Friday, June 21, 2013

Thrown for a Loop... TK Freaks Unite

One of the staples of the postmodern era is a higher level of self-consciousness or as the narrator in 300 would say, a "heightened sense of things."  This is often indicated by the prefix "meta" which indicates a greater or higher level of awareness marked by self-reflexivity and and impetus for deconstruction.  There are some who argue that the term "postmodern" itself has become (or always was) devoid of meaning.  I used to think along those same lines until I was in the middle of deconstructing postmodernism and realized that I had already breached the cultural event horizon.  The thing is, we can't help but be postmodern because the tenets of postmodernism have become so ingrained in our collective consciousness that we can't escape their influence, much like the side of the road we drive on, the fact that all movies based on video games (so far) suck goat balls, and the seemingly neverending and incredibly deadly war between Coke and Pepsi.  So yes, the boundaries of postmodernism are arbitrary, but so are any of the meanings we conjure up and attribute to anything.  

Perhaps one of the most clever deconstructions of postmodernism (a cleverly meta moment) came from The Simpsons when Moe revamped his bar and tried to explain the concept to Homer and the bar gang:
"It's pomo" 
(blank stares) 
(blank stares) 
"Yeah, alright, weird for the sake of weird."
Though simplistic, it is still an accurate analysis.  Postmodernism is about deconstructing meaning, but it also about defying or denying the supremacy of meaning.  Making something "weird for the sake of weird" is an example both of this defiance of essentialism and of a heightened sense of self-awareness.  Postmoderism in and of itself is neither a good or bad thing - much like a gun.  It's what we make of it that's important.  So as long as the gun is pointed at some animal that will feed your family or at Andy Dick, then everything is as it should be.  Meaning all depends on relativity - the who, why, what, when, and how.

I can't really rail against postmodernism, because whether we like it or not, we are postmodern.  However, just like even the finest wine when consumed in excess will turn Ghandi into Charlie Sheen, postmodernism is not without its adverse effects.  The smoking gun of postmodernism is a sort of joyless sense of pretentiousness.  Basically, it boils down to the seemingly inescapable fact that a growing segment of the population would rather be "right" than be happy.  People don't want magic - they're too busy rushing to pull back the curtain and strip search the magician looking to see how the trick is done before the show is even over.

It struck me recently when, after watching the movie LOOPER and reading people's reactions online, how widespread this tendency had become.  Any piece of art is bound to have its detractors, but there seemed to be an undo amount of commentary on "plot holes" and "inconsistencies" relating largely to the time travel aspects of the film.  A great number of people seemed to be caught up in the minutia of determining whether the mechanics of time travel that the movie presented were "accurate," as if there were actually some objective quantitative evidence against which to weigh the movie's depictions or their own assertions.  And it seemed that a lot of people just couldn't get passed this to see what a great movie LOOPER actually was.    

The plot of LOOPER follows the exploits of Joe, a specialized assassin in a future who kills random, anonymous people sent back from even further in the future (30 years to be precise) by gangsters because time travel will be instantly outlawed after its discovery, probably for a lot of very good reasons (which you can think up, write down in an itemized list, and share with your friends to show them how clever you are if that's your particular cup of tea).  These assassins are called loopers because as part of their contract they will eventually be called upon to kill their future selves thereby "closing their loops."  Of course, shit hits the fan when Young Joe inadvertently lets Old Joe escape, although you can't really blame him because if your future self turned out to be Bruce Willis, realistically, what fucking chance do you have?  (Also, I just have to point out that the makeup and Joseph Gordon-Levitt's impeccable imitation of Willis' mannerisms helped to both establish continuity of the character and also cross the threshold of the uncanny in a creepily effective way.)
Would you fuck me?  I'd fuck me.  I'd
fuck me hard.

