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One of the more recent movies to be featured here, LOOPER (2012) had enough pros and cons to foster a livelier response than the 'it's OK, I guess' that's become standard in the current creative doldrums. Like Prometheus, a lot of people think it sucks and will tell you why, most frequently citing the dubious sci-fi set-up for the movie and the fact that it's actually two unrelated stories forced together. And like Prometheus there is a smaller yet clearly devoted fan-base who find the vibe of the movie and its characters so cool that they cannot be bothered to listen to various objections.
As the end credits rolled I was in a rare state of cinematic confusion. The alarm inside my head that goes off whenever a movie plot takes a wrong turn, or a character makes an illogical move, or similar defects related to hands-on movie-making, had fired so many times that it barely registered anymore. I didn't have time to keep count, as I watched with fascination how the storyline built an ever-growing pile of parts stolen from other movies. I haven't seen such a multi-derivative film since The Fifth Element, which, incidentally also features Bruce Willis. Two thirds into Looper I had picked up Twelve Monkeys (Willis again!), Terminator, The Boys From Brazil, The Matrix, Carrie, Twilight Zone (the TV series), Signs, Firestarter, Blade Runner, Robocop... you get the idea.
The script isn't a copy or exploitation job but a patchwork of concepts and plot twists from a dozen earlier sources. As a patchwork, it is unavoidably messy, and it gets messier by retaining an unnecessary sub-plot about a colleague of the main character and his fate, which presumably is there for pedagogic reasons, so that the less brilliant viewer can surmise the possible fate for the main 'Looper' protagonist. The movie felt overlong at 2 hours, and losing that bit, and perhaps the wasted parts about a clumsy, comic-relief assassin (yep), would have allowed the viewer to focus on the main story.
Which, unfortunately, is two different stories with a rather stretched link between them. Neither one is strong enough to carry a movie on its own, not least since so much has been borrowed from elsewhere, and so Looper keeps jumping back and forth much like the time-travelling 'senior' version of the protagonist, who after looking like Joseph Gordon-Levitt with weird make-up all his life, suddenly transforms to look like Bruce Willis around age 45. It's ludicruous enough that I simply didn't understand that it was supposed to be the same person for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, the 'other' part of Looper that deals with a child with super-powers and a possibly dystopic future is nicely done, except that again it's all quite familiar, and seems more like an episode of a TV series like the X-Files or Twilight Zone than part of a contemporary big-budget movie. Towards the end, some of the loose ends are tied together as young and old time-traveller battle it out, and there's a nice twist at the very end which makes the movie seem better and more profound than it is. This feeling only lingers until you begin retracking the plot and various scenes in your head, and then all the iffy things suspended in the air come crashing down to the ground, because this movie does not have super-telekinetic powers and can only fake it for so long.
In addition to recalling The Fifth Element for the wrong reasons, I was going to say that Looper has the greatest span between its good elements (for one thing, I was never bored) and its bad elements in any movie I've seen in a long time, but that is not true--precisely the same thing applied to Prometheus. Two high-profile movies with recycled ideas, laughable details and overall sloppy execution... I'd say we're looking at the worst creative slump for Hollywood since the late 1980s, eh? 6/10
The director and lead actor collaborated on Brick (2005) which I recently saw and which is clearly a better and more original movie than Looper; well worth seeing.