Reflections of the Third Eye
25 July 2013
Looper up and down
Now Playing: Michael Angelo on Guinn
Topic: L

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.

Posted by Patrick at Lysergia at 10:38 PM MEST
Updated: 10 August 2013 12:20 AM MEST
8 April 2013
Thor vs Lucky Number Slevin - 100 mcg capsule reviews
Now Playing: Parameter "Galactic Ramble"
Topic: L

A couple of quick takes on things recently watched....

THOR (2011) turned out to be surprisingly enjoyable and amplifies the impression that Hollywood may have figured out, finally, how to handle these Marvel comic heroes. Iron Man was the first step in the right direction, Avengers was eminently entertaining, and Thor pretty much so too. I get the feeling that someone in charge realized that these movies should be a concern for a much wider audience than nostalgic ex-teenyboppers, and so they lost the lame, Disneyfying strain that made almost all the earlier instalments shallow and impersonal. Choosing Kenneth Branagh to direct certainly indicates a motion away from the by-the-numbers instalments in the Spiderman and X-Men series. That's not to say that Thor is a particularly brilliant movie, but you don't need to care one iota for the old comic book (which I always found silly) or even know that it exists in order to enjoy this dynamic, expressive and surprisingly funny popcorn movie. The main character comes across as a surfer more than a jock, and the casting is pretty solid (Loki is bulls-eye; Anthony Hopkins as Odin perhaps less so). A straightforward yet arresting storyline, an evil-looking enemy clan led by a superbly menacing Colm Feore, and tons of beautiful CGI panoramas. If there is a sequel I look forward to it. 7/10

LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN (2006) is something different altogether, basically a late addition to the very long -- perhaps too long -- lineage that goes back to the two-fisted mid-'90s impact of Pulp Fiction and Trainspotting. British director McGuigan did the very violent and slightly disturbing Gangster No 1 prior to this, but the uncompromising tone of that flick isn't really on display here, until towards the end. Prior to that it bounces along nicely as an unfazed Josh Hartnett gets dragged into a gangster rivalry with the typical near-parody style of early Tarantino. However, the script pulls out an increasing flow of twists that should surprise even one familiar with the genre, and the resolution near the end is quite effective, not just for its intrinsic logic, but because it goes hand in hand with a sharpening of the overall tone of the movie. And just as you enjoyed that closure, another twist comes along. Credibility is stretched, of course, but the rules of the aesthetic universe are never violated, and so it works. The oft-maligned Hartnett is unusually well-cast in a role that looks back to his break-through as a cool, self-serving slacker in The Faculty, while Bruce Willis does one of the colder hit-men you've seen. Oddly, grand elders Morgan Freeman and Ben Kingsley are less successful, the former just going through his usual black patriarch motions, the latter seemingly at odds with his lines of dialogue. The producers could have saved a lot of money by hiring lesser name actors who would have brought more energy to these characters. Lucy Liu is as pretty as ever and gets a part with direct involvement in the plot, rather than just a love interest. Not a perfect movie or even a great one, but in this crowded genre a highly competent addition. 7/10

Posted by Patrick at Lysergia at 8:59 PM MEST
Updated: 10 August 2013 12:39 AM MEST

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