Young Joe then embarks upon a mission to kill his future self, while Old Joe sets out to kill the kid who will eventually become the Rainmaker who is a huge crime boss in his time who kills his wife and sends him back in time to die.  Oh yeah, also some people have developed telekinesis, which turns out to be fairly integral to the plot of the movie and is often overlooked in favour of the other major sci-fi element of time travel. 
Right off the bat I want to make it clear that I loved and will continue to love LOOPER.  It made a decent splash at the box office, but I have the feeling it will end up more as a cult sci-fi movie like EQUILIBRIUM.  Which is cool, because it doesn't detract at all from LOOPER's awesomeness (and may in fact add to its mystique and allure) and because of all the potential for unprotected sects

I'm going to bet that odds are, if you hated this movie, you have become a victim of excess postmodernism.  This is not true for everyone, hence the qualification of "Odds are" that I added to the last sentence.  There are all kinds of reasons people love and hate artistic endeavours (or love and hate in general).  Some art will speak to some people but not to others.  If LOOPER didn't "speak" to you, I have no problem with that.  However, I do have an issue with people actively seeking to deprive themselves or others of pleasure for no good goddamned reason.  As always, you're free to love or hate whatever and however you see fit.  The point of this analysis is to try and inject some pleasure into your life.  This is not so much a dissection of a single artistic endeavour, but a call to love.  Or, if you don't have a lot of time, then at the very least a decent fuck.

One of the main issues so many people seem to have with LOOPER is the many plot holes and inconsistencies that seem to be related to the time travel aspects of the story.  This is a prime example of sacrificing happiness for the sake of "being right."  We all have to prove to our friends and family how fucking clever we are all the time.  As a culture, we seem to have this chip on our shoulder about proving that we're somehow more special than the guy sitting next to us, like somehow we can rise above the masses.  Go against the grain.  Be your own man or woman.  Well guess what: If you're watching a mass-produced piece of entertainment then proliferating opinions about it, screaming into the dark abyss of the Internet or pestering friends and coworkers with your running commentary, then you are most assuredly one of the faceless masses.  There is nothing unique or special about you in this context. 

Which is absolutely fine.  I'm going to do you a solid and help ease the burden you might be carrying around on your beleaguered shoulders.  I'm here to tell that sometimes—most of the time, in fact—it's OK (and largely unavoidable) to be one of the masses.  Just another faceless face in the crowd.  You don't have to prove how smart or special or anything else you are to the people around you.  You don't have to be special all the time; most of the time it's OK to just "be."  Plus, you seem like a really pretentious asshole stating something that most people already know and then trying to pass it off as an original thought.  Seriously, think about it.  You can thank me later (money and/or blowjobs will be fine).

Are there going to be unresolved issues in any narrative that deals with time travel?  Of course there are.  We know that already.  Two examples of excellent movies that used time travel as one of their main narrative devices, BACK TO THE FUTURE and TERMINATOR 2 (the first TERMINATOR works too, but come on), are rife with temporal paradoxes and "inconsistencies" yet still kick a metric tonne of ass.  Are there temporal logical fallacies at play in LOOPER as well?  Undoubtedly.  That's not the issue.  The issue is: Does the conception of time travel within LOOPER adhere to an internal logic established within its own universe? And as we can see with the infographic below, the internal logic "makes sense" as a series of loops or successive timelines, each one built and influenced by the actions or inactions of people in the one before.  The timeline in LOOPER is multilinear, not so much in the sense of alternate realities existing simultaneously, but in the sense that each timeline is successive; the characters in LOOPER are moving in two temporal "dimensions" instead of one: both forward through time and laterally across time.  I found the infographic below pretty helpful visualizing it. 

The important thing to keep in mind, however, is that in any narrative text it is less important how the specific mechanics of time travel work than how time travel functions as a narrative device.  I.e., How does time travel function to advance the plot.  In TERMINATOR 2, for example, time travel is at once supremely important to the plot yet not important at all.  It is important inasmuch as it is the driving force that brings all of the characters together and is the precipitating cause of any and all conflict and drama and narrative that follow it; however, the temporal mechanics of how time travel is possible are completely irrelevant to the subsequent actions of the characters and the specific themes of the movie itself.  And there are all kinds of logical fallacies and temporal paradoxes that many very clever, very right people have pointed out over the years since the film's release. 

