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Capone travels through the space-time continuum to talk with LOOPER writer-director Rian Johnson!!!

Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.

Rian Johnson is always a great interview, and that's because he cares about the films he's writing and directing. He's thought them through, considered every possible shortcoming or contradiction, and goes about fine tuning his work until it's, well, about as perfect as LOOPER, his crime drama melded with science fiction, action, westerns, and even a family drama. It's certainly one of the smartest, most thoughtful films I've seen all year, and there's really no excuse for you not going to check it out.

I've known and been interviewing Johnson since his feature debut, BRICK (like LOOPER, it stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt), was making the festival circuit; and we got another chance to talk when the second movie, THE BROTHERS BLOOM, was making that same trek. In between features, he's directed a couple episodes of "Breaking Bad" and the great lost series "Terriers." He's a regular attendee at Butt Numb-a-Thon, so our paths have crossed more times than I can count--the last times being at San Diego Comic-Con and most recently just last weekend at Fantastic Fest in Austin. This interview, however, took place right here in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, the day after Johnson and Gordon-Levitt did a great Q&A screening of LOOPER.

And with that, I give you one of my favorite folks to converse with about films--his and others. Enjoy my talk with Rian Johnson…

Capone: Forgive me in advance if we cover some of the same ground we covered during the Q&A.

Rian Johnson: I forgive you nothing!

Capone: Although I pretty much managed to not cover any of the same stuff with Joe.

RJ: Yeah, well we shall see. [laughs]

Capone: Rather than ask you about just time travel movies, what are some of the science-fiction films that you thought handled building strong characters the best?

RJ: That’s a good question. It’s funny. The thing is though, I’m tempted to rattle off the same ones that I do for the time travel stuff, beginning with the first few TERMINATOR movies. This is for the same reason that I would give if I was referencing them from a time travel standpoint, but the fact that the sci-fi element does its job and then steps out of the way, and you're really just rooting for these characters you care about to escape this situation that they have been placed in.

I think any successful sci-fi--like any other genre--lives or dies at the end of the day not by its sci-fi concept or by the world it creates or the gadgets; it lives or dies based on whether you care about the characters and the story. That’s from Luke Skywalker up through Ridley [Scott's films]. I think it’s a universal thing with any genre that you talk about. So I don’t know that I would necessarily reference different stuff than I would talking about time travel movies that I love.

Although I would say in terms of books, Ray Bradbury for me was the gold standard in terms of using sic-fi concepts to get at incredibly emotional human places. He more than any other, I remember some of my first exposure to sci-fi as a kid was reading his short stories and reading "The Martian Chronicles" and reading his books, and that’s something that has always stuck with me where you’re reading a story that’s set on Mars or has these grand crazy sci-fi concepts, and you’re sobbing by the end. That’s what you're aiming for, I guess.

Capone: You take this great risk, where you have this story that is charging forward with lots of violence, and then you completely change the setting to this quiet farm and the tone, and that’s really where we get to know to the younger Joe [Gordon-Levitt] and his past. There’s a lot of character development in those scenes. It’s such a different tone than the rest of the film. What made you want to try that out? That could have gone very wrong in different hands.

RJ: Yeah, and I’m sure even with all of the work we put into it to make it work, it’s still a big gamble and it may not work for everybody. My thinking was that the whole movie, at the end of it, is about presenting this big moral choice between old Joe’s [Bruce Willis] way of solving things and Sara’s [Emily Blunt] way of solving things. So it made sense to me to have the two worlds be as distinct as possible and to have the city be as different from this farm-like setting as possible and to have the movie be presented as these two halves that you have to choose between at the end of it.

