Major Plot Holes Throw Looper For A Loop

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis team up the film Looper, a rather disappointing time-travel thriller, which is too bad because the potential was there for it to be phenomenal. Gordon-Levitt stars as Joe who is an assassin in the year 2044. He lives in Kansas and his job is to kill people sent bound and gagged from the future. Joe explains that thirty years from his present time travel is discovered but is instantly outlawed. The only ones who use it are criminal organizations who use it to send their targets back into the past because it is nearly impossible to dispose of a body in the future.

Joe lives a happily empty criminal life until one day he discovers that his next target is actually himself from the future. His future self is played by Bruce Willis and he does a credible job of portraying a supposedly reformed criminal that is trying to save his skin and rewrite history. When the Gordon-Levitt Joe first confronts his future self, the Willis Joe manages to escape with a mission at hand. The Gordon-Levitt Joe is targeted by his employers who now want to kill him and his future self, yet instead of going on the run, he still wants to kill his future self, hoping he will get in good graces again. This doesn’t make much sense, nor does much of the movie.

One flaw with Looper is that it adds too many subplots. For instance, the future version of Joe not only wants to stay alive but wants to do a Terminator and find and kill the child version of the criminal boss that had him sent back to the past. Enter Emily Blunt as Joe’s love interest. She plays a farmer and a mother named Sara whose son Cid is future Joe’s target. So the Gordon-Levitt Joe hides out in her farm waiting for his future version to turn up while building a relationship with the mother and son. But the plot twists don’t end there, in the future a mutation appears among people that allows telekinesis and Cid happens to be an especially powerful mutant.

Honestly, when this development turned up, Looper strayed away from its original premise and came off as an uninspired X-Men movie. Another thing is that it’s difficult to find anyone sympathetic in the movie, even the boy Cid isn’t likeable. He looks like a perfect Damien for a new version of The Omen.  Joe is largely an unrepentant killer and drug addict. Joe’s future version is more cold blooded whose excuse for the Terminator rampage is that his future wife will be killed by Cid’s people. Unlike the Terminator films, it never is shown how bad Cid will become so no one can really root for the future Joe to kill this child. A word of caution, despite the trailers promising an action-packed spectacle, Looper has very little in the way of action. There are some chase and fight scenes but they lack energy and urgency.

Then there are the mechanics of the premise. If illegal time travel is used by criminals why are they worried about disposing of bodies, wouldn’t it be more of a crime to be caught using time travel technology that can be used to rewrite history? Why kill the targets when they come back? No one bothers to interrogate them to learn about the future, one would think that a criminal wouldn’t at least want to pull a Biff Tannen and learn sport scores to get rich! Why send them only thirty years back? The film never establishes that there is a limit to how far back a target can be sent. So why not send them to a preshistoric past or to the middle of some great catastrophe?

Looper has some good points. The production design showcasing a decaying U.S. and an opulent China was well done and it was refreshing to see a film not take place in a futuristic New York or Chicago. Joseph Gordon-Levitt also gets kudos for playing subtly a young version of Bruce Willis. Of course, he doesn’t look like the Willis we’ve seen back in Moonlighting but there are some slight resemblances and Gordon-Levitt shows enough of Willis’ mannerisms to pull the feat off. Looper tried to be different but in the end maybe someone should’ve gone back in a temporal loop to fix the screenplay before filming began.

Lewis T. Grove

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Top 10 Butterfly Effects

One theme that runs through many time travel stories is that of the Butterfly Effect. Most famously demonstrated in Ray Bradbury’s short story “A Sound of Thunder” where time travelers go back to prehistoric times on a dinosaur safari and inadvertently change the future by carelessly killing a butterfly in the past. The most recent example of the Butterfly Effect is in Stephen King’s newest literary release 11/22/63; in that book the assassination of John F. Kennedy is prevented resulting in a radically altered timeline.

This list will cover some of the best Butterfly Effects presented on several media that I’ve seen or read (sorry haven’t read Lest Darkness Fall or The Time Ships yet), and are based on Effects directly due to time travel and the amount of time spent exploring those altered worlds.

10. “Storm Front, Part I & II” from Star Trek: Enterprise; the fourth season opener concluded the maligned and confusing temporal cold war storyline. Captain Archer and the Enterprise crew are trapped on Earth during World War II in a timeline altered by aliens. This resulted in the Nazis being more technologically advanced and occupying parts of the U.S.

