Sunday, October 7, 2012

Cranky at the Movies

Everybody likes LOOPER.  Except me.

io9, which reviews all things SF-nal, called it "smart."  I'm having trouble wrapping my mind around this.  My problem is that the plot doesn't make sense, which would seem to be a basic requirement of smartness.  To be specific:  [Alert: Many spoilers ahead!]

In 2044, time travel has been invented.  However, the only people who have a time machine are a very influential criminal organization headed by a mysterious man called the Rainmaker.  The only people.  No scientists, governments, etc.  Just thugs.

Technology has advanced enough to create time travel, but not enough to dispose of bodies, so the criminal organization sends its enemies, bound and hooded and alive, back to our time to be shot by confederates called Loopers. They don't send the bodies back dead, even though the problem is body disposal.  The Loopers have guns with ONE bullet, thereby enabling the odd sent-back thug to escape into our time.

The time machine looks like a rusty iron lung from the 1950's.  In fact, nothing in the future looks very futuristic except Shanghai, which already looks futuristic.

Bruce Willis, a retired Looper, is transformed from a stupid Bad Guy by the power of love.  Or so we're told.  However, he still can, and does, shoot children (one of whom will grow up to be the Rainmaker) in order to change the future so he can get his wife back.  Of course, if he succeeds in changing the future, what's to say that she will still be present in a drastically changed 2044?  Nobody considers this.

The child (played by a truly wonderful kid actor) has telekinesis, which he demonstrates when he kills a different assassin.  But when confronted with the exact same situation later in the movie, he doesn't use TK even though he could.  Why not?  Because if he did, the movie would be over.

Again, nobody else seems to mind any of this.  As long as enough bodies drop, enough things blow up, and Bruce glares enough, everybody thinks that's adequate to make an SF movie.   And if Hollywood wants to make a movie about time travel, why not Greg Benford's TIMESCAPE or Michael Swanwick's BONES OF THE EARTH or Connie Willis's "Firewatch"?  Those all make 
self-consistent sense.
So -- is it just me?


Laurie said...

No, it's not *just* you. But it is a limited number of people who actually think about the story.

I really appreciate your reviews because you DO think about the story. Too many movies rely on the writer conveniently forgetting some obvious plot point that would just end the movie before the allotted time is up.

Gregory said...

>why not Greg Benford's TIMESCAPE or Michael Swanwick's BONES OF THE EARTH or Connie Willis's "Firewatch"?

Because most sf gets written by screenwriters under 30 or so, who think sf is a font of ideas they can file the serial numbers off and use.
I've had TIMESCAPE optioned repeatedly (once by BBC!)but it doesn't fit action/adventure formats, so only Indies would make it.

TheOFloinn said...

I have a theory that logic moves at a discount in visual media. It's ikon vs. logos, and striking imagery matters more.

Gwen Nicodemus said...

I walked out of the theater giving my husband those same squawks.

Lou said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lou said...

There are, to be sure, other complaints about the movie.

For example, why is it that the future bad guys don't send back the victims already unconscious? If they arrived passed out, they would never know what hit them. The blunderbuss preference was never explained, either. Such an unwieldy weapon.

I guess the story was about the loss of idealism, the replacement of self-centered egotistic behavior with the older, more wiser approach Bruce Willis had developed. When the younger version rejects the well-thought out and impassioned conclusion that the older him had embraced by turning the gun upon himself, he thereby denies his "growing up" experience.

Being a father, though, I could not watch the shooting of the kid part. I couldn't. Movies that exploit this known sensitive side do not resonate well with me.

Overall, the concept was INTERESTING, if not always logical in execution.

Thank you for the post, for your insight and for caring that SF is not well-represented in the world.


Kyle said...

I didn't have the energy or recall to try to figure this many specifics of where I was being let down. I did think it was pretty hokey that time travel was used for only that 1 purpose though.

At a vaguer level, the lack of connection between the 2 major reality changes (TK and time travel) seemed jarring for some reason. The uber-powerful TK character plot seemed very unconnected to the "time travel" parts of the film, as if Looper was originally 2 different films that got glued/grafted together. 'Hey, maybe they'll like this!'

Mark Pantoja said...

No, Nancy, I've been blasting this movie to everyone who will listen. It was a mess. A fun mess, for the most part, but it was hard with such a distracting plot. And we're not even talking about the ending, which is atrocious! If this had been a short story, it never would have made it out of slush.

Gregory said...

What Mark said...just saw it and whoosh! what a screwup.

Suzie Quint said...

I'd like to say that people seem to turn off their critical thinking when they get involved in a story, but I see too much evidence around me that most people haven't learned how to think critically at all.