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Looper (2012)


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Peter T Chattaway said:

:Wasn't something like that already implicit in the diner confrontation, though?

Yes. But here it could have taken it further where we could have seen a fascinating fight sequence. With Old Joe having to fight off young Joe, yet while intentionally tryng not to hurt him (himself) too much. Or maybe even having Old Joe getting the upper hand in some way, but then Young Joe hurting himself in order to distract or weaken Old Joe.

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I mean, I understand what you're saying: you're trying to explain how Old Joe could come from a future that presumably does not exist after Young Joe shoots him. Because if the Rainmaker never comes to power, then Old Joe couldn't have come back in the first place.

No, that's not the issue. The issue is that Old Joe comes from a future that did not exist until he went back and was stopped from causing it. It's easy enough to accept the premise that actions in the present affect visitors from the future contemporaneously, in the same timeline from the perspective of present observers. Granted this, there's no logical problem with Old Seth watching his fingers disappear one by one as Young Seth's fingers are cut off, with Old Joe acquiring and losing memories in real time depending on Young Joe's actions, or with Old Joe coming back from the future and then disappearing as Young Joe shoots himself, leaving the mother and child in the field where Joe's actions led them. Those things don't involve causal loops: x causes y, and y causes x. That's where the logical problem arises.

The causal loop the film seems to posit is that the Rainmaker causes Joe to come back, but Joe's coming back causes the Rainmaker. That's a different logical configuration than the situations in the previous paragraph. That, unlike them, is a true paradox. Now, I think there's a way to get around that seeming paradox. My solution is that there are three possible timelines: the "first" one with Rainmaker #1, the one Joe would have caused but that never actually came about with Rainmaker #2, and the final one with no Rainmaker. But I do recognize that, unless you contrive something like this, the ending is problematic in a way that the trans-time causality in general is not.

Ahh, I see. You're right. I think the argument that you and others have been making is correct.

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old wave wrote:

: But the same logic means that Old Paul Dano shouldn't be observing a scar appearing on his arm, either. Instead, Old Paul Dano should have ALWAYS had a scar on his arm, since it happened in the past. When they cut off Old Paul Dano's first finger, he shouldn't be surprised that he doesn't have a first finger, since he's been living without that finger for the past 30 years. And so on.

See, this is one of a few places where I have difficulty with the film. I appreciate the fact that it refers to new or altered memories -- with the other characters. But not with Old Paul Dano? Urk.

And, if we're going to allow for the fact that killing Young Anybody can instantly prevent Old Anybody from killing someone else -- that is, if we're going to allow for the fact that changes to a "looper" will have immediate repercussions on the lives of *other people* -- then it's really, really hard to believe that the future could remain as constant as it is, what with all the closed-loop people acting like they know they're gonna live another 30 years, not to mention the Jeff Daniels character and anyone else who has just gone back in time and stayed there.

Nick Olson wrote:

: What put him on that path was not that Sara might not stay with him (she would be killed), but that she had already left him and caused Cid to be under the impression that he didn't have his real mother. And it was young Joe's entering the picture that eventually allowed the boy to come to the realization that Sara is indeed his mother. This--the realization--is the turning point for Cid's not becoming the Rainmaker, and it's the relationship with/entry of young Joe which brings it about.

Okay, that's clever. But whether it's clever on the filmmaker's part or on your part, I'm not yet sure. :) (I really need to listen to that audio commentary.)

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 2 weeks later...

BTW, spoilers throughout.

Finally got around to seeing LOOPER on Wednesday night. I liked it quite a bit. I think the people who are throwing around names like BLADE RUNNER are mad, but it's definitely one of the American films I've liked the best this year. It's creative, original, and tries things that other films just don't even bother with. It's good science fiction as far as it is actually using the ideas (whatever flaws in the time travel-logic aside for the moment) to ask questions about humanity and society, rather than as an excuse for large action set pieces.

For all the violence in this film, I can't think of a big set piece that is really meant to serve as, what I noted in THE WOLVERINE thread, "tentpole action." And thank goodness. I think that would have brought this film down.

Like Nick, I have a small boy at home and so I was also taken with the fate of Cid and the themes of generations (both offspring and what we become as well) caught in cycles of violence. This is basically a film about the role of society and parents in shaping the future. I think the title is apt, as what is a "looper" other than someone who perpetuates these cycles.

Question: Did anyone else think that possibly Cid/The Rainmaker is the one who invents time-travel as well? I mean, why show him being so good with electronics and stuff at such a young age?

One of the things I like about time-travel films in general is that they force us to think about temporality in very specific ways, but accentuating and dramatizing how at the mercy of time we are. Aging, continuity of identity, becoming -- these are things that time travel stories can help us clarify and articulate, even if as some have noted it might not all add up. I think the time travel mechanics are not as bothersome as some have maintained. I just understood it as a kind of literalization of the notion that all of time exists at all moments in some way. Thus, changes that happen to ourselves in the "present" affect the future self, no matter where on the time line they are currently located.