That having been said, when you’re making that distinct a narrative choice, you’ve got to take it really seriously, and I did. It wasn’t something where I wanted to just let myself off the hook by saying, “Yeah, this is a big, weird thing we’re going to do, and if the audience can’t roll with it, then tough.” I wanted to make it feel as tense in that back half of it on the farm as it did on the front side in the city. And I wanted the whole thing to feel as a piece. I wanted it when it’s finished and you step back from it or maybe after you see it a second time, the two pieces should feel of one organic whole, and that was just a matter of doing a ton of work in the script phase. I also studied the movie WITNESS. I probably owe more to the movie WITNESS than I do BLADE RUNNER for this, to see how they handled getting out on the farm setting and still keeping the tension.

Capone: If a director makes a great drama or a great comedy, people are like “That’s good.” But when you do science fiction right, people never want you to leave that genre. Did you feel like you’ve stumbled upon something here that maybe you’d want to explore again?

RJ: [laughs] Oh yeah.

Capone: Or are you going to go do a musical next?

RJ: I’m still figuring out what I want to do next, but the couple things I’m chewing on both have sci-fi hooks to them, and I loved working in this sci-fi world. It’s such a broad genre, I feel I could do something entirely different from LOOPER and still have it be essentially sci-fi. But it’s a place I might stick around in, at least for the next one. I really had a good time doing this.

Capone: I remember talking to Duncan Jones with SOURCE CODE and I said to him, “Keep doing this, please. You’re so good at it, just keep doing it for a while.”

RJ: "Please stay in this world!" [Laughs] And you jinxed him. Now he’s gone off and is going to go do that Ian Fleming thing.

Capone: I can live with that; it's close enough. I haven’t heard a lot of people talk about this--and tell me if I’m reading into it--but the scenes with Jeff Daniels [playing a crime boss from 30 years in the future] I particularly love, because once you realize how the universe works that you've set up, he’s very sequestered. He doesn’t want to screw around with people from the outside world, presumably because you don’t want him mingling with the rest of the world.

RJ: I don’t think we made it explicit, but he never really leaves that cave.

Capone: Yeah, I noticed that. I love seeing Joe and Jeff work together again.

RJ: Scott Frank's movie THE LOOKOUT is a big part of the reason I went straight to Jeff for it, it’s just the chemistry that they have. They have really good banter. I love watching that scene, bouncing back and forth with each other.

Capone: The first two films that you made had as a key ingredient very heightened dialog, and here you’ve gone almost in the opposite direction. You minimize it, it’s very simple, every word means something and is important. Was it tough to dial it back?

RJ: It was really tough and it was something that I very explicitly set forward for myself at the beginning of the writing process as something that I wanted to do, say more with less. I wanted to use fewer words and really for the specific means of this story it seemed right to pare it all back. It wasn't about language; it was about trying to communicate these concepts as visually as possible actually. And also just for myself as a writer, I think my tendency is to put everything into words. And so to try and push myself to use fewer of them and be more economic, I found the writing that I was increasingly admiring was the stuff that said more with less.

Capone: That’s remarkable that you came up with that before you knew that Bruce Willis was going to be involved. He seems like the kind of guy that would look for places where you could say something in half the words.

RJ: Yeah, exactly. Thank god I had that approach, because otherwise he would have gone through with a red pen.

Capone: I love the concept related time travel, this idea that your memories get shifted in old Joe as young alters the timeline.

RJ: I’m sure it’s been done before. Everything has been done before, and I’m sure the Talkbackers will list off other films that have done it.

Capone: Yeah, maybe so.

RJ: Not only that it shifts the memory, but there’s a line in the movie where they're talking in the diner, and Joe asks Bruce all of these questions about time travel, and Bruce says “It doesn’t matter.” The thing is, that was a way of just not spending 20 minutes explaining all of the intricacies of the rules, but I don’t want that to indicate that time travel didn’t matter to me, and I didn’t actually come up with a really structured way that all of this stuff worked. I did actually, just tried to use it as a foundation and let the rules play out without explaining them.