9. “Turn Left” from Doctor Who; the episode examines what would have happened if Companion Donna Noble never met the Doctor. It’s a grim timeline that features the deaths of the Tenth Doctor, Martha Jones, Sarah Jane Smith, Torchwood and Britain under martial law.

8. “Year Of Hell, Part I & II” from Star Trek: Voyager; the crew of the lost starship Voyager stumble upon an obsessed alien intent on using time as a weapon in his region of space then as a means to restore his wife after utilizing the weapon erases her from history. The Voyager crew literally go through hell as they try to track down the alien and restore the timeline. It was so well done many fans grumbled when things went back to normal!

7. Flashpoint; The DC Comics mini-series and its spin-offs has the Flash preventing his mother’s death while time traveling, which forever alters the DC Universe. First the Flash is trapped in a nightmarish, violent version of the DC Universe with many altered heroes and villains then the storyline concludes with the creation of the New 52 titles running today with updated versions of the DC heroes.

6. “The Hanged Man” from Journeyman; it’s a short-lived series from 2007 that in a similar vein to Quantum Leap had the hero (reporter Dan Vasser-played by Kevin McKidd) uncontrollably time traveling and changing history. In this episode, Dan leaves behind a digital camera in 1984 that is reverse engineered. When he returns, not only is technology more advanced but his young son is erased and instead has a daughter, leaving him with a deep moral dilemma.

5.” Profile In Silver” from The Twilight Zone of the 1980s; the late Lane Smith portrays a history professor who goes back in time to study the assassination of his ancestor, John F. Kennedy, and winds up saving him. This of course begins a cataclysmic chain of events due to time trying to compensate for the alteration. In other words World War III is about to erupt. In true Twilight Zone fashion, the ending is a real twist.

4. The Guns Of The South; Harry Turtledove’s masterpiece is about what happens when Confederate soldiers are armed with AK-47s by time-traveling racist white South Africans. Obviously this turns the tide of the Civil War in the Confederate’s favor and readers learn that Lincoln loses re-election, Robert E. Lee becomes president of the C.S.A., the U.S. gets into a war with Britain and the Confederacy becomes a technologically advanced nation.

3. The Age of Apocalypse Storyline from the X-Men books; Professor X of the X-Men is accidently killed in the past by his son. This chain reaction leads to the villainous mutant Apocalypse conquering America and committing genocide on non-mutants. For months the crossover X-books featured alternate versions of mutants such as a heroic Magneto leading the X-Men, Wolverine with a missing hand and teams with different members some of whom are villains in the regular books like Sabretooth.

2. The Nantucket Trilogy comprised of S.M. Stirling’s books Island In The Sea Of Time, Against The Tide Of Years and On The Oceans Of Eternity; the storyline has the island of Nantucket, its modern-day inhabitants and a Coast Guard ship sent back in time to the Bronze Age. Their necessary interactions with the people in that time period lead to early introductions to gunpowder, primitive air travel and increased global trade and contact. Naturally trouble starts when renegades leave Nantucket and begin to carve out their own kingdoms leading to armed conflict.

1. The Back To The Future Trilogy; Robert Zemeckis’ three films about a time-traveling teenager and his buddy scientist is actually a fantastic examination of the Butterfly Effect. In the first film, Marty McFly travels from the 1980s in a DeLorean to the 1950s and prevents his parents from falling in love. The obvious effect is that he and his siblings are being erased so he has to restore the timeline (audiences are helped by the rapid fire explanations of Doc Brown about the nuances of time travel). He succeeds for the most part. While his parents do wind up together they are changed due to their future son’s influence and this results in Marty’s family being better off when he returns to the ’80s.

In the second film, a trip to 2015 results in a more dire Butterfly Effect. The trilogy’s villain Biff Tannen steals the DeLorean and travels to the ’50s to make his younger self rich. When Marty McFly and his friend Doc Brown return to the ’80s, their hometown has been transformed into a nightmarish vision. Seedy casinos and chemical plants are everywhere,

crime is rampant and even Richard Nixon is still president while the Vietnam War rages on. Marty’s family life is radically changed as his father is dead and his mother is married to Tannen. In the third film, the Butterfly Effect is reflected in the duo’s adventures in the 1880s; chiefly with their confrontation with Tannen’s murderous ancestor which could lead to their premature deaths. The Effect is last touched upon in the end when we see a landmark renamed and Marty McFly altering an event in the ’80s that has an unknown yet hopeful alteration to his future.

José Soto