There are very few time travel movies that I really love. That's a shame because time travel stories are my favorite brand of science fiction. I love the logical puzzle they represent, which is why it's always so disappointing to see time travel movies fail to solve their own puzzle logically. More often than not it comes down to an ignorance of the ontological paradox. It may have a complex sounding name, but it's really quite simple: An object is sent back in time only to eventually become the very same object that was originally sent back in time. Logically this can't happen, however, as the object's presence in the past would alter the future to the point where it should have never entered the time loop to begin with.
It's all very nerdy, naturally, but I bring it up because one of the more interesting sci-fi films to be announced lately happens to not only involve time travel, but the ontological paradox directly. The film is called Looper and it's to be written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom) with Joseph Gordon-Levitt ((500) Days of Summer) set to star as a hitman in the near future. Only he's no normal hitman; the group he works for is in touch with another group from the future. This future group has an arrangement with the hitmen wherein they will send back people for disposal, thus leaving no trace of the crime in the future. This is all well and good until Levitt's character is tasked with killing his future self.
It sounds like it could be really great stuff, but I'm wondering how Johnson will avoid that specific of an ontological paradox. Wouldn't the shock of seeing his future self be strong enough to prevent him from ever entering the scenario that would result in him ever being sent back in time in the first place? I'm excited for the premise, but it does sound suspiciously similar to Robert Heinlein's short story "By His Bootstraps". There are no hitmen involved, but it does focus directly on how a man from the present reacts to a future version of himself and the casualty loop that he ultimately enters.
That story is actually a very clever and intentional love letter to that paradox (the gravity-defying name is no coincidence), though. I have no idea if Looper will have a similar agenda, but given the talents of all involved, I'm hoping that at least attempts to address the paradox, even if it doesn't solve it. Whatever the case may be, Looper just became one of my most anticipated sci-fi films in pre-production right now.
The anticipated title on my list is Neuromancer. Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice) is attached to write and direct the adaptation of William Gibson's seminal novel, which fills me with equal parts fear and hope. On the one hand, I think Natali is a very interesting and capable filmmaker and I like all of his comments so far. On the other hand, I think Neuromancer is one of the most important science fiction books ever written (definitely the most important of the last 26 years) and I'm not exactly dying to see someone - anyone - attempt to make it. I mean, this is the book that not only popularized the cyberpunk subgenre, set the precedent for the way people theorized about the Internet and cyberspace for decades to come.
I think the story, which is about a once-great hacker who gets caught up investigating a conspiracy theory, is fine for the big screen, but what I'm worried about is how Natali will handle things like showing an audience cyberspace. It's not impossible, but without a proper budget on their hands, the cyberspace of Neuromancer could end up looking like bad effects from The Lawnmower Man. Or it could be the next Matrix, you never know this early on.
I do know this though: between these two films alone, it's a good time for sci-fi fans. Hollywood loves us again, so here's to hoping they make movies worth loving back