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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Looper: Unexpectedly Good Sci-Fi

   
Author Topic: Looper: Unexpectedly Good Sci-Fi
Aros
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So, yeah, the I really enjoyed Rian Johnson's The Brothers Bloom. But Looper is so much better on every level.

I didn't expect much from the trailers. But this is easily one of the best sci-fi flicks, up there with Children of Men, Moon, and The Jacket. As one critic says, it's pretty much a mash up of Tarantino and Philip K Dick.

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Dan_Frank
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Eh, it was okay.

It was more literary-fiction with scifi trappings than actual sci-fi. Their method of time travel was pretty absurd, and as far as I could tell by their own rules they had several plot holes.

Also, it seemed sort of dark and depressing for the sake of being dark and depressing. Before I realized the kind of flick it was, I assumed the ending was going to go a certain typical Hollywood happy-ending route. They didn't go that route, of course, but what strikes me is that the sci-fi conceit of the film would have actually been more consistent if they had.

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Dan_Frank
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Technically (acting, production values, etc) it was top-notch, though.
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Strider
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I totally don't understand this. I'm usually on the pulse of good sci-fi, and this movie is getting great reviews all over the place. But I just didn't think it worked. Maybe I need to give it another shot, but I thought it was just too many different story lines/narratives packed into one movie.

Maybe there was just too much silliness about the nature of time travel for me.

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AchillesHeel
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quote:
Originally posted by Aros:

But this is easily one of the best sci-fi flicks, up there with Children of Men, Moon, and The Jacket.

Now I have to see it in a theater.
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Aros
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A lot of modern sci-fi focuses on character and plot rather than the sci-fi "technology" angle. This film definitely fell into that category. That said, I was fine with the fact that the time travel and rules weren't focused on.

I thought it worked very well. It reminded me a bit of old school sci-fi, back in the day where the focus on the story came first and yarns didn't have to get dumbed down for Hollywood.

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Dan_Frank
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Aros: Are you willing to discuss films without assuming/asserting that anyone who disagrees with you is just too stupid to appreciate the awesomeness of the films you like? Or is that really the only possible explanation you can think of for disagreements?

You're doing it in the Lindelof thread and this one, so I'm curious.

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Aros
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No. I'm not.

Less facetiously speaking, I do find it interesting that the aura of pseudo-intellectualism on this site tends to the point where people certain individuals disagree with mainstream criticism without any supporting argument other than "it was silly" or "it didn't make sense. Or merely just that people enjoy arguing with me or against public consensus.

Make a point, refute, repeat. Do you have an original thought? Or just vague criticism based on what others are saying? And yes, I do recognize the irony that I'm promoting critical thinking skills and also advocating the critical consensus.

Gosh, where's Orincoro when you need him. Whoever thought I would have asked that question?

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Dan_Frank
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What are you talking about?

I offered my criticism of Looper. I kept it somewhat vague to avoid spoilers, but if you'd like me to get more specific with any of my points, feel free.

Your comment about how sci-fi now cares more about character than "technology" (really just consistency of "rules", but nevermind)... as if they were mutually exclusive... implied to me that you recognized the inconsistencies I saw and just didn't care. But if you didn't, and you're not sure what I was referring to, let me know. I can clarify! [Smile]

Also not sure how my complaints were based on what "others" are saying... heck, I was the first one to complain about it on this forum. I'm starting the trend! [Wink]

I like plenty of critically acclaimed things. There are just specific subsets of things that get critical acclaim that I tend to dislike.

I guess you're reacting to similarities between my complaint and some of OSC's common complaints, maybe? I think we both tend to dislike pretentious, inconsistent "literary" fiction.

Given that I not only think OSC is a great author but I also find many of his other arguments interesting, it's not that surprising to find overlap between his ideas and mine. I find him persuasive, after all. All that said, I still disagree with him about plenty of movies, so... shrug.

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TomDavidson
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Looper, to me, is a great example of a sci-fi premise handled badly, but a character piece done moderately well. It is, at its heart, a "someone wants to quit the mob" flick that uses science-fictional elements to service a couple obvious metaphors. The comparisons to Dick are valid, in my opinion, because Dick used "science" in roughly the same way in his stories.

If you have half a brain, though, you'll need to turn even that half off to avoid being frustrated by how stupid the world-building is in this movie.

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Dan_Frank
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See, there's Tom jumping on my bandwagon. Sheesh, Tom, get your own opinions.

