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Looper Makes It Hurt

I should probably mention that I’m writing for a great site called Nerdspan, relatively new and full of intelligent geekery on proud display. I have several reviews and articles in the works for them, and there’s a large stable of other nerds providing the same. Bookmark the site and follow the updates on Twitter @Nerdspan.

My first review went live today, and covers 2012’s Looper, directed by Rian Johnson and starring Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (along with Emily Blunt and Pierce Gagnon):

“The premise of Looper is easy to understand. Ready? Time travel is invented in the future. Time travel is immediately outlawed. The mob seizes control of time travel. The mob sends its hits to the past to be killed. (The future is a bad place for getting rid of bodies.) The people who kill for the mob are called Loopers. Loopers must one day kill their future selves and close the loop.” [Click here to read the rest of the review at Nerdspan!]

The review is short and sweet, so check it out even if you haven’t seen Looper yet. For those of you who have already seen the film (or just don’t give a shit), this post is for you!

People of the Internet: Looper makes it hurt!

Makes what hurt? Well, let’s see. Its clumsy dealings with time travel make your head hurt. (Here’s some aspirin.) Its brutal moments of emotional honesty make your heart hurt. (I got nothing for that.) Its casting of Pierce Gagnon as Cid the Creepy Kid makes you ache for the Ender’s Game that could have been. (I’ve got nothing for that either.)

What I do have is a post twisting the knife and rubbing salt in those hurts! You’re welcome.  Here are 5 moments that had me diving for the pause button and kvetching at or gesticulating wildly with my husband before we hit play again. (Only 5, because let’s not kid ourselves: there were a lot more moments that called for pausing and swearing than I talk about here.)

Here’s a spoiler-filled look at 5 Moments that Hurt:


But single-stream time travel's not supposed to work that way!

This guy popped into the world of 2044 healthy and hale of limb. He had all his fingers and toes, all of his limbs, a whole nose, and no visible scarification. He also managed to avoid being murdered by his younger self. Yay, right?

Unfortunately, his younger self got himself captured and carved up by the mob. So the Nose up there couldn’t hop his train and dance right on out of town. Instead, he got scarred directions on his arm to be at a certain address in 15 minutes, followed by a shortening number of limbs, and suddenly a bullet to the brain. I understand those are a real bitch.

Why it hurts: Seriously? If the damage on his past-self is manifest in his future-self as stumps and scarification and what-not, IT MEANS IT WAS ALWAYS SO BECAUSE WHATEVER HAPPENED, HAPPENED. Which means the Nose couldn’t have run away, couldn’t have partially climbed a fence, and sure as hell couldn’t possibly have driven across town to that shitty mob surgery. Also, he would have had those directions on his arm for the next 30 years… and, y’know, known everything that happened to him.

This is our first bit of evidence than this isn’t single-stream time travel but wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey parallel-time-streams collapsing in on each other wacky business. Except it’s never explicitly proven, so it just winds up as this annoying itch that we try to scratch with diagrams made of straws.


I'd start with the straw diagrams, but I honestly don't have the time.

This scene is honestly only a technical hurt, but ignore that! This post wouldn’t sound as boss if I called it “4 Moments that Hurt and 1 Scene That Was Pretty Good and Inspired Comment.”

Why it technically hurts: this scene clearly stated the director’s intentions not to give an on-screen shit about the mechanics and ramifications of time travel. Okay, cool. I understand we don’t have all day and there’s an action flick to get on with here. (Never mind that Bruce Willis was in 12 Monkeys and both the actiony bits and the logical time travel bits all worked out just fine.)

The great part about this scene is that it wasn’t originally like this in the screenplay. In the scene as it was originally written, Old Joe actually carried on at length about time travel and built diagrams with straws. Just reading it was excruciating, and I can’t imagine how it actually filmed. (You can find it in the Deleted Scenes on the DVD/Blu-ray, apparently.) The fact that Johnson had enough of a sense of humor (and good directorial vision) to turn it into snarking about straws is brill.

I realize that the best and worst part of this scene are the same thing, but I think that’s just fine when talking about a film that’s all paradox. (Anyone play Mage: the Ascension? Maybe the paradox demons that should have shown up constantly throughout this entire damned film are what turned Cid into the Rainmaker.)


Look at this face: this could have been Ender Wiggin's face.

I don’t know where they found this kid (apparently on One Tree Hill?), but Pierce Gagnon was excellent in his role as Cid. From the moment he first appeared on screen, he creeped the shit right out of me. He also played off the “I’m super intelligent and wiser than my years” moments as solidly as the “oh God, I’m really just seven years old, where’s my mommy?”  moments.

Why it hurts: this actually has nothing to do with Looper! Instead, it has everything to do with this kid not being Ender in Ender’s Game.  He’s the right age, and I could totally believe this kid could headbutt another to death. He also radiates enough self-reflection that I could buy him developing into the youngest Commander at the Battle School and doing many disturbing yet pragmatic things.

Ah well. An age-accurate Ender’s Game was never gonna happen, and I’m still looking forward to November and seeing what Asa Butterfield pulled off with the character.


That's just not playing fair.

There’s this whole scene with a mob callgirl early on where Joe just wants her to stroke his hair. That was a painful and emotionally raw scene in itself: Joe was clearly in pain and vulnerable, and just wanted creature comforts that hearkened back to being cared for in his youth. (Before his mother sold him to vagrants, I guess?) He didn’t want empty sex. But the prostitute was clearly just as accustomed to this type of shit from her Johns and having none of it. It did not turn into a magic moment of connection. He was not the solver of her problems, penetrating her heart with his vulnerability while also offering to take care of her monetarily so she could quit whoring. She told him she had a job, thanks, and they were done.

The screencap above is from after Joe’s death. (I told you there were spoilers down here, y’all!) His one-time lover (and mother of Cid the Creepy Kid) sat next to his cooling corpse in a very picturesque field and just stroked his hair.

Why it hurts: Hell, what a raw emotional moment. In his moments of vulnerability, we saw someone who wanted to be cared for. Now that he’s no longer around to see or feel it, someone is freely giving him what he wanted. Sara just simply stroking his hair is a knife to the heart.


Let sleeping Rainmakers lie.

The movie ends with Cid the Creepy Kid, all safe and loved by his mom and tucked into bed. Look at the peaceful little guy drifting off into Slumberland. Aww, now he’s going to be a happy and well-adjusted guy! Thanks for taking that blunderbuss to the chest, Joe!

Why it hurts: Are you kidding me? His friend Joe, who clearly had an impact on him, offs himself in a spectacularly fucked-up fashion and we’re supposed to believe the kid is on the road to Well-Adjustedville? Especially since this is a kid who’s already (accidentally) killed one of his moms and is clearly not in any sort of therapy. His other mom is just as clearly in over her head.

Call me cynical, but I think this ending is one of the creepiest and painful bits yet. We have no clue whether or not Joe averted the coming of the Rainmaker and subsequent slaughter of the vagrant population with bonus sudden mass closing of the loops.

All we know is that Joe gave him a chance. I guess that’s all each of us gets – a chance. But, still, ouch.


Screencaps from Looper courtesy of Sayuri at Grande Caps.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Danielle M. January 9, 2013, 7:37 PM

    I honestly think that the cray cray of this film (especially all this that you just mention) may have given me night terrors the day I watched it. 😛 Definitely worth a watch, though.

    • Deborah January 15, 2013, 4:39 PM

      Oh, gosh, I’m sorry if this gave you night terrors! No fun at all!

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