Still, unlike SDG, I'm not as bothered by films that play with the whole "bootstrap paradox", which is what the creation of the Rainmaker is a variation on. (I will take this opportunity to post links to Robert Heinlein's fantastic short stories, "By His Bootstraps" and "--All You Zombies--" -- the later of which is I think the kind of thing SDG has no taste for) But I kind of wish this film had stuck with a closed loop model of time travel or clearly indicated that there were multiple possible futures. I'm going to take this Instead it does kind of fit somewhere in between the way the TERMINATOR films as a whole do. Actually, I kind of jokingly suggested that LOOPER is a variation on THE TERMINATOR, but Joe is both Kyle Reese and T-800. And there's even a Sarah character as well!

Reading over the thread I have to make a brief comment on the fact that this conjecture that Johnson suffers from "serious self-loathing" makes me uncomfortable. I'll think about it a bit more and respond.

]Dress it up as "sacrifice," but I'm guessing it takes a storyteller dealing with some serious self-loathing to conclude a "save the future" story by shooting who he chooses to shoot.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Question: Did anyone else think that possibly Cid/The Rainmaker is the one who invents time-travel as well? I mean, why show him being so good with electronics and stuff at such a young age?

blowup.gif < What my mind just did. I hadn't thought of that before, but it makes a lot of sense now.

It's the side effects that save us.
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Anders wrote:

: Question: Did anyone else think that possibly Cid/The Rainmaker is the one who invents time-travel as well? I mean, why show him being so good with electronics and stuff at such a young age?

So, Cid invented it, and then *other* people used it, and then Cid repossessed the technology or something? Because it seemed pretty clear to me that the criminals using time travel in the future had already set up shop well before The Rainmaker started bumping them all off.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Anders wrote:

: Question: Did anyone else think that possibly Cid/The Rainmaker is the one who invents time-travel as well? I mean, why show him being so good with electronics and stuff at such a young age?

So, Cid invented it, and then *other* people used it, and then Cid repossessed the technology or something? Because it seemed pretty clear to me that the criminals using time travel in the future had already set up shop well before The Rainmaker started bumping them all off.

Perhaps. I didn't feel Old Joe really had a clear understanding of what The Rainmaker's relationship to the rest of criminal syndicates is. What is he doing besides orchestrating the closing of the loops?

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Question: Did anyone else think that possibly Cid/The Rainmaker is the one who invents time-travel as well? I mean, why show him being so good with electronics and stuff at such a young age?

This is a fascinating idea. I could certainly imagine Cid as the inventor of time-travel, which may have been motivated by the death of his mother at the hands of Old Joe. If only I could create a way to go back and save my mother, or so the thinking goes. Yet it also leads to more questions, mainly: would time-travel still exist in the new timeline where Sara lives and Cid is raised in a good home? Would he still have invented it?

It's all speculation, I suppose. But it's fun to ponder.

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It's all speculation, I suppose. But it's fun to ponder.

To pick up on a phrase Peter deployed earlier, which FWIW resonated with some of my own prior comments, it seems to me that many commenters on the film are cleverer about the film than the film is about itself.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

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It's all speculation, I suppose. But it's fun to ponder.

To pick up on a phrase Peter deployed earlier, which FWIW resonated with some of my own prior comments, it seems to me that many commenters on the film are cleverer about the film than the film is about itself.

True, but one of the joys of a film like this is how it presents fertile material for further contemplation. And I think that's a mark for it rather than against it.

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Further contemplation of narrative themes and resonances is one thing. Filling holes in the plot is something else.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I enjoyed Looper. I was thinking that it reminded me of some other movie I had seen and I realize now that it reminds me a little bit of Witness.

He finds no mercy

And he's lost in the crowd

With an armoured heart of metal

He finds he's running out of odd-numbered daisies

From which to pull the petals

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I enjoyed Looper. I was thinking that it reminded me of some other movie I had seen and I realize now that it reminds me a little bit of Witness.

In an interview with Slash Film, Johnson mentioned that Witness was one of his guides for the second half of the movie.

It's the side effects that save us.
--The National, "Graceless"
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Witness? YES! Can't believe I didn't think of that earlier.

BTW, finally convinced a friend to see Looper. He took his wife. They both loved it.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 3 months later...

A friend on Facebook sent me this quote from the movie's Wikipedia page. Anyone know Barbara Fowler? I'll spoiler the text below:

Barbara Fowler wrote: "Looper can be viewed as the story of a moral journey out of depravity. Joe starts out at the lowest point possible – a ruthless murderer, ready to kill people he does not know for monetary gain; "taking his silver" after each killing evokes

Judas Iscariot's thirty pieces of silver. When first offered a chance to morally redeem himself he fails, betraying his friend rather than part with his ill-gotten silver. (…) In the life which he originally lived and which led to his becoming "the old self" in the film, loving Xu and being loved by her had been a purifying experience in an otherwise "dirty" life – but when Xu is killed, Joe regards the end of bringing her back to life as justifying the means of killing innocent children. His younger self, finding love at an earlier age, takes at the film's climatic moment the ultimate choice of sacrificing himself in order to save both his beloved and her child, thus finally atoning for his murderous career and achieving redemption"

Source:

  • ^ Barbara Fowler. "The subtext of contemporary action films", in Charles Ward (ed.), Round Table on Moral Themes in Popular Culture.

Edited by Christian

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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  • 4 months later...

 

 

Nifty.

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Cool!

In case you were wondering, my name is spelled "Denes House," but it's pronounced "Throatwobbler Mangrove."
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