I am in the throes of writing a time-travel novel, so when I saw that Looper was out I immediately hauled the other members of the family off with me to see it. Even though I am not a hardcore Bruce Willis fan, I enjoy his SF efforts. (Unbreakable was just about the perfect comic book movie. Not a superhero movie, but a comic book movie.)
Looper is surely going to be a contender for the film Hugo and Nebula awards. As the characters complain, time travel makes your brain hurt. The scenario is this: In a dystopian near-future, the criminals in an unnamed city have a lucrative sideline — they do murders for gangsters thirty more years into the future. These further-future gangsters find it convenient to send people they want to get rid of back 30 years, to be shot by their contractors, their Looper. The protagonist of this movie is a Looper named Joe. When the far-future folks want to terminate the relationship, the send the future edition of the Looper back to be murdered. This pink slip closes the loop,signalling to the contractor that he now has exactly 30 years more of life. The story essentially kicks off when Joe’s latest victim appears: Old Joe, himself 30 years older.
As with many movies of this type, it is important to just ignore any stumbling blocks (they need that many people in the far-future murdered, really?) or to ask too many writerish questions (if time travel is the cheapest way to get rid of people, good grief, what happened to the Pacific Ocean?). The essential brutality of all this murder for hire business is balanced by sentimental and character-molding love interests for both Old Joe and Young Joe. And it is quite funny to hear Young Joe vehemently reject the advice of his older self — what does this sour old guy know about what I want anyway? Meanwhile Old Joe, knowing exactly what kind of trouble Young Joe is going to get into, grumblingly prepares to save the whippersnapper’s life. Because, if Young Joe should by chance get himself killed, Old Joe vanishes instantly.
My chief complaint is that of the worldbuilder. The dystopian near-future is very similar indeed to our world. Cars, clothing, buildings, roads — no creativity has been exerted here. There’s a futuristic weapons, of course, and a few mildly interesting new drugs to abuse, but that’s it. Disappointing!
But only writers who are wrestling with their on SF will be bothered by this. My son and husband think my complaints are pernickety. And the crucial task of the movie is well achieved. It is not dull, and you will not have wasted your time seeing it. Somebody thought hard and creatively about the setup and the plot, and in an effort to sort it all out, I have started an attempt at a Taxonomy of Time Travel, here on Goodreads. Comments, additions and examples are welcome — if you don’t want to sign up at Goodreads post them in the comments here.
My newest novel Speak to Our Desires is out exclusively from Book View Café.