One of he things that I ended up putting my chips down on time travel-wise was the way that this universe interacts with these time travel paradoxes that are coming up. It’s not in a mathematic “one-to-one” fashion; it’s more of an organic way. It’s more like the universe is an organic body, and when a foreign element is introduced, it tries its best to adapt to it. So that’s how the memories work--the brain is trying its best to adjust to a new set of eventualities that are now in place of its memories, and it’s cloudy and it’s messy, and old Joe is trying his best to hold on to these things that he cares about, but they're always in danger of slipping away.

Capone: I love that scene where he’s trying to hold on to that one memory, and he’s repeating "first time I saw her face" as if that will help him hold onto it.

RJ: Yeah, and the idea that he’s in this constant pain as his brain tries to resolve itself to this new whole realm of possibilities for his future, which are now his memories. I don’t know, that sounds to me like that would be messy. That seems to me like that would be something that wouldn’t have an absolute, clean cut-and-dry way it would happen; it would be much more organic.

Capone: I was talking to Joe about this, but the characters of old and young Joe are these deeply damaged guys almost from birth, and when we find out about his childhood, that’s the moment he becomes fully realized, because who among us could come out of something like that unscathed? Yet when we see that that wonderful montage where we follow Joe across the next 30 years of his life, we see this humanity injected into him.

RJ: Right, before it’s ripped away violently.

Capone: In any other movie, Joe is the villain. So where do you want us to find his humanity?

RJ: For me, all of the characters in it are flawed. All of them have good and bad in them, and for me the important thing is to know why Joe is doing the things he's doing and why he's a selfish person at the beginning of it. A big part of that was the world that we built around him. That’s why it’s a dystopian future. That’s why the streets feel the way that they do, where there are people shooting each other in the streets. It gives you this sense that you either have your piece of the pie, or it's straight to the bottom; there’s no cushion underneath you.

And once you take that into account and once you learn that he had been in that world of barely surviving since he was a little kid and never had anyone protect him and nurture him through it--he had to survive. Suddenly all of these selfish, terrible things he does day to day start making a little more sense, and it becomes less about seeing them as bad and more about seeing them as a bad place that this character’s been put in

And the same thing goes with old Joe. I hope it’s the same thing with all of the characters from the movie, from Abe to Kid Blue, you can all see where they are coming from. Having that said, there is at the end of the day ultimately a moral choice that’s presented to Joe, and there is the notion of staying in this loop of violence begetting violence, or taking a cue from Sara and “putting your hopes in raising our kids right” and that being a way to move the human race forward.

Capone: The creative partnership that you have with Joe is something special. I love that he said last night that he had given you the first draft of his script [his writing-directing debut JON DON'S ADDICTION], that makes me feel good, just the idea that you’re finger prints are on it, even just a little bit.

RJ: I don’t know about that.

Capone It passed before your eyes.

RJ: Well, and back and forth. That’s something where even when we haven’t been making movies together over the past eight years, we're getting together and we're talking about the stuff that we're working on and bouncing it off of each other. We’re really good friends and we're friends who both do creative work for a living, so inevitably that’s what’s going to happen; there’s going to be a back and forth like that. And that’s really, really nice, especially when it comes to working on something like this, the fact that you’ve got that foundation to build on and that level of trust between you and that shared grammar. There’s nothing better than that.

Capone: There’s nothing better than watching it. There are a lot of guns in this movie. And I'm not even talking about the violence in the film, because we’ve all certainly seen plenty of violent movies. But the sheer number of guns in this movie is staggering.

RJ: Although there are only two types of guns, the Gat and the Blunderbust, but there are a lot of them, yeah. [Laughs] When I first finished the script, and I’ve done this with all of the scripts, I asked my cousin Zach just to do a tiny little pencil sketch for the cover of the script, and what he chose to sketch was the gun. Up until recently, that was the Twitter symbol for the movie.It’s still on the Tumblr site, and that was always the central image for this movie. For me, that is a very clear symbol of the world that Joe has found himself in at the very beginning of the movie. That’s a symbol for that moral compass that he swings back and forth,--the life of the gun versus the female energy of Sara out on the farm. That was always a really poignant thing.

