Looper (2012)

looperposter462012Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Jeff Daniels, Pierce Gagnon, Xu Qing, Tracie Thoms

Directed by Rian Johnson

Expectations: Extremely high (but I should say that those expectations come completely from others’ reactions. I never saw a trailer or anything.)

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Looper has a lot of great ideas, but they’re crushed under the weight of the film’s negative aspects. I had fun with it, no doubt, but by the last 20 minutes of the film I was literally clawing at my chair, frantically wishing the film would end. I do respect the way it ultimately ended, although I could’ve done without the minute or so of strained slo-mo that was supposed to really drive the emotional impact home. Ugh. But I’m getting ahead of myself by already talking about the ending. Hold on… let me go back in time.

[All systems go in 3… 2… 1…] [We have time travel ignition.]

My expectations for Looper were absolutely through the roof. This is always a bad way to see a movie, especially one from a director I’m not on the fanboy train for. Rian Johnson has only made three features, but around the Internet his début film, Brick, is seemingly only talked about in hushed, hallowed tones. Since I saw it before I started this website, and I don’t plan on watching it again, let me just say that I hated Brick. Neo-noir, schmeo-noir. Sorry, Brick fans. And that’s very close to how I feel about Looper, except that I kind of liked this one when I wasn’t completely frustrated with it.

looper_posterOne could easily write a thousand words on the plot holes (or loop holes — ZING!) of Looper, but I’m not really interested in doing that. My time with B-Movies has made me very forgiving. There’s some stuff in this movie that heavily strained my patience, but for the most part I was on-board. It’s a sci-fi movie that’s supposed to be smart, how could I not be? Well… when it’s not actually smart! It acts like it’s a lot smarter than I think it actually is, although Looper does have some smart writing going for it and there’s some genuinely great ideas sprinkled around. If nothing else, no matter what I think of the film, the fact that it’s an original idea amidst a sea of reboots, remakes, and regurgitations is 100% commendable. If I still wore a hat, it’d be off.

The thing that bothered me about Looper, right from the beginning, was how much it had to explain itself. To me, this is exactly what a sci-fi story should never do. A lot of my love of sci-fi comes from my love of Philip K. Dick and his ability to drop a reader into a story with little to no explanation, feeding you necessary information naturally. Well… except for when he purposefully doesn’t want you to know what the fuck is going on, but that’s beside the point. Anyway, Looper practices the exact opposite type of storytelling, having nearly every dialogue exchange in the first hour be almost completely expositional. I’m not exaggerating, there’s nearly an hour of story setup. It’s insane. And what’s even more insane is that I liked that setup period WAY more than I liked the rest of the movie! I know, right? WTF! The second half isn’t so much bad as it is ridiculously drawn-out, but it was still a complete and total let down.

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HK Movie fans: In this shot doesn’t Joseph Gorden-Levitt look like a 1970s-era David Chiang?

Through my various reviews I’ve talked a lot about non-white actors getting the shaft when it comes to casting, and Looper is no different. But today, I’d rather talk about another blight on cinema: the lack of quality female roles. There are three major female characters in Looper. One of them is a stripper who’s only in a couple of scenes, one of which she’s nude in. She serves virtually no other purpose than to add some titties to the movie. The second is an important character, but she’s given no lines at all. There’s a reason for this, and I respect Johnson’s choice here, but it’s still a completely silent female AND she’s acting maternal towards our hero. The final character is introduced as something different: a woman who can take care of herself. I thought for sure she would provide me the strong female character the film desperately needed, but when pushed she buckled immediately and was soon tending to the hero’s wounds. I’m sure many will overlook these weak characters, and I might have too if the sci-fi thrills were enough to distract me, but the pace of the movie is so slow that it gives you time to ponder all of this while it’s plodding along.

It’s such a shame too, as I was really on-board during the section where Bruce Willis was introduced. That scene and the disorienting chain of events that directly follows are incredibly well-done. It doesn’t make a lot of sense initially, but careful thought reveals just how perfect it all is. If only the rest of the movie offered more smart, cinematic moments like this. Looper had a lot of potential, but overall I was extremely disappointed and frequently bored. It’s not that I didn’t get it either. I got it, I just didn’t care for it.