PS: I liked your opinion.

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manji
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I'm confused about why anyone would use time travel in order to commit murder, especially given the constraints of the setting. You have this nanotech that is tracking everyone on earth. Upon death, a location tag is sent to the authorities that lets them know that someone has been killed.

But why would time travel circumvent this? If a central computer is keeping tabs on everyone's location, as soon as they disappeared from the grid, wouldn't that set off some huge red flags?

Or why not stow someone you're about to kill in a huge Faraday cage and stop the murder signal before it gets sent out?

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Aros
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Yes, the film does have a huge logical inconsistency. The plot twist at the end does seem to violate the rules established previously in the film. So what? They also say pretty blatantly that they aren't going to explain paradox or try to unwind the layers of timey-whimey changes.

Do they break the rules to deliver a plot twist? Maybe. I can shrug this off. But I can also extend my brain a little bit to come up with some explanations.

Yes, I agree that this movie succeeds mostly as an action movie / character study with science fiction elements. The same can be said of The Jacket or Children of Men. But the action was outstanding, and some of the twists were very worthy.

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Aros
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Spoilers*********************

My guess is that the "closed loop" was that the rainmaker was going to be killed by a looper. It didn't matter which one. He was killed by a looper; and by closing all of the loops, he would send a series of successive loopers after him in the past. A closed loop. It probably wasn't even Joe to begin with.

Joe became the looper that went after the rainmaker. Who knows what came before -- the future was constantly changing. But then Joe gave the boy a chance and sent him on the run. Did this stop the rainmaker? We don't know. But for Joe, it was an act of redemption. That was the point, no?

But as Joe said, we don't need to make a bunch of logic diagrams with straws. It's about the characters.

End Spoilers*********************************

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Dan_Frank
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That was the most glaring inconsistency but not the only one.

The one that bothered me the most is that they established old Joe remembers what young Joe does/learns, so once he had his epiphany old Joe should've remembered having the same damn epiphany. No need for suicide at that point.

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Strider
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My problem with the movie wasn't that it focused on characters or story instead of sci-fi. My problem is that it started out as a promising sci-fi flick, turned into a relationship drama, then turned into Firestarter, then turned into a bad 80s action movie, then ended with a big nonsensical logical inconsistency. Not to mention all the little subplots that would get opened up and not really go anywhere. It was just trying to do too much.

****SPOILERS****

For the whole "the kid grows up to become the Rainmaker and takes vengeance on all Loopers to make up for the death of his mother" story line to work, we have to assume that something very similar would have happened had Joe and old Joe never stepped into their lives. And since the only reason they did was because old Joe happened to survive being sent back to have his loop closed, I find that unlikely.

But anyway, this aspect of the movie is not what ruined it for me. It was an overly ambitious script that just couldn't pull off all it was trying to do.

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Aros
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
That was the most glaring inconsistency but not the only one.

The one that bothered me the most is that they established old Joe remembers what young Joe does/learns, so once he had his epiphany old Joe should've remembered having the same damn epiphany. No need for suicide at that point.

Old Joe remembered actions -- not thoughts. And he had a different objective. And remember, it took a few seconds for the memories to change. I don't think that old Joe would have been aware until after . . . it happened. By then, it was too late.

An example is "Beatrix". They made a distinct point to show the viewer that old Joe didn't receive the name as a revelation -- he had to read the writing and remember a memory from years earlier. It didn't just pop into his head. He had to remember who and where Beatrix was. He didn't even remember writing it, so much time had passed.

[ October 10, 2012, 02:19 PM: Message edited by: Aros ]

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Dan_Frank
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Cutting your arm is different than an epiphany so massive it causes you to contemplate (and then carry out) a suicide attempt.

That sounds really memorable.

quote:

Old Joe remembered actions -- not thoughts.

Interesting claim. Is this explicitly established somewhere that I missed?

I mean, early on he remembered what young Joe was doing so well that he can follow him effortlessly, but later he doesn't immediately remember cutting his arm, so... that already seems inconsistent.

I'm liking this flick less the more I think about it.

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Aros
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It still took a few moments (including pain) before any of the recollections. You're talking about instant recollection of a split second decision.

And yes, in the diner it was established that old Joe had to remember Beatrix, he didn't just have total recall.

Sorry, buddy, you're inferring too much.