Capone: That’s the third gun, by the way, her shotgun.

RJ: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s true, I guess.

Capone: And you’ve got your NRA membership all up to date…

RJ: My dues are all paid. [Laughs] But honestly, because I know it is a topic these days--gun violence--but I feel like the reason that I felt comfortable having the guns and the violence that there is is because the movie is really on a deep fundamental level about that cycle of violence and about not just the moral issue of solving a problem by finding the right person and killing them, but the practical issue of “Does that work?”

There’s a reason you hate somebody, and they're causing a problem in your life, so you find them and kill them, and then you’ve killed this person who has someone who cares about them who you’ve now caused a problem for, so they fight, and just on and on and on. I feel like too often you see a lot of movies where there’s a ton of violence in them, and the justification for the violence from the filmmaker’s point of view is “Well obviously, it’s an anti-violence movie really, because I’m a nice guy and I don’t like violence.” But there’s nothing in the actual text that portrays the violence as anything more than a means to an end. So it was very important to me that if we're going to have this amount of violence and have it baked in there, that we were saying something about them.

Capone: One of the my favorite sequences--actually they are two but the same one--at the very beginning when Bruce gets away. You show it from two different ways. The first way very much makes Bruce look like a badass. The second way makes Joe look like an idiot.

RJ: [laughs] Yeah, the first one is from Joe’s perspective where everything is confused, and then you see what actually happens. I like that, and that’s a BACK TO THE FUTURE thing. Yeah, I’m happy to hear people laugh at that second moment. I always do when I watch it.

Capone: We haven’t really talked much about Emily in all of these conversations. In addition to being this very natural beauty, I don’t think I’ve ever seen her do anything like this before where she’s really been tested to this extent. How did you decide she was the right one? I’ve never seen her that tan either.

RJ: Well the thing is, Joe’s physical transformation is obviously the big flashy one, but Emily made no less of a transformation for this movie, and it was all her. She showed up blonde and tan with a flat Midwestern accent that she'd gotten from listening to Chris Cooper movies. So yeah, she made a big physical transformation. I was a huge fan of her work and I had never seen her do anything like this, and I couldn’t picture her as a Midwestern farm girl, and that’s part of the reason I cast her, because I knew she would pull it off somehow. I was just interested to see how she would do it and so it made a lot of sense to me to cast her.

Also as someone who writes his own movies and writes them very slowly, unfortunately by the time you get around for casting, you’ve had this movie in your head for a couple of years and you want to hire an actor who is going to surprise you and who's going to come at it from an angle you wouldn’t expect, and Emily always does that in every role that she is in, so she had a lot of appeal.

Capone: Outside of Joe, do you tend to write with certain actors in mind?

RJ: No, not at all. I rarely do. It’s very rare with any character that I have an actor in mind. With Joe for this one, it was a real exception, and even then it’s not like while I’m writing I’m thinking of Joe in the part. I’m really writing it as a character, and then I know in the back of my head that I will be working with Joe on it. So that’s not really something that I do in general.

In writing female characters, there is something about it where that element of wanting to cast someone who’s going to bring it to life and surprise me is more present in the casting process and wanting to find someone who's going to surprise me with the choices they make. I guess that’s true of every part that I cast, but the women particularly. That’s what was so special about Rachel [Weisz in THE BROTHER BLOOM] and it’s what is so special about Emilie [de Ravin in BRICK]. I can’t predict how they are going to play any given moment and I don’t want to. I want to see where they take it to.

Capone: We definitely have no preconceived notions of how she’s going to play this part. You give us two different versions of the future, both near and far, and especially in the far future, it's just glimpses. Even still, you get a chance to world build a little bit. Was it fun working with designers to put it together?

