed her as unloving for saying that).

This movie had really, really good casting. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis have so much natural charisma that their characters tend to come across as more sympathetic than they actually have any right to in-text. Willis's stated reason for wanting to kill the Reign-maker was that he wanted to save his wife. And Young Joe gave him a way to easily do that "Show me a picture of your wife- I'll make sure I never see her and she'll be safe". He didn't want to do that because he DID NOT care about his wife as much as he cared about "I want to be safe and living with my wife". So, a little less altruistic then the movie makes him out to be- sure, he'd kill for his wife, but he wouldn't die for her. Or attempt to help stay and raise the child into a more empathetic and loving person (maybe he would have been a super-hero). And what's one more life on the (I'm going to say) hundreds he's already killed?

I did like that they showed that his line used to be "No killing children". The scene where Bruce Willis is weeping over killing Little Mister Latch-Key Kid (Oh hai another example of judging people for bad mothering, and she doesn't even get to be on screen) was very touching- I don't know if it's because he honestly didn't want to kill the kid, or if it was because he had to and he was still in the past so it was meaningless, but I honestly felt sympathy for his character then. Not enough to redeem him for the rest of the film, but I felt it then.

Morgan said...

Ana: hmmm, I guess I see where you're coming from. The way I see it, the conversation in the diner (IIRC) was speculative - no one really knows where the Rainmaker came from (though I'm very curious how the heck they got something as specific as his date and place of birth, without figuring out his name along the way). I'm going off young!Joe's "I see how this is going to play out" flash at the end. Up to that point, of course everything had to be consistent with his still becoming the Rainmaker. After that point, he still could, but it feels to me like it cuts against the flow of the story. But hey, I've done the "prefer to think things work out badly anyway, just because" thing myself more than once...

I wonder how much of the movie is meant to be a metaphor for cycles of abuse? The emphasis on the importance of good parenting (over-emphasis, I'd say), the idea that Cid doesn't just pass on his damaged upbringing to the next generation but indirectly visits it on himself... That's what I was thinking as I left the cinema, anyway.

MotherDemeter: I'm not sure whether the last ten minutes or so of Source Code were indeed a studio-mandated addition, but they sure felt like it. It's a good movie that inexplicably lasts a scene or two past its very obvious and natural end point, and in my head those last few minutes literally aren't counted as part of the movie.

Omskivar said...

I'm really enjoying this conversation because you're all bringing up plot holes I didn't even notice. I was too busy being pissed that this is the second movie* I've seen this year where I couldn't tell two female characters apart - I spent twenty-to-thirty minutes thinking Sarah was Joe's Favorite Prostitute (did she even get a name?) and wondering why she didn't seem to recognize him, and it didn't click until we saw Old Joe hanging around outside JFP's apartment.

*The other movie was Total Recall, and I was immensely distracted how similar Evil Spy!Wife and Resistance!Girlfriend looked. Seriously, Hollywood, can't you at least give them different hairstyles or something? (Maybe something a little more appropriate to running for your life than long flowing hair that will surely blow in your face or get caught on something?)

Ana Mardoll said...

Hmm, good point that it's not just a futuristic trope.

How about "No Work But Sex Work"?

Ana Mardoll said...

I was actually able to tell apart Mother and Sex Worker, as well as Kate Beckinsale and Jessica Biel in Total Recall, HOWEVER, I am very-very-very familiar with not being able to tell the women characters apart.

Blonde-Brunette-Redhead exists as a trope for a REASON, and filmmakers need to remember that. When they cast women with similar body types, similar faces, similar hair, similar lips, similar EVERYTHING, you're going to confuse some viewers.

(One of many reasons why I dislike most war movies: I can't tell all the men apart with their identical haircuts and clothes and body builds.)

Ana Mardoll said...

Ironically, from the trailer I thought that Bruce Willis was sent to JGL by ACCIDENT, like Bruce Willis had been living under an assumed name and they sent him off to Random Looper #476, only to OMG WHOOPS have it be the same guy. And then zany shenanigans happen.

I would have liked that a lot better; really, it would have cleaned up 95% of my issues with the movie.

depizan said...

Trying to follow this discussion here, but as I haven't seen the movie (and am not likely to), I'm a bit confused.

The plot is: crime syndicate sends people (called loopers) into the past to kill people (because crime syndicates are like that) and then decides the loopers are dangerous, so sends them back to kill themselves? No...that's not it. *googles* The mob sends their hits back into the past to be killed by hit men they hired in the past, then sends those same hit men back to be killed by themselves? OW my brain. That's classic over complicated scheming there.

How did anyone arrive at the idea that it was better to hire people to capture alive targets, transport them to a time machine (or a time machine to them), stuff them through, and then have a second hired person in the past kill them. Oop, wait, somewhere in there, somebody has to make sure the target doesn't have anything identifiable as to from the present on them. So you'd probably have to completely change their clothing, too.

Definitely better than shooting them and dropping them in a gravel pit. Yessir.

Please tell me there's some reason they can't kill people in the present.

Ana Mardoll said...

