Thursday, September 4, 2014

Why I Hated the Film "Looper" (Alternative Title: "Looper the Pooper")

I'm often asked my thoughts on the Film, Looper, which involves time travel.  Whereas, I have nothing against the logical possibility of time travel (the recent Star Trek movie employs the notion thoughtfully), I do have a problem with terrible movies.  I can suspend disbelief when it comes to what may not be possible for all we know, but I cannot suspend disbelief regarding what we know to be logically impossible.

Thoughts below the fold (major spoiler alert):

I should note, first, that I didn't see the whole movie.  After about 1/2 hour I stopped watching it because I just couldn't get into it.  Why couldn't I get into it?

First, there is the following extremely implausible premise: The future "mob" takes people back in time to kill them so that the whereabouts of the victim will be unknown for the cops of the future.  SO...we are being asked to believe that (a) the mob is intelligent enough to construct and employ a TIME MACHINE but (b) they are not intelligent enough to dispose of a body Jimmy Hoffa style in the PRESENT!?  Couldn't they save money and buy, say, an INCINERATOR??

Second, there is the time traveling itself which introduces not just implausibilities but logical impossibilities.  It is logically impossible, for instance, to go back in time and kill oneself.  If one kills oneself at time T1 in universe U, one will not be alive at time T2, T3, T4 etc. to go back in time in the universe.  Thus one will not be alive at time T4 and one will be alive at time T4 and will go back in time.  So if time travel is possible, something (the laws of nature, God, etc.) will prevent one from killing oneself.

Now to the logical contradiction of Looper which made me stop watching the film in disgust.  Since I haven't seen the film in a while this guy's explication will have to do (my comments in bold):

[The time travel motif] is both where Looper demonstrates its stellar creativity, as well as where the film strays from its own logic. Johnson tries to use these time travel mechanisms to vault over some narrative hurdles, but winds up messing with the consistency of the film. In one of the film’s more exciting yet terrifying sequences, the future (old) version of Seth (Frank Brennan), who was sent back in time to be killed by his younger self (Paul Dano) but escaped, notices that a scar has appeared on his arm. This is because the markings were carved on the arm of the present (young) version of Seth. As the sequence progresses more and more of Old Seth’s body parts start disappearing as Young Seth is further mutilated. Old Seth is horrified as he watches his fingers and limbs vanish, up until he is finally shot and killed. This is an electrifying and intense sequence to watch, but upon further inspection it completely fails to adhere to the film’s time travel laws.
First of all, because Old Seth undergoes the physical changes that are happening to Young Seth, Old Seth is also gaining the memories of that happening to him; and all of his memories are adjusted to incorporate this altered past. [WHERE DID ALL THOSE MEMORIES GO?!  YOU'D THINK YOU'D REMEMBER GETTING YOUR LEGS AND NOSE CUT OFF!]  We also know that the changes happen practically immediately because of how the climax plays out (seriously, if you haven’t seen the movie stop reading, this is a MAJOR SPOILER): when present (young) Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) kills himself, future (old) Joe (Bruce Willis) disappears from existence almost immediately. This means that Old Seth would not be shocked or horrified by the fact that his fingers or nose had disappeared because he would have lost them 30 years prior, as Young Seth, and would have been living without them ever since. [AT WHAT TIME DID SETH GROW HIS LEGS BACK SO THAT OLD SETH HAD LEGS?!]

Now we’ve arrived at Looper’s biggest divergence from its own rules, as the narrative creates a logical conundrum within the reality of the film. Remember, Young Seth failed to kill Old Seth, allowing him to escape, and this is the reason Young Seth is dismembered. Now back to Old Seth’s disappearing body parts: during this scene parts of Old Seth’s legs disappear, meaning they were hacked off Young Seth and he grew old without them. At this point, according to the logic we’ve established for the film, Old Seth should have just vanished, because there’s no way he could have gotten to that point without feet. But let’s say Young Seth manages to survive the next 30 years as a quadruple amputee and becomes Old Seth. [Excellent hypothesis!] Once legless Old Seth is sent back in time, he would not have had the ability to run away and Young Seth would have shot and killed his crippled future self; meaning that Young Seth wouldn’t have had to lose his legs, which in turn means that when he is eventually sent back in time to be killed he would have been able to run away, in which case Young Seth’s legs would have been cut off for failing to kill his future self, again making it impossible for Old Seth to have run away. This pattern would repeat forever in a paradoxical loop; does that make sense? [NO.  The pattern wouldn't repeat itself because it's LOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE!  The logically impossible doesn't repeat because the logically impossible is NOT EVEN POSSIBLE (it's right there in the words)!!]


  1. The most surprising thing about this post is the following: people actually ASK you about this movie? SERIOUSLY?

    I saw it. Not good. But I can blissfully say that I have never been asked a question about it.

  2. SURE, I'm asked about it. After all, it is about time travel and weird stuff. What do they ask you about: Brokeback Mountain?

  3. I get asked about The Matrix, Total Recall, the usual lot...but concerning time travel, I can't recall being asked about anything other than Terminator, actually. Maybe my kids don't watch a lot of movies? [Or their taste is better? ....Nah.]

    Though personally I think 12 Monkeys is a cool time-travel film.