One cheat of an ending . . .
[SPOILERS: Don’t read this article if you haven’t seen the movie yet.]
Last year’s Looper got almost universal acclaim from critics (94% at Rotten Tomatoes) as an intelligent time travel story.
So it feels kinda wrong as a science fiction fan always complaining about how the genre is consistently short changed by the mainstream media to not actually like Looper.
My chief gripe is that Looper is someone who doesn’t actually know science fiction’s idea of the genre. For example, as if time travel isn’t enough, the story throws in telekinesis as well – what the?
When Daniel Kimmel said in his review of the movie on Sci-Fi Movie Page that they should have gotten someone who actually knows sci-fi to have handled the movie’s time travel paradoxes, he had a point.
I can nitpick about a lot of minor plot holes, but the biggie is this one:
When Young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) kills himself at the end, he also kills Old Joe (Bruce Willis) in the process and thus saves the telekinetic kid and his mother.
The problem is that this negates the events of the entire movie. If Young Joe died, er, young then there wouldn’t have been any Old Joe to set in motion the events of the movie at all. The issue is not only would nothing have happened at all in the first place, but that Young Joe in effect also destroyed a particular time line from ever happening.
Having Young Joe commit suicide may have struck Hollywood screenwriters as a clever idea in which the hero redeems himself a la Shane, but it makes no damned sense at all.
The best time travel stories are the ones in which the time travelers inadvertently change the future (see Ray Bradbury’s short story A Sound of Thunder) and, paradoxically, the ones in which time travelers don’t. Like the mythic Cassandra they can see the future, but they cannot change it. The best examples include the first Terminator movie in which Skynet cannot kill John Connor and 12 Monkeys, in which Young Bruce Willis witnesses Old Bruce Willis’ shooting.
Looper falls under neither category. Its central time paradox isn’t clever or anything. It simply doesn’t make a lick of sense and should be filed under “muddled story-telling” instead; the same as the 2000 movie Frequency (starring Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel) about a son who receives radio transmissions from his dead dad from in the past, with which it shares several plot elements and illogicalities.
Looper isn’t quite the time travel story science fiction fans were hoping for, alas.