RJ: It was really fun. Even in the far future, a lot of my job was pulling them back though. Even in the far future, I didn’t want suddenly to be in a shiny CG…

Capone: MINORITY REPORT world?

RJ: Yeah. I love MINORITY REPORT. That’s a beautiful world, but this was just not that movie. So even when we went to the far future, when it was supposed to be a little bit shinier or a little bigger, I still wanted it to be realistic. I just didn’t want it to be totally outside of the world of this movie. But yes, it was really fun and besides even just effects, going over and shooting in Shanghai and having that visual scope of that city. It was also something that made sense storytelling-wise, because it’s supposed to be a young man going out to make his way in the world for the first time; it should feel like at Comic Con when they open the sides for the screen for the widescreen footage. You should feel that a little bit when you go into this new world. It made sense for the story.

Capone: That would have been funny if you'd reserved widescreen for just those scenes.

RJ: Exactly, like WIZARD OF OZ, but with aspect ratio.

Capone: Since I have never been on one of your sets…

RJ: [Laughs] Next one!

Capone: I don’t know how fast you work, that was my point. Do you find that some of the TV work that you’ve done suits your style?

RJ: It’s good to have the chops or hone those chops of being able to prioritize and be creative in terms of how you get coverage, and TV absolutely demands you do that or something like a schedule with BRICK demanded that you do that. The truth is, on some level, every movie demands that you do that whether you have 10 days to shoot or 50 days. I'd assume even if you had 100 days, you would feel like, “God, I could really use an extra week.” I think gas kind of expands to fill a container in some way, but time is the ultimate luxury. If I had my choice between having 10 days or 50, I’ll take 50. I’ll take 100 if they give them to me. Just spending more time to get everything right and having that leisurely pace is ultimately a good thing.

Capone: So the way your work in film transfers pretty well to TV?

RJ: What translates well is I do storyboard my stuff and I tend to shoot for the edit. Because I started out editing my own stuff, I tend to shoot with a very clear idea of how it’s going to snap together in the edit room. The thing is, unless you’re working on something like "Breaking Bad" or working with [creator] Ted Griffin on "Terriers," where you can get away with that. It’s not necessarily well suited to television in some ways, because with TV, it’s all about the producers and the writers, and as a director you are given a specific thing that’s going to lock together a certain way. That’s great if they like what you are giving them, but I guess I could see a situation where they don’t, and you didn’t give them the coverage that they need. I don’t really shoot traditional coverage, I shoot what I need for the edit and get that right.

Capone: So how soon do you move to digital?

[Both Laugh]

Capone: Have you looked into it at least?

RJ: Oh of course, and my DP, Steve [Yedlin], he loves digital. He’s shot a couple of movies on the Alexa. I don’t know man, it’s whenever I can’t do film, I guess we transfer over. But digital is getting much better. I don’t shoot film because I have some religious alliance to film. I shoot it because it’s the best looking format right now, and digital is constantly improving, so hopefully when film literally becomes impossible to shoot on, digital will have improved to the point where it looks as good.

Capone: Alright, well cool man, it was great to see you again.

RJ: Always great to talk, man. Thanks.

-- Steve Prokopy
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Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 29, 2012, 11:13 p.m. CST

    sweet interview

    by drave117

    But why didn't you ask him the question we all want to know?

  • Sept. 29, 2012, 11:17 p.m. CST

    Well, at least now I know why Capone loved this flawed movie

    by Ivan_Mtl

  • Sept. 29, 2012, 11:26 p.m. CST

    Just saw LOOPER

    by JimKakalios

    and loved it. It was exactly like BRICK - original and innovative! I missed BROTHERS BLOOM and now have to search that out. Cool interview, Capone. To Mr. Johnson - you keep making them and I'll keep watching them!

  • Sept. 29, 2012, 11:32 p.m. CST


    by slone13

    What's the question we all want to know?