But none of that shit matters because time travel was used to serve the larger picture, and enough dots were connected that any (willing) audience could fill in enough of the blanks in order to suspend their disbelief.  And I mean, time travel should have been a major fucking concern.  I mean, hulking, near-indestructible, autonomous, potentially self-aware cyborgs require a great deal of suspension of disbelief even in this day and age with so many advances in cybernetics that have not even come close to touching what was depicted on the screen.  And at least with cyborgs it's stretching the boundaries of what is already, theoretically and practically, possible.  With time travel there's not even a proof of concept available to indicate that any living organism could actually travel through time or that time travel at all is possible.  Yet, most moviegoers who watched or watch TERMINATOR 2 will just brush off the whole time travel part like it's no big fucking deal.  Describing the movie to a friend, most people would probably be inclined to gloss over the time travel deal, even though it is by far the most implausible yet integral part of the entire narrative.
Some would argue that it's because TERMINATOR 2 is a quantifiably better movie than LOOPER, which is true, but only by a matter of degrees.  James Cameron did an excellent job of kind of sweeping time travel under the rug with some narrative sleight of hand in TERMINATOR 2 and kind of avoiding discussing the whole thing.  LOOPER spends a little more time exploring time travel, but not by much, and (in my opinion) satisfactorily addresses a lot more of the nuances than either BACK TO THE FUTURE or TERMINATOR 2.  It's all about probability and possibility and the shades of grey rather than the blacks and the whites of it all:
Old Joe: My memory's cloudy. It's a cloud. Because my memories aren't really memories. They're just one possible eventuality now. And they grow clearer or cloudier as they become more are less likely. But then they get to the present moment, and they're instantly clear again. I can remember what you do after you do it. And it hurts.
Young Joe: So even when we're apart, you can remember what I do after?
Old Joe: Yes, but this is a precise description of a fuzzy mechanism. It's messy.
And much like TERMINATOR 2, LOOPER has a much more important science fiction trope to deal with.  In fact, it really surprised me how little audiences talked about how telekinesis (referred to as TK in the movie) played an integral part in LOOPER.  Discussing LOOPER without mentioning telekinesis is like discussing TERMINATOR 2 without talking about cyborgs.  The fact that Cid (the kid that would eventually grow up to be the Rainmaker and who Old Joe is trying to kill) is, as Young Joe so elegantly puts it at one point, a "TK [telekinetic] freak" is incredibly important. 

In LOOPER's mid-future, where Joe is still young, neckties are no longer in style, hookers are still hot, and hoverbikes exist but are notoriously unreliable (due, no doubt, to the continuing general decline in North American craftsmanship), some people are also starting to develop limited telekinetic powers.  This is fucking huge news!  This is a key evolutionary development.  It's akin to when some of our simian ancestors started walking around on two legs.  The fact that what seems amazing to us in the audience is kind of taken in stride by the characters is significant in that it speaks to director Rian Johnson's ability as a filmmaker (i.e., subtlety) but also that it is a commentary of sorts about apathy and complacency.  I mean, the fact that people can MOVE THINGS WITH THEIR MINDS would be an insane cultural development.  At first.  But then, it would probably become mundane and everyday, like, for instance, the Internet.

More importantly, through Cid and his enhanced abilities (most dudes can barely levitate a quarter while Cid can throw around trucks and tear people apart), telekinesis becomes symbolic of the human potential for great and terrible deeds.  In LOOPER, Cid grows up to be the Rainmaker and uses his telekinetic powers to rise through the ranks of the underworld and exact his revenge on the world which stole from him his innocence, happiness, and hope.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  Cid has this incredible power that in and of itself is not evil or good.  It's the fact that Cid apparently experienced a shitty childhood and lost everyone who loved and cared for him that causes him to, in turn, perpetuate that cycle of violence and hate.  Telekinesis serves as an avatar for the power and potential of all of humanity, both individually and collectively.  Each of us has an incredible power to either create or to destroy, the only question is: Which of those two tendencies will be nurtured and validated? 
That's some pretty heavy-handed shit, I know, which is why it's a lot more palatable and accessible through sci-fi tropes like telekinesis or time travel.  Getting back to the whole time travel issue, though, it ultimately serves the same purpose in  LOOPER as it does in TERMINATOR 2, which is to bring the characters together and drive the plot forward.  It poses an interesting "What if?".  What if you or your child would become the future leader of a human resistance movement that was targeted by an enemy comprised of large, Austrian-accented cyborgs?  What if you could sit down at a diner with your future and/or past self?  What would you do?  What would you say?

