Loopy: Thoughts on Looper (2012)

Loopy doopy.
Loopy doopy.

Much like a refrigerator that isn't set properly, this article will probably spoil things. If you don't like spoilers, don't read it. Simples.

Looper is a time travel story. I'm a sucker for time travel stories. I'm a sucker, especially, for original time travel stories. Looper, unfortunately, isn't really one of them.

Well, it is. And it isn't. It's original in that there's a high-concept, back-of-a-napkin, one-sentence elevator pitch storyline. It's not original in that the plot devices and events of the film are largely lifted from other sources. None of this is surprising when you discover the film was based on a story originally developed as a short, which was then greenlit as a feature film.

It's not, though, in the sense that most of the supporting plotline seems to have been borrowed from elsewhere. I don't have a problem with writers pilfering things from other writers. All of the best stories are built upon the stories that came before them. As a great many people have supposedly said, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal", and so be it.

Some specific parts of Looper that I felt were extremely reminiscent of other works:

  • man from future returns to kill child who will grow into future significant figure (The Terminator series, fitting as Garret Dillahunt from The Sarah Connor Chronicles appears as one of the Loopers)
  • time travel in weird, claustrophobic capsule (The Jacket)
  • Bruce Willis in peculiar time travel story (12 Monkeys)
  • character levitated by telekinesis, then exploded (one of the X-Men films, cannot recall which one)

There is one scene which is very original, quite gruesome, and ultimately completely illogical. In the scene, the future version of Seth, played by Paul Dano, who has traveled back in time to the present, attempts to reach his younger self, who is being tortured. As he approaches his junior, who is having parts of his body amputated, the elder Seth's limbs begin to disappear, leaving him a crippled, useless hulk at the door to the building. While the scene is effective and disturbing, it makes very little sense upon consideration. Each change to the younger character should affect the entire timeline of the older version. Old Seth may have lead a very similar life to this point without -- say -- a finger, but it's unlikely that he'd have survived for 30 years, travelled back in time, and made it to the door of the building without both legs, though.

All time travel movies have their paradoxes, though.

While it had a very slow and borderline b-grade start, Looper soon picked up pace and ended up a pretty cool movie. The makeup on Joseph Gordon-Levitt, applied to give him a more Bruce Willis-like appearance, was frankly disturbing, though.

Judging books by their covers, 2

Continuing the previous post's somewhat trendy trend:

Details: "Fire and Ice: Outrider", by Richard Harding -- currently selling new for a thrify $118.76 on the 'zon, even.

What is there to work with: Fonzie, portrayed by the bastard son of Peter Weller and Nicholas Cage, stands around in a field of polyethylene tanks leaking sunset into the sky. He has a large knife, a spare large knife, a small knife, and no knees.

Therefore the plot must be: Unable to sell functioning water tanks to farmers, Fonzie must resort to knife sales. Brandishing his entire stock of three, he shows up on the doorsteps of unsuspecting citizens to stand boredly askance, hoping someone will show enough interest in his knives that he can break out the extra special gift -- a free set of steak knifes.

Hit the jump for more, believe it or not, it gets better.


Details: "Ben Bova presents Phylum Monsters" by Hayford Peirce. Oh, yes. It's spelled "Peirce". My spellchecker hates it, too. Phylum, by the by, is the taxonomic rank that resides between "class" and "kingdom" in the taxonomic heirarchy. Likelihood of this being in any way relevant to the plot -- slim to none.

What we have to work with: Narcoleptic alcoholic butler holding a kidney takes a tipple in a room with a backwards computer with no screen, a yellow machine from Starfleet that has an LED desk lamp attached and probably goes "ping", while a hovering volleyball projects a hologram of a snoozing Doctor Zaius into the air in front of a pennant of the DNA double helix. There are SO MANY science fiction concepts crammed into this image. There's no possible way this could end badly.

Therefore the plot must be: Unable to maintain a train of thought while writing the sequel to the prequel to the third sequel of Planet of the Apes, Jeeves takes a brief respite in the DNA room. Sipping his chardonnay and gripping an authentic replica of a human internal organ, he hopes that turning his screen to the ether and listening to the dulcet tones of the yellow machine box will clear his mind and allow him to figure out the final character arc of Doctor Zaius, last seen sleeping in an extremely yellow room with inexplicable giant hairs growing from his left shoulder. Will Jeeves complete the screenplay in time? Will the studios buy it? Will Zaius ever wake up? Did Hayford Peirce spell his name wrong on the first book he ever published, and has had to live with it ever since? Is Ben Bova glad no one's spelled his name wrong? I imagine so!

There're still more to come (alas). Stay tuned!

Judging books by their covers, 1

I need to quit spontaneously spending money on things I don't need. Case in point: I recently bought a bunch (and by "a bunch", I mean 300) old science fiction novels, second hand, in differing states of disrepair. Some of them are recognisable, most of them aren't. Most of them are actually components of series' of novels, never with their appropriate predecessors and successors, thus making them largely pointless to read. I'm impressed, though, by the cover art on some of the "pulpier" novels, so I'm going to feature (read: mock) it here. In fact, the artwork reminds me to plug Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw's old Cowboy Comics, which are still hilarious. I've included Amazon links where I'm able to, in case you feel the need to support the authors and cover artists by buying their splendid work.

I'm going to present these in the following scenario:

  1. What's the book?
  2. What's on the cover?
  3. What conclusions can I draw about the plot based on the image on the cover?

The logical follow up point would be "and how accurate were those conclusions?", but quite frankly, the likelihood of having time (or willpower) to read these books is insignificantly low.

The books!

Details: "Nowhere Man" by Jerry Oster, 1989

What is there to work with: Either a ninja, or a man in a wetsuit. He's armed with a 9mm. He looks depressed. The novel is a humdinger.

Therefore the plot must be: A manic-depressive scuba-diving ninja floats on his back in a pool of red custard, contemplatedly scratching his cheek with his 9mm. Nothing happens, though, because he is Nowhere Man, a superhero so ineffectual that even non-sequitir situations fail to create drama.


Details: "Lord Tedric: Black Knight of the Iron Sphere" by Gordon Eklund, 1955

What is there to work with: Captain Beardy Leatherpants slapping a sword-wielding child, while a pink bikini-wearing Viking crossdresser approaches with a stick, hoping to offset Captain Beardy Leatherpants already questionable balance.

Therefore the plot must be: Looks like a family drama. Mother is a crossdresser. Son, genetically inheriting father's bad balance, tries to protect a stain he's made on the carpet, all the while hoping his dumbass transvestite mother doesn't just walk into dad's sword, as (s)he's clearly paying no attention to her inner GPS.


Details: "Warrior's Blood", by Richard S. McEnroe, 1955

What there is to work with: Luke Skywalker, now inexplicably portrayed by Scott Bakula, leans italic-style into the background to dodge a flying sun pellet. Mistress McFaintyFaint, dressed in yellow and wearing a convenient dream catcher to hold the ensemble together does her best to keep her left thigh from collapsing.

Conclusion: It's the story of an interstellar chiropractor, travelling from planet to planet curing ailments and encouraging people to engage in fitness routines. He also sells fetching white leotards and pale yellow dresses, neither of which are designed to fit particularly well. When not performing chiropracty, Doctor Skywalker flies around space in his shoe-shaped-ship, leaving behind gigantic exhaust plumes of orange debris, which dissipate into neon space signs that advertise his business. Back pain? FOLLOW THAT NEBULA.

There will be more. (Unfortunately.)