  • Sept. 29, 2012, 11:38 p.m. CST

    I suspect the question might be...

    by JimKakalios

    SPOILERS whether Old Joe's future is changed or not. (I'm trying to not give too much away). One thing I really liked is that even in Young Joe's timeline there is tech that we would consider amazing, yet it is a dark and depressed landscape. I liked the little touch of solar panels with jumper cables on the hoods of the cars. Very nice.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, midnight CST


    by FreeBeer

    ...Of course Old Joe's future is changed. Young Joe killed himself, so beyond that Joe had no future. He never aged to become Old Joe

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 12:16 a.m. CST

    the question i was thinking of (spoilers)

    by drave117

    Were Abe and Kid Blue the same person?

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 12:26 a.m. CST


    by FreeBeer

    ...I absolutely believe so. There are clues. One line of dialogue where Abe seems to speak in the same accent as Blue, and the part where he calls Blue "Stupid Kid," following a the scene where Old Joe calls Young Joe "Stupid Kid."

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:20 a.m. CST

    Strange movie...

    by GunRunner

    Just saw it tonight, and enjoyed most of the experience but thought it was a little uneven. The whole telekinetic angle seemed way too tacked on to have such a big role in the resolution. The quick shot of the Rainmaker kid riding away in the cargo train car, pissed that his Mom has been killed, ostensibly plotting world domination in his toddler mind, was a much more interesting story. I would have liked to have seen them explore how this rug rat planned in his ascent to all powerful super villain, rather than mess around with the exploits of the two Bruce's. Then again, this is definitely a multiple viewing film, much like Inception was a few years ago, although I think Inception is a superior film.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:27 a.m. CST


    by FreeBeer

    ...It is clearly Back To The Future logic, when you change something you create an entirely new universe, but the original universe still exists. But the flaw with Back To The Future logic, is that if you were never born (BTTF) or you kill yourself (Looper) you would not disappear, because you are from another universe where you were not killed. Back To The Future logic is mucky, it's a cocktail of different conflicting theories on how time travel would work, and it has influenced countless time travel stories since. 12 Monkeys is much cleaner, wrapped up in a nice little bow in the end. Time travel movies that hurt your brain trying to figure them out are not intelligent, they hurt your brain because your brain knows the story doesn't make sense, and you are trying to force it to make sense of it.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:32 a.m. CST

    Free beer

    by GunRunner

    BTTF has no real time travel logic after the first movie. It made no sense. How is it that old Biff was able to go back to normal 2015 and return the Delorean after giving his young self the almanac, but Marty and Doc are unable to once they get to alternate bad timeline 1985. They didn't really think that part out.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:45 a.m. CST

    Two types of time travel movies SPOILERS!!!...

    by FreeBeer

    ... YOU CAN CHANGE IT When you go back in time, every second after that point has forked off into a parallel universe. We know Looper follows these rules, because when Willis goe's back in time the second time, the original hooded Bruce Willis is not there. In these stories, you can change the future. Movies hat follow these rules almost always inevitably break them. If Young Joe shoots himself, then obviously then obviously he would never age to become Old Joe. But the Old Joe that traveled back in time WOULD STILL EXIST, because he is from another timeline where he did not kill himself as a young man. If he disappears, you are breaking your own rule. You are saying this is the same universe as the one Old Joe came from. But if that is the case, then not only would Old Joe disappear, none of the preceding events would have occurred, WHICH also means Young Joe would not have had a reason to kill himself, which means there woulld have been an old Joe, which means...see what I mean, head hurts. Why? Because it doesn't make sense. It would have made sense, and perhaps made for a much darker ending, if Young Joe killed himself, and Old Joe just shrugged and shot the mother, was killed by the boy, who then grew up to be The Rainmaker despite Young Joe's sacrifice. It would result in less holes at least (But obviously, if you don't allow for change, you'll have to lose that incredible Cronenberg-esque dismemberment scene. Hmm, tough call