This is another issue with the time travel narrative device.  As is so often the case in Life, we don't know what we don't know.  Because time travel is purely theoretical at this point (and potentially—as far as we know—at every point) it's all speculation.  And the thing is, it's fun to speculate about that sort of shit.  So any "plot holes" that an audience might point out when analyzing the mechanics of time travel are just as speculative as the original conception of it proposed by the filmmakers.  All of the sudden after watching a movie that involves time travel, people suddenly become leading experts in quantum mechanics.  Most layman analyses are based on a pretty limited, linear view of causality that many people can't seem to get away from and is insufficient to form a coherent argument.  The point is that nobody really knows how time travel could or would possibly work, so shut the fuck up for a minute, sit back, and leave yourself (and others) open to the possibility of enjoyment and happiness.  If you feel the absolute need to analyze the mechanics of time travel, then at least consider the context.  The important thing to consider is not how the time travel in a movie functions in relation to your abstract, limited notion of how time travel would be "in real life" but whether or not the narrative maintains internal consistency and whether or not enough of the dots are available for the audience to connect to be able to suspend their disbelief.  In the case of LOOPER, I believe that as a narrative device time travel functions absolutely perfectly and there are no glaring internal contradictions or plot holes related to time travel.  

And anyway, since when did plot holes become the benchmark for determining the quality or relative worth of a narrative endeavour such as a feature film?  The good folks over at How it Should Have Ended point out all kinds of movie "plot holes" that in no way detract from my enjoyment of those films.  One of my favourite videos is the STAR WARS one in which they point out the glaring plot hole at the end that would have, could have, and should have spelled doom for the rebel alliance.  In short, the Death Star—you know, the one with the giant, planet-destroying laser—very slowly has to travel around a moon that it could easily destroy with its PLANET-DESTROYING LASER to get a clear shot at the planet that is home to the main rebel base.  The delay inevitably gives the rebels one last chance to ultimately destroy the empire's Orb of Demise, make it to the oft-parodied victory award ceremony, and show up in the sequels.  Despite this pretty obvious and bone-headed oversight, I still love me some STAR WARS.

If you look hard enough for inconsistencies, plot holes, and incongruences in any movie or narrative text you will find them.  Guaranteed.  That doesn't "prove" that a movie is bad.  All that proves is the axiom that because humans are imperfect and flawed any system that they create will also be imperfect and flawed.  It also proves that as a culture we are embracing more of the negative aspects of postmodernism.  As a general rule, people are becoming less willing to suspend their disbelief.  Instead, we embrace cynicism as a means unto itself.  We are becoming more willing to sacrifice long-term happiness for the instant gratification of being right.  Instant gratification is great if it's also sustainable gratification.  But the "instant" in the term "instant gratification" is an apt descriptor for our current culture because it doesn't just denote the speed at which gratification occurs but also its typical duration.  Instant gratification is typically fleeting at best.  Unfortunately, this philosophy is more in keeping with the current corporate and political zeitgeist that encourages robbing from our future to pay for the present.  It's an ugly fucking cycle, and it's tough to break.  Which is where one of the main themes of LOOPER comes in. 
As is clearly implied by the title of the movie (LOOPER), one of the main themes is that of cycles.  This is where the time travel motif becomes so important and really demonstrates the real genius of Rian Johnson and his work.  The "natural flow" of time—as far as we know and as we currently perceive it—is linear, going from point A to point B, from unlife to life to death.  In LOOPER, "natural" time is disrupted and "loops" or cycles are created only through the artificial interference of humankind.  The genius here is using the time travel motif as a metaphor for other cycles human beings create.  Cycles of violence.  Cycles of pain.  Cycles of suffering.  Cycles of hate.  Cycles of exploitation.  Cycles where we repeat the same mistakes over, and over, and over again, leading to more of the same shit.
Say "Yippee ki yay motherfucker" one more time.
I dare you.  I double dare you....

The cycles hamper progress.  The timeline is staggered and can no longer move forward unimpeded.  In short, we fucked up.  And it's not about disrupting the natural cycles or natural order.  There is no natural order.  Order is a human construct.  The problem occurs when the cycles we create perpetuate violence and hatred and exploitation.  The point being made here is about how the selfishness and shortsightedness of individuals and groups perpetuate these cycles and how it's a cumulative effect.  The real problem with greed and hate and anger is not necessarily that they tend to self-perpetuate but that they tend to accumulate.  Unless, of course, we do something about it.