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El JT de Spang
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I thought it wasn't as good as the reviews had said when I saw it last week. Plot holes, poor world-building, and, (and this might just be me) the lengths to which they went to try and make JGL resemble Bruce Willis just dragged me way out of the story about a dozen times.

I know this means Aros thinks I'm not smart enough to 'get' it. I find I'm completely fine with that. [Wink]

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Aros
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quote:
Originally posted by El JT de Spang:

I know this means Aros thinks I'm not smart enough to 'get' it. I find I'm completely fine with that. [Wink]

Hahah.

You're kind of right about all of the effort that JGL put in to emulate a young Bruce Willis. I thought he did a great job with the mannerisms and acting part, but the makeup threw me off a few times. And what's with the eyebrows?!?!?

I don't think you had to be smart to get this flick. I do think, however, that you have to be able to overlook some things to enjoy it (prosthetic, some of the logic, etc). I felt the same about the new Spiderman -- there were a lot of logical problems and errors, and the movie was only enjoyable if you could ignore them.

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Raymond Arnold
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I absolutely loved this movie.

Time travel is handled very sillily. No, this isn't a hard sci-fi movie. I'm telling friends of mine to go see with, with no explanation EXCEPT that not to try and apply logic to the time travel.

** spoilers **

-

-

quote:
My problem with the movie wasn't that it focused on characters or story instead of sci-fi. My problem is that it started out as a promising sci-fi flick, turned into a relationship drama, then turned into Firestarter, then turned into a bad 80s action movie, then ended with a big nonsensical logical inconsistency. Not to mention all the little subplots that would get opened up and not really go anywhere. It was just trying to do too much.
This is by far my favorite part about it. I LOVE this kind of movie, and I love it all the more when I don't see it coming. There's no rule that movies have to fall into neat little genre boxes. A typical fantasy or sci-fi novel can have all kinds of magic or technology interacting. There's no reason you can't have time travel and the mob and telekinetic powers interacting.

Particularly loved how they throw out the TK powers in the beginning as a joke, which is right in line with a lot of other random stuff getting thrown at you as a sort-of-joke, but then when it turns out to be significant it was totally set up correctly.

The only issue is that it DOES matter what kind of movie you *think* you're going to see, and whether you like all the kinds of movies you end up seeing. Advertising this kind of movie is tricky. The whole point is that you can't see anything coming, but that it makes sense in retrospect. So you need to appeal to the right people without telling them what they're getting themselves into.

The best description of this I've heard is "The Best Comic Book Movie of All Time." (if it could be successfully advertised as such, then I think people would have the right expectations regarding worldbuilding and time-travel consistency)

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Dan_Frank
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The TK thing didn't seem like a throwaway joke at all. I filed it away, and when they talked about some mysterious guy singlehandedly taking over the syndicates my first thought was that he had crazy TK powers.

Then when the kid first starts throwing a tantrum, and the mom seemed unnerved, my roommate leaned over and said "it's him." The mom running to the safe just clinched it.

I dunno. Seemed like classic Chekhov's gun, not especially surprising or twisty at all.

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Raymond Arnold
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I did assume at the time that the TK thing wasn't *just* a joke, but there was so much other stuff going on (time travel nonsense, sudden switch to slow family farm drama, etc) to focus on that I didn't realize it for what it was until the kid threw the tantrum. (I did realize as soon as the tantrum started what the deal was)

I agree the execution was pretty "classic Chekhov's gun", and in a parallel universe where movies as a whole were less formulaic, Looper would have been, well, more obviously formulaic in certain ways. If you did see what was going on I can see that making the movie a lot less cool.

I suppose a reasonable criticism is sort of similar to something I heard about Inception: Inception ISN'T that great a sci-fi movie. It's just a pretty good idea, well executed. But Inception is what the *baseline* for a good sci-fi movie should be, and the fact that most sci-films fall so short is incredibly pathetic.

Similarly, I can point out a lot of flaws with Looper, but I've spend the past several years wishing for a movie to be at least as ambitious when it comes to twisty-turniness (along a few different measures of twisty-turniness)

[ October 12, 2012, 12:51 PM: Message edited by: Raymond Arnold ]

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Aros
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Though it's taking awhile to get posted here, it seems that OSC agreed with my assessment of Looper.

http://greensboro.rhinotimes.com/Articles-Articles-c-2012-10-03-213347.112113-Silent-Boarding-MoviePass-Looper.html

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