They can't kill people in 2074 (or whenever) because everyone is "tagged" (by the government? In a world with no discernible police or governmental infrastructure? Wev.) and so covering up a murder is impossible. So they fling people into the past (to 2044) so that they can be murdered there without the authorities in 2074 being able to pinpoint the body.

It makes NO SENSE, agreed, but it's something I could accept. The silliness (for me) is that when the people from 2044 in charge of the killing get X old, they're rounded up and sent back to themselves for disposal.

Antigone10 said...

Except, of course, we see that people get killed in 2074, such as Willis's wife and all the people he killed for crimes, and the Reign of Terror.

Silver Adept said...

I think the trope might be "A Woman's Work Is In The ________", with the the main types being "kitchen", "bordello", and "support role".

And with the description and such, I think I'll pass on the movie. Unless someone deliberately invokes Joel and Mike and then sticks to it, consistency in time travel is necessary or I get knocked out of suspension of disbelief.

depizan said...

But why hire a second group of people at all? If you have to catch someone, strip them, put them in 2044 clothing, and zap them to the past, why not just shoot them right before the zapping part and boot the body through the wormhole (or whatever)?

And, really, is it that much less suspicious if your enemy vanishes into thin air, never using their bank account and all again than if they simply turn up dead? I'm failing to see how "tagged" prevents murder. Hell, boot the body into a blast furnace. I bet the tag wouldn't survive that.

On the other hand, given the over complicated nature of the murder plot in the first place, I don't know that I'd be too surprised that they went for the further overcomplication of having the Loopers kill themselves.

Though I am mildly relieved they explained why the plot was needed in the first place. Even if they apparently didn't explain it well.

Gotchaye said...

I have not seen the movie because I figured the time travel wouldn't make any sense, but I was just reading Chris Orr's review and saw mention of younger versions of characters sending messages to older versions of themselves by cutting themselves. Is it explained why the younger version couldn't just make a point of remembering the message? It sounds like there's some bizarre dualism at work here.

Loquat said...

A) There's something weird going on with the memories of the old self who's been sent back in time, and also - you want to bet your life on being able to remember a message for 30 years with no major errors creeping in?

B) Of course, message-via-scar is far more dramatic on-screen.

Loquat said...

That's definitely my major objection to the plot - if you need to have your murdered corpses disposed of in the past via time travel, why not just send them back as corpses and have your past employees just do the dirty work of corpse disposal? Simpler, less margin for error, and since the job in the past now doesn't involve murder you've got a larger and less scummy pool of potential employees to choose from.

It doesn't even mess up the plot too much - let's say the Rainmaker was going around wiping out everyone associated with organized crime, and Bruce Willis was supposed to be killed, but his killer got careless and he got loose, and the time machine was the only way he could see to escape, so he sent himself back to his own past self figuring he'd be willing to help out. We've still got the causality problems, but the criminal business setup works much better.

storiteller said...

That's really too bad that it was totally nonsensical. I like time travel plots and it looked like it could be quite good. I too thought it was random that he was being sent back to get killed by himself. It reminded me of How to Live in a Science Fictional Universe, where the character accidentally shoots his future-self in the beginning and then spends the whole book wondering how he's going to fix that paradox. (Good book, by the way, although not high on the sense-o-meter, but it's mega-postmodern and referential, so that's sort of the point.) I'm totally okay with timey-whimeyness (as a Doctor Who fan, it's mildly required) but they should be upfront about it.

As for movies that are "cool" but don't make a lot of sense, I felt that way about Prometheus. Somewhere in there, there was a much better movie trying to get out.

Brenda said...

I was expecting, from trailers/descriptions, that Young Joe would see Old Joe and then they would work together to get themselves out of their predicament. Did not expect Young Joe to still want to shoot him, and that they would be working against each other.

I was vaguely sympathizing with Old Joe, until realizing that he was going to kill three kids, then he killed that kid - and suddenly I realized, yeah, he loved his wife, but he worked as a hit man for all those years - it's not like he's an innocent victim!

The one big question for me is, when Young Joe starts to explain to Sarah about the time travel, her response is to interrupt him with "You're a LOOPER?" This is never followed up on.

HOW DOES SHE KNOW WHAT A LOOPER IS?!? It did not seem to be widespread knowledge in the intro part of the film!

Anyway, to quote whatshisname, "Time travel... it fries your brain like an egg..."

Moughans said...

I know I'm a bit late to the party, but I wanted to see if anyone else had thoughts on my personal least favourite plot hole. I seem to remember that the stated reason for Jeff Daniels not simply killing yer man who lets his future self get away to take care of the future self is that it might mess with the time line - the idea here being, I suppose, that young what's-his-face might have some significant role to play in the future, so killing him might have a bigger effect than desired.........yet it's okay to completely mutilate him to the point that future what's-his-face is barely able to drag himself down the street on his remaining limbs?

Maartje said...

Just watched Looper.

Ugh, that scene where Old Seth dies is like someone reached into my head and plucked out the worst fears, horrors, and phobias I have. I'm pretty sure I'll have nightmares for at least a week. I'm not easily squicked, but *squick*!

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