One of the so-called plot holes that a lot of people have been perpetuating has to do with the events at the end of the movie and is, again, related to the idea of time travel.  Just as all the shit is coming to a head and Old Joe is about to kill Sarah, thereby setting in motion a key precipitating incident that will contribute to Cid's downward spiral into hate and revenge, Young Joe has this sudden revelation:

"Then I saw it.  I saw a mom who would die for her son.  A man who would kill for his wife.  A boy, angry and alone.  Laid out in front of him, the bad path.  I saw it.  And the path was a circle.  Round and round.  So I changed it."
Awwww, hell's yeah.

After this epiphany, Young Joe—whose gun (bearing the clever and accurate historical nickname "blunderbuss" ) would be useless in dispatching Old Joe due to its limited effective range of 15 yards—turns his weapon on himself, which, in effect and practice, resulted in the death of both Joes, Young and Old.  Now, I've read a lot of online posts and comments questioning Young Joe's decision to kill himself in order to stop Old Joe.  The most common alternative suggestion I've read would be for Young Joe to have instead shot off his hand (presumably the right hand in which Old Joe was holding his gun) so that Old Joe couldn't kill Cid or his mother. 

Of course, some other clever person pointed out that Old Joe would still be left with one good hand with which to pull that trigger and 30 years of practice.  Though I'm about to present the argument as to why it was so important that Young Joe kill himself in order to save Cid, I would first like to point out that following the disfiguring-one's-present-self-to-hinder-the-shooting-ability-of-one's-future-self line of argument, it would have been far more logical for Young Joe to blind himself instead.  Then again, both the maiming and the blinding would have prevented Old Joe from escaping Young Joe in the first place, or subsequently shooting up diners and hideouts full of bad guys, in which case Young Joe would never have even met Sarah and Cid, in which case Cid still grows up to be the Rainmaker and Young Joe was never in the field and hence never blinded himself… and all you've got is another fucking temporal paradox motherfucker.

Cleverness and paradoxes aside, it was extremely important that Young Joe die and not just die but die by his own hand.  Early on, LOOPER establishes a pattern or cycle of selfishness in both Young and Old Joes and in the culture in which he/they live(s).  When a friend of Joe's fails to "close his loop" (i.e., kill his older self sent back through time) Joe reluctantly helps him by hiding him in the floor safe in his apartment.  Their boss, Abe (Jeff Daniels, yeah that dude from DUMB AND DUMBER), who was sent from the crime syndicates from the future to watch over their operations in the past (don't even try, it will hurt your head just thinking about it), questions Young Joe, offering him amnesty in exchange for his friend.  As part of his interrogation, Abe poses the following rhetorical question to Young Joe: 

"Ask yourself: Who would I sacrifice for what's MINE?"

Young Joe's first response to this particular conundrum was to sacrifice his friend, Seth, to perhaps one of the worst, most horrendous deaths imaginable.  Though there's all kinds of reasons it wouldn't work, the particular brand of temporal torture and execution of Young Joe's friend presents an incredible visual and another intriguing "What if?". 

(It's truly terrifying to watch Old Seth slowly deteriorating for several reasons.  First, not only do Old Seth and the audience understand that in order for this to be happening Young Seth is undergoing incredibly gruesome and horrifying torture, but the criminals performing this torture have to have some sort of medical procedures in place to keep Young Joe alive (and potentially conscious) for as long as possible.  Secondly, as Old Joe later establishes, as each new event moves through the spectrum from possibility to plausibility to probability, it becomes (painfully) integrated into his memories.  So not only do the terrible, painful memories of forced amputation and mutilation come flooding to Old Seth, so do (presumably) 30 more years of memories of having to live with those deformities.  The true horror in Old Seth's on-screen disintegration as he desperately tries to save both he and his younger self from years of pain and suffering is the fact that he is completely aware of all of these implications.)  

Later, Young Joe is essentially faced with the same dilemma as Old Joe is trying to kill Sarah and Cid.  Thanks to Old Joe, Young Joe has a literal truck full of gold that he can go and use to live in peace and happiness for the rest of his life, and, with Cid's death, he would no living enemies who could possibly threaten his prosperity.  All Young Joe has to do is walk away and let Old Joe kill the kid and his mom.  But this time, Young Joe pulls a 180 and completes the journey from total selfishness to complete selflessness.  He could have tried to be clever.  He could have tried shooting off his own hand instead.  But that would have completely negated the point of the movie and Young Joe's character arc.