17 comments to Looper (2012)

  • I’m with you on this one. Not sure why so many people took to it. The film is sunk by its never ending exposition and mammoth plot holes.

  • Will, it’s funny that you mention that Looper had to explain itself so much. I actually had the opposite reaction and think they didn’t go crazy trying to elaborate on every detail. They didn’t try to explain the time travel and quickly flew by the idea that people have mental powers. That allows the story to keep rolling and doesn’t slow down the movie. I also went in with very high expectations and was surprised when it wasn’t a letdown. I also really liked Brick and The Brothers Bloom, so it’s possible that I’m just a fan of Johnson’s style. Good review, regardless.

    • It definitely doesn’t go deep into the mechanics of the time travel, or the mental powers. As a sci-fi fan, I imagine I’d be more interested in those details than the ones we’re given, but that’s neither here nor there. The movie is rather slow, though, especially in the second half on the farm. Or, what is probably more likely is that by the time it got there I had somewhat checked out so what could have been engaging, wasn’t for me. Perhaps with time I’ll re-watch this and wonder what I was thinking. Glad you liked the review!

      • I’ll admit that Looper slows down on the farm, and there were moments where I wasn’t sure where it was heading. When it was all tied up, it really worked for me. I think you’re right that you were done by that point.

  • I am certainly no fan of this movie either. Your thoughts are very similar to my own. I had even more complaints, though. Perhaps my review will give you a laugh: http://awesomelyshitty.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/looper-pooper/

  • Plot holes be damned. This is one awesome film: I thought JGL was decent as a “young” Bruce Willis, although Willis himself did look slightly bored by the whole thing. However, I can see your point on a number of factors, Will. I think I’m just more tolerant of inept filmmaking…. 😉

    • Glad you liked the film, I wish I did too! I thought JGL did well as a young Bruce, and with the makeup he actually looked like him quite a bit. They did a good job on that, although I did find it somewhat distracting.

      I laughed pretty good at that last bit! I wouldn’t call it inept, though, more frustrating than anything else.

  • This is one of the few negative reviews I’ve seen of Looper. Thanks for giving a different perspective on it; I still have to see the movie, but now my expectations will be tempered a bit.

  • Awww, I loved this movie…
    Well, as much as I really like and respect Rian Johnson (and JGL), I didn’t like “Brick” either; actually, I love the approach of the film but it didn’t really do anything for me.. but “Looper” I loved. I think all sci-fi doesn’t have to be the same and I appreciated that fact (but then again, I’m not a huge sci-fi fan).. and I think Emily Blunt’s character was pretty strong! Just because a woman is also portrayed as a nurturer, doesn’t mean she is weak.

    • You’re right that all sci-fi doesn’t have to be the same, and I’m glad that a lot of people are connecting with this. But for me, it feels like it’s a bridge sci-fi film as opposed to a real, meaty sci-fi film, and in that way it didn’t do much for me. But that’s OK, every movie isn’t made for everyone.

      Emily Blunt’s character was strong in comparison to the other female roles, but I guess I just wanted more. You’re right that showing her as a nurturer doesn’t automatically make her weak, I just get so tired of scenes involving women patching up men’s wounds in movies that having her go down that route really annoyed me.

  • Great review! It picks apart most of the things that had me groaning during the film, despite the fact that I seem to have enjoyed it a lot more than you did. I can only guess that it’s that fact that you didn’t dig “Brick” either that makes the difference. Still, you make some excellent points here. I’ll definitely be back for more.

    • Thanks! I definitely enjoyed a lot of the film’s parts, but as a whole I was completely underwhelmed. Perhaps if someone had let me know that it was part indie drama I would’ve gone in with a different set of expectations, as I think that’s what really killed it for me. Thanks for coming by and commenting!

  • Even though the film’s pacing allows time for even the less sophisticated audience member to guess a mile ahead what the supposed “twist” of the film is, Rian Johnson’s brilliant script and precise direction is so ahead of even the most sophisticated audience member that it makes up for all of it and more with a perfect ending. Good review Will.

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