This piece includes massive spoilers for the new film Looper. See the movie first, then come back here and discuss it!
As anyone who has seen the new sci-fi action movie Looper can attest, the marketing for the film has been leaving out a major component of the film. Not in an act of deception, but rather to keep the hard right turn that takes place in the second half a secret from audiences already hooked by the Joseph Gordon-Levitt vs. Bruce Willis premise.
A movie with actual surprises to spoil? A miracle in this day and age.
So while my main review skirted around discussing the latter half of Looper, now that the movie is in theaters, we can get into the juicy stuff — mainly, the introduction of Cid, an all powerful psychic who could possibly grow up to be the deadly 2072 mob boss known as "The Rainmaker."
The concept of telekinetics in the 2044 is teased throughout Looper, beginning with a billboard commercial that paints the mutant evolution as a mere parlor trick (which it basically is, as Seth (Paul Dano) demonstrates with his flirtatious pick-up tactics). The low-level psychic abilities are Looper's Chekov's Gun — writer/director Rian Johnson doesn't put an emphasis on them early on, but they aren't there just for show either. Telekinesis resurfaces again after Sara (Emily Blunt) and Joe (Gordon-Levitt) make love for the first time. After 40 minutes of not seeing the powers in action, Johnson gracefully reminds us that, yes, the world of Looper does include people capable of moving objects with their minds.
Only a few scenes after the generous callback, we get Looper's "oh s**t" moment: the revelation that Cid, already one of Old Joe's (Willis) potential Rainmaker suspects, blows the lid off the mystery with an explosive display of psychic power that turns looper-killer Jesse (Garret Dillahunt) into a cloud of blood. No wonder Sara hid in a thick, metal safe when she perturbed her son ever so slightly — Cid's unrestrained abilities puts him in the pantheon of destructive kids, joining the ranks of The Twilight Zone's "It's a Good Life" or the psychic frenzy of Akira. His moment of violence in Looper is jaw-dropping.
Cid's superhuman powers are a cinematic spectacle that Johnson makes them flourish with absolute grace, but by the time we get to the moment, Looper's already about something else and Cid's story is diverting away from the film's core. The face-off of Young Joe and Old Joe has been promised in the setup, and because each character has their own mission (Young Joe is dedicated to protecting Cid, while Old Joe vows to destroy the young Rainmaker and save the future), it's never quite paid off. Cid and Sara's story feels like an entirely different movie, even though it makes perfect sense in the world of the movie. If Looper was a comic book series and 15 issues we were introduced to Cid and Sara, it would be completely expected. Unfortunately, the pacing and focus of a two hour film doesn't gracefully incorporate the intriguing thread.
For the most part, Looper delivers from beginning to end are the thrills, but its disregard for the rules of its world play a part in why the ending doesn't completely work. Truth: I don't think a movie needs to make complete sense — only when you step back from the experience of watching a film do people really begin to see potential plot holes. Lengthy forum threads condemning movies for screenplay missteps be damned (I'm looking at you Reddit) — as long as a film is fun and confident in itself, as long as it's entertaining, it gets a logic pass.
Looper almost succeeds in this. During the diner scene, Old Joe tells Young Joe to stop asking questions about the space time continuum and focus on what's happening at that exact moment. In that moment, Young Joe is the proxy for the audience, Johnson explaining through Willis that he has set up just enough rules to have Looper make sense, as long as you don't overthink it. Of course, at the end of the film, the time travel logic does matter — and although we've been told not to dwell on the details, not everyone can let that go. Hollywood.com's own Brian Moylan is fed up with time travel and I understand why. Often times sci-fi films demand their unique laws to be noticed and assessed instead of simply stating them and moving on. Looper points out that the time time travel logic doesn't matter, then proceeds to have the ending ride on that logic.
In the grand finale of Looper, Young Joe blasts himself in the chest with a shotgun, terminating Old Joe's existence before he can land a bullet in Cid or Sara's head. The paradox that one could distill from this moment is how the Rainmaker came into being in the timeline where Old Joe was successfully killed (which we see lead to Gordon-Levitt transforming into Willis over the course of 30 years and leading to the events of the second timeline). One assumes (as Young Joe does before taking his own life), that Old Joe shooting Sara in timeline two would have inspired Cid's vengeful life as The Rainmaker. So how did The Rainmaker come about in timeline one? Many see it as one of Looper's deep logic flaws — but a more compelling argument is that it's commentary on fate. That's the hope of Old Joe's leap back in time: to rearrange the future. As Looper proves (and many quantum physicists may agree), that's an impossible task.
What did you think of the ending of Looper? Did it work for you as pure entertainment or do you still have burning questions? Let's keep the discussion going. The true beauty of the film is that there is plenty to talk about afterward.
[Photo Credit: Mondo]
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