Two major themes at play in LOOPER—the perpetuation of negative cycles and self-sacrifice—are beautifully woven together by the end of the movie.  It's not that Young Joe had to kill himself to break the cycle.  It's the fact that he was willing to.  It's not advocating suicide and death as a means to break cycles of violence and hatred, but rather the willingness to act.   He saw that it was within his power to act to save another human life through his willingness to sacrifice his own.  He wasn't trying to fucking game the system any more. 

It was the Young Joe at the beginning of the movie who was hoarding away half of his silver (precious metals being the unique, standard form of temporal currency and a sleek integration of some classic Judeo-Christian imagery) and hiding it (quite ineffectively, apparently) from his employers.  It was the Young Joe at the beginning of the movie who would have been the asshole who would try to find a loophole like shooting off his own hand.  He was the selfish prick—just like all the other selfish pricks around him—who wanted to have his cake and eat it too.  He would have been the one to continue to risk other people's lives for the chance to further his own ends. 

But by the end of the movie, he's changed.  Young Joe's sacrifice represents the willingness to go all in.  The fact that he was willing to do something utterly selfless for another human being was a sign of maturity.  The point of LOOPER was to show how half measures and "clever" solutions are never going to break these negative cycles.  If we want to see positive change, we have to be willing to do what is necessary.  If we want this shit to stop, we have to be able to allow for another person's happiness and well-being, even if it means risking our own. 

And that's what is so powerful about the story of Joe's redemption in LOOPER.  Joe is established to be a pretty despicable human being.  He kills people for money, is a hardcore drug addict, and sells out his only friend to save his own neck.  Old Joe, despite getting over the drugs and leaving his violent life behind him thanks to the love of his life, is still a selfish bastard who proves himself capable of some pretty heinous and despicable shit.  I mean, he does show some remorse for shooting some kid in the face, mostly, it turns out, because it was the wrong kid, and he's still intent on blowing away the child who will grow up to become the shit-disturber and mob boss known only as the Rainmaker.  The conversation between Young and Old Joe in the diner does an excellent job of summing up the self-centred attitude that—apart from a knack for violence—seems to be the only common thread in Joe's life:
Old Joe: This is a piece of indentifying information on the Rainmaker.  He's here.  He lives here now.  In this county.  And I'm gonna use this to find him.  And I'm gonna kill him.  I'm gonna stop him from killing my wife.
Young Joe: Fuck you.  And your wife.  None of this concerns me.
Old Joe: This is gonna happen...
Young Joe: It happened to you. It doesn't have to happen to me. You got a picture right there in my watch?  Let me see.  Show me the picture.  As soon as I see her, I walk away.  I'll fucking marry someone else.  Promise.  So when I see that picture, that fog inside your brain should just swallow up all the memories, right?  She'll be gone.  If you give her up, she'll be safe.
Old Joe: Give her up?
Young Joe: Yeah, give her up.  You're the one who got her killed.  She never meets you, she's safe.
Old Joe: You don't understand.  We don't have to give her up.  I'm not gonna give her up.  I'm gonna save her.

At first, the notion seems sort of altruistic, even noble.  The dude just wants to save his special lady.  But then when Old Joe is challenged on the issue, it turns out that it's not just about saving his wife, it's about saving his wife to gratify his own desires.  Which is the exact opposite of altruism and nobility.  It's not that he wants to save his wife's life, he wants to save his wife's life so that he can live happily ever after with her.  It's a pretty thin fucking line to walk, but what Old Joe really wants isn't to save the life of the woman he loved but to save his own life and save himself the pain of losing her. 

Young Joe isn't any better.  One of the coolest "What ifs?" in LOOPER is "What if I had the chance to sit down and talk to my future/past self?"  What kind of shit would I ask my future self?  What kind of shit would I tell my past self?  Would we reminisce?  Talk about what could have been?  I certainly never would have thought that there would be any tension or animosity.  I mean, if you can't even get along with yourself, then who the fuck can you get along with? 

