Sunday, October 14, 2012

Looper is loopy

In the 19th century a Danish bloke called Hans Christian Andersen wrote a story about a vain Emperor who hires two weavers that promise him the finest suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is hopelessly stupid. The Emperor cannot see the cloth himself, but pretends that he can for fear of appearing unfit for his position. When the swindlers 'finish' the suit, they mime dressing him and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects, who play along with the pretense, until a child in the crowd, too young to understand, cries out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!"

Coming out of the movie I felt a bit like the child pointing at the Emperor, not because I'm too young to understand but because I understand all too clearly that this was nonsense. Heading into the long hyped Looper there's a gigantic poster in the cinema with 5-Star 'outstanding' ratings from UK film magazines Total Film and Empire with the former saying that it's "The best sci-fi movie since Moon. The best time-travel yarn since 12 Monkeys. And one of the best films of 2012." Another quote was "This decade's The Matrix." No, Looper is the most ridiculously over-hyped over-rated movie since Avatar [and lacks the astounding spectacle of revolutionary 3D presentation that makes that movie worth it]. It's as big a let down as Prometheus which promised us so much but delivered so little. Total Film had it slightly wrong with that last one - it isn't this decade's The Matrix [that was Inception], Looper is more like this decade's The Matrix: Revolutions.

In Looper, Joeseph Gordon-Levitt plays Joe, a "Looper" a hitman in Kansas in 2044. He's not a great hitman, all he really has to do is shoot blindfolded individuals who are sent back by the mob from 30 years into the future because they can't dispose of bodies then. It's inevitable that one day you will eventually "close your loop" by executing yourself. One day Joe from the future [Bruce Willis] is sent back, young Joe recognises him and hesitates to shoot so old Joe escapes. Young Joe must give chase because the only way for him to be free to live his life is to kill old Joe. Trust me - this is the part of the movie that actually makes sense and is the part I enjoyed. Both Gordon-Levitt and Willis give wonderful performances, especially Gordon-Levitt's movie-long imitation of Willis' mannerisms which must have been difficult to maintain. In fairness however, we could have done without his distracting make up - if we can believe River Phoenix is young Indy in The Last Crusade then imitation is good enough for an audience.

The rest of the cast are extraordinarily well judged. Jeff The Newsroom Daniels, Piper Covert Affairs Perabo and Tracey Death Proof Thomas also star. Sara [Emily The Adjustment Bureau Blunt] is a farmer taking care of her special telekinetic little boy Cid (although it would be better if he was called Damien). It's actually this extraordinary youngfella Pierce Gagnon who surely can't be 10 years old who steals the show and provides some levity in contrast to his purpose in the movie. Movie patrons blessed with memory however will recognise Garret Dillahunt channelling his Chromartie role from Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles as a mob enforcer.

As an action movie is comes across quite well, the chase scenes and stunt work were excellent and the special effects were pretty good for a movie that was made with a paltry [in Hollywood terms] $30m. The design elements of this movie made it feel like some sort of social commentary on the world today. Writer/director Rian Johnson obviously ascribes to the social/economic collapse of the west idea but perhaps it's a design choice that both fits his vision as well as the limitations of his budget. It explains why weapon designs are pretty much 2012's [unlike the daftness of using modern weapons in Total Recall] and why people are driving about in modern vehicles with solar panels. The most bizarre and intriguing notion is reference to The Vagrant Wars which suggest that at some point between now an 2044, hordes of armed vagrants will assist, or perhaps are a result of the economic collapse. Nevertheless, I'm certain it won't keep people awake at night in the same way Star Wars fans speculated on The Clone Wars between 1977 and 2002.

Okay, so what's really wrong with this whole movie and why is it not so great as the misguided critics are shouting from the rooftops? Well it's really the use of science and science-fiction in this movie is what lets it down big time. Basically the concept is sound, tried and tested for years but the execution here is so ludicrous and it blatantly contradicts itself so much and asks so many unanswerable questions that it makes Brannon Braga's most insane Star Trek plots seem perfectly plausible by comparison. I'm not saying that every other example of time-tavel paradox science-fiction is flawless, some if it is far from it, but seriously there was stuff which is created here for the purposes of the story [which is fine] that were blatantly contradicted during the movie [excessively lazy writing].

Sadly I don't think I can cohesively convey all the issues I had with these elements of Looper which 'control' the whole story without spoiling the whole thing which I will not do so I will discuss it in the comments if you so wish - so don't read the comments until you've seen it. Let's lets just say for now that during the course of this grand spectacle of cinema - nothing actually happens. The biggest let down is the ending - I'd honestly have an easier job of being an apologist for the ending of the 2000 Dungeons & Dragons movie or even the ending of the Mass Effect 3 video game this year than I would for this woeful, pointless climax.

Final Verdict: Not without excitement and great performances but devoid of a cohesive plot and contradicts every idea it sets up. The sad truth is that this movie does so much wrong it's distracting from what's right. I regret to tell you that you're better off with the Terminator movies or fuck it even Timecop is better time-travel sci-fi than this.

Colonel Creedon rating:  **1/2

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