Movie Review: Looper. With An Explanation of Time Travel from Captain Underpants. Action. Pranks. Laffs.

Admittedly, I’m late to seeing Looper. I saw it last night because Argo was sold out and The Cloud Atlas wasn’t for a couple of hours but I really enjoyed it and I’m glad we saw it.

The premise: In 2074, time travel has been invented. It’s illegal but is being used by criminal organizations to kill off their enemies. The assassins of 2044 are called Loopers. The main character, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), needs to “close the loop” when he meets his older self (Bruce Willis), but Old Joe escapes in hopes of changing his future.

Looper’s future doesn’t look that different from 2012. The U.S. has suffered a tremendous economic collapse. The streets are filled with vagrants and everyone sports some kind of weapon that they use freely. Crime is rampant. The cars are familiar except with a couple of extra pipes and hoses hanging off them. Solar panels are ubiquitous. People, like Joe, are addicted to some undefined drug that is dropped into your eye. And Loopers are paid in silver bars until the the loop is closed. Then they get shiny gold bars carved with a beautiful tag.

My favorite part of the movie was when we see Joe’s life between his life as a Looper in Kansas City and his move to Shanghai where he blows through his silver, becomes a contract killer, meets his wife, and eventually leaves the big city to start over. This 30-year backstory is told in a minute or two.

My biggest issue with the movie: The use of children. The Old Joe character comes from the future to look for the guy that will become the Rainmaker, a vicious mafia boss that has order the closing of loops. To prevent that from happening, Old Joe goes after three five-year old boys, eliminating one off-screen, then being caught while after the second. The suspense builds as 2044 Joe connects with Sid, a mechnically-minded young boy that lives on a farm with his super-hot mom (played by Emily Blunt). Did I mention telekinesis? That’s a mutation that has appeared sometime before 2044 and it plays a significant part in the movie.

Without giving it away, there are issues with the ending and that’s because time travel is complicated and messy, right?

Captain Underpants also plays with time travel

The ninth epic novel in the Captain Underpants series Captain Underpants the the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers [links to] also involves time travel. To simplify the concept, time travel gets an explanation in the second chapter, The Banana Cream Pie Paradox. According to Dav Pilkey,

Time machines are awesome. There’s no doubt about it. But they can also be very dangerous. It’s possible that a person could go back in time and accidentlaly change one little thing — and that one teeeny, tiny, itsy-bitsy thing could profoundly affect the future. This is what scientists refer to as the Banana Cream Pie Paradox.

The fact that a chapter book aimed at emerging readers — that is second and third graders, ages 7 and 8 — needs to explain time travel and how messy it can be (it involves Banana Cream Pies and a reference to the Three Stooges fer crissakes) shows how difficult it can be. But at least the second and third graders are being taught about time travel early on.

That said, Looper’s a fun and wild ride. If you’re willing to suspend belief, you’ll enjoy it. If not, there would be no movie.

As for Captain Underpants, I’ll write about him later.


Here’s a couple of posts about Looper: How to Do a Genre Movie Right and The Looper Infographic (warning: spoilers).


You may also enjoy:

My review of Hot Tub Time Machine

My review of Back to the Future

The Ikea Catalogue’s Time Travel Edition

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