Old Joe: How's your French coming? 
Young Joe: Good. You gonna tell me I ought to be learning Mandarin? 
Old Joe: I never regretted learning French. 

[in French]
Old Joe: I know you have a gun between your legs.
[in English]
Old Joe: No?  Well, you'll get it eventually.  Obviously. 
Young Joe: All right, listen.  This is a hard situation for you, but we both know how this has to go down.  I can't let you walk away from this diner alive.  This is my life now.  I earned it.  You had yours already.  So why don't you do what old men do and die?  Get the fuck out of my way. 
Old Joe: Why don't you just take out your little gun from between your legs and do it?  Boy.

Young Joe is so fucking self-centred that he can only see the world from his point of view. He can't even fathom the possibility that one's own life is never truly one's own. He's more than willing to borrow from his future to pay for his present, even to the point of bankruptcy. Instead of helping Old Joe find and kill the Rainmaker, which in theory—and as far as he knew—would guarantee a happy future for himself, Young Joe give his future self the verbal equivalent of the middle finger. He's only worried about instant gratification in his immediate future, not the fact that he could potentially save his own life and perhaps live another fifty or sixty years instead of the thirty years Old Joe has on him—in relative peace and contentment, mind you—for a good portion of it.

Of course, the animosity between Young Joe and Old Joe also brings up questions of identity. Is the "me" from thirty years from now really still me? I mean, there's an obvious continuity of self as each individual inhabits the same body and perceives the world through a single stream of consciousness built upon the memories and experiences as constructed and interpreted through an individual perspective. But on the other hand, thirty years of experiences and memories and interpretation and reinterpretation of one's own life narrative will unquestionably have an effect on one's perception and identity. So in one sense you are always the same person because of the continuity of accumulated experience, but in another sense you are never the same person today as you were yesterday because each new accumulated experience affects how your interpretation and perception of yourself and the world around you.
Currently, being closer in age to Young Joe, I tend to watch the diner scene in LOOPER from his perspective (I'm sure the 61-year-old me will watch that same scene very differently), and it's actually kind of scary. Sitting across from your Old Self would be a chilling reminder not only of your own, eventual mortality—highlighted in this context, of course, by the fact that Young Joe is on a mission to kill his older self—but of the fact that long before you even reach The End the You that you know will cease to exist. Tomorrow you will wake up mostly the same, but slightly different. In thirty years, the You that wakes up will still be You, but a different You. The You that you know today will have become assimilated into another being that both is and isn't You. That You are just another memory, another step on a very long and winding staircase for all the Yous who come after. In that way, every day is a sort of mini-death. It's a frightening prospect to lose oneself, but part of our existence as human beings means that we are subject to incremental change and the continual loss of self. Every day we gain a wealth of experience but only at the inescapable sacrifice of an earlier fortune.

But, until the end of the movie, Young Joe can't see past the present moment. That's why his epiphany at the end of the movie is so powerful. He is finally able to see past the moment and past himself. A clear sign of emotional maturity, Joe—for perhaps the first time in his life—considers the consequences of his actions and the effect he has on the lives of people around him. He can see and finally admit to himself how he is contributing to the cycle of violence and accept responsibility for his actions. He can finally conceive of a world without himself and in the process consider the lives of the people who will be there long after he is gone. The real tragedy of Joe isn't that he had to (or felt he had to) die in order to help another human being; it's that his first true act of love and selflessness coincided with his death. Finally, he'd broken his own cycle of selfishness and self-centredness, and, though he found redemption, he also lost out on any potential happiness because it had taken him so long to get there.

LOOPER was a poignant reminder to us all not to make the same mistake.

It was also a movie that was, ultimately, all about hope. LOOPER makes the case for individual agency even in the face of what could be considered overwhelming evidence to the contrary. The very fact that Old Joe existed must have caused Young Joe to consider questions of predestination as it did for me and as I'm sure it did for a lot of very clever people out there. The fact that Joe was able to overcome these doubts and keep fighting is a powerful assertion of the power of human agency. If cycles of hate and violence and suffering are human constructions, then humanity also has the power to demolish them. In this sense, I can't help but be reminded of the theme from another great sci-fi movie that there is no fate but what we make. Overall I give LOOPER a 9.5/10 = One Head Levitating in the Middle of a Cornfield Because of a TK Freak



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