The UnPopular Opinion: Looper
THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!
**** SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****
LOOPER is one of those movies that I feel you almost have to say you like so that your friends won't think you are a moron. It is that combination of intelligent science fiction, indie prowess, and mainstream action that fans latch onto and will not listen to contrary opinion. While I loved Rian Johnson's previous films, I found myself disappointed with LOOPER. For all of the talk that he should have been a contender to helm STAR WARS: EPISODE VII, I find this was a bad trial run in the world of science fiction.
The entire problem begins with the opening narration. To paraphrase the movie ADAPTATION, voice over narration is flaccid, sloppy writing. In fact, there are various instances throughout the movie where Joseph Gordon-Levitt's Joe recites segments from the opening voice over which leaves you feel like there is no other way to explain what the hell a looper does aside from this canned answer. There are very few films where the voice over actually benefits the movie and a whole slew where it is a detriment. LOOPER falls into the latter.
Coming soon! Die Hard and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull!
The next problem is the future world itself. In the behind the scenes features, Rian Johnson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt make a case that this world is one that is wholly possible 30 years from now. That is all well and good fellas, but you fail to explain how or why society has fallen into such disarray. The city looks futuristic with hovercrafts and blimps in the sky (which reminded me a lot of FRINGE's alternate universe), but no explanation for the wanton violence in the streets and the pervasive poverty. Sure, time travel was invented and then made illegal, but what the hell else happened that we aren't being told? I kept telling myself there is a level of suspension of disbelief needed for any science fiction tale, but you also need to be given a little more information about why things are the way they are.
Which begs the question about time travel itself. LOOPER presents a very isolated scenario where only specific individuals are able to use time travel and for only nefarious purposes. But, the entire movie hinges on this time travel element making sense, and I am sorry to say that it does not. The basic structure of a looper killing criminals and then killing his future self 30 years down the line and then being retired works all fine and dandy, I get that. Even when we see the fate of Paul Dano's Seth as they dismember his 2044 self and we see the results on his 2074 body, the time travel still makes sense. But, then we get Joe killing himself, retiring, marrying, suffering the loss of his wife and being sent back only not to be killed this time and we hit the problem with the entire story. At the moment he does not kill himself, the future would have been changed and he never would have retired to Shanghai or married his wife. The entire movie ends at that moment. But, we are expected to forgive this complicated scenario by calling it suspension of disbelief? I don't think so.
This is why Demi Moore should stop getting Botox injections.
And then we have the telekinesis. At the start of the movie we are told, almost off-handedly, that some people have developed the ability to control things with their minds, but that it is basically just a parlor trick with no real significance. This is presented in such a way that I rolled my eyes, instantly knowing that mind control was going to play a major part in the final act of the movie. And, lo and behold, it does. Not only does the future villain take the form of a precocious and evil-looking Damien wannabe named Cid, but he is an incredibly powerful "level 3" telekinetic. Which makes me wonder how if this kid is the infamous future villain The Rainmaker that no one knows he has this rare power? You would think Jeff Daniels' Abe would at least know that this criminal bigwig was one of the friggin X-MEN. But no, this useful piece of information is unknown to both Future Joe and Future Seth. Convenient.
The entire third act of LOOPER is a mess. We are presented with a very intriguing world and concept in the first act of the movie and a thrilling second act where the two Joes face off against each other. Bruce Willis delivers one of his better performances in a long time, mainly because he doesn't have to carry the entire movie on his own. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is excellent, but only when he stops trying to imitate Willis and just acts. The most unforgivable aspect of this movie is that awful Bruce Willis prosthetic make-up which completely takes you out of the story. Rian Johnson claims that the two actors didn't look like each other so they used the make-up. Would any of us really have given a shit? If we are meant to accept the blatant holes in the story, I can deal with two actors not looking identical.
Emily Blunt holding a boomstick. This is going right in the spank bank.
The lone bright spot in the movie, acting-wise, is Emily Blunt. She is playing against her usual type in this film and I found her character enthralling. I thought she was attractive before, but in LOOPER she is hands down gorgeous. Maybe it was the gun in her hand, but I hope she takes more roles like this in the future. I will also say child actor Pierce Gagnon does a great job as Cid. The child comes across as menacing, innocent, sweet, precocious, and evil throughout his time on screen. I was left wondering if there would be any way of this kid not growing up to be a villain, even if Joe takes himself out of the equation for his fate. The kid just seems like bad news, but I would consider that a win for the casting of this role.
In the end, Rian Johnson says this is not a movie where time travel is the main focus, like in the film PRIMER. That doesn't sit well with me because the entire story hinges on time travel and he brought in PRIMER director Shane Carruth as a consultant on LOOPER. Every other aspect of this movie, from the cinematography, the use of practical effects (excluding the Bruce Willis face prosthetics), and the overall acting works. It is a shame it all comes crashing down on itself due to the inconsistent plot holes. A good time travel story should work as a loop (See PRIMER, TWELVE MONKEYS, etc) and alas, LOOPER does not.
Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!