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:47 a.m. CST

    Oops, the other kind is, of course, you can't change a thing

    by FreeBeer

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:52 a.m. CST

    gunrunner, yeah, establishing rules then breaking them...

    by FreeBeer

    ...At least you can kind of forgive it in Back To The Future because it is a light hearted, rollicking family adventure movie. It's kind of more jarring in films that take themselves more seriously.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 2:47 a.m. CST

    Really want to see this..

    by Balkin Flabgurter

    after seeing Dredd 3d as the cherry on the summer sunday, i have to say this is the greatest summer of movies in my 23 years of life, after this, Django and Hobbit heres to the opposite of dying in 2012!

  • Yup. And thats why you failed. It doesn't even have to be realistic, it just needs to make sense within the rules you setup. But if you don't setup the rules, and don't adhere to them, the script falls apart and becomes a muddled mash. And please, for god sakes find another genre. A Science Fiction Writer/Director you aint. Now Duncan Jones can keep on making sci-fi.. you? Go make a musical or some shit. I literally can't believe the level of pass this thing is getting from this site. The movie was a horrid example of time-travel. A couple good scenes(the guy falling to pieces and the kid going apeshit), do not a great movie make. I'm not one that can look at a pile of shit and notice a couple shiny spots. Its still, overall, a pile of shit.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 4:12 a.m. CST

    Tail hook and others

    by tonguestubble

    I didn't spot that flaw - that he shouldn't have disapeared, but finding that out now does really bother me, not the way all the problems in Prometheus did. I cared about the characters, dug the overall design and the scenes all worked - it carried me along without any jarring moments and I guess that's what makes it smart. The construction of it. Rian Johnson has said that he feels all time travel movies are essentially magic tricks and I think he pulled it off.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 6:01 a.m. CST

    Doesn't bother me I meant to type

    by tonguestubble

    There are a great many things that don't make sense on reflection. The dismemberment scene, carving Beatrix into his arm - if these guys are from separate parallel universes then the damage shouldn't effect them. Just as in T2 whether they kill the t1000 or not, the war still starts cos it's not the same universe. This type of film is inherently filled with fuck ups- what distinguishes them is how well you are distracted during the story. The only way to do a time travel movie that avoids this is to have nothing change and everything be inevitable, as in twelve monkeys. But I like both that and loopers and back to the future and the terminators and any other film that entertains me.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 6:03 a.m. CST

    And that's looper not loopers

    by tonguestubble

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 7:24 a.m. CST

    great movie, good interview

    by where_are_quints_hobbit_set_reports

    there's just a couple moaning runny cunts (tailhook & freebeer) posting 15 times in every LOOPER talkback about how the movie sucks (because they didn't understand it). You pissy childish aspie fucks ceaselessly crying because you lack the sophistication to enjoy this thoughtful, brutal, innovative adult scifi film should go see HOTEL TRANSYVANIA instead. That's about your speed, and the section of the moviegoing public you belong in. Or just stay home beating off to webcomix and reverting wikipedia edits like you do most weekends.

  • ...And, as I keep saying, I enjoyed the film, and was capable of enjoying the film without ignoring it's faults. If you needed to ignore these problems, which I have pointed out (tell me how I am mistaken in any of the points I have made), in order to enjoy the film, fair enough.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 8:15 a.m. CST

    freebeer, it's because I care about you. I want you to be happy.

    by where_are_quints_hobbit_set_reports

    This tough, ambitious film has made you unhappy, but Adam Sandler will show you pretty colors and funny fart jokes to make you squeal and laugh. You'l love it!

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 8:17 a.m. CST

    awww how cute.

    by niven

    People pointing out flaws in time travel logic as if it's a real thing, that's sweet.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 8:39 a.m. CST

    Basically the film just ignored all paradoxes.

    by FluffyUnbound

    I guess that's one way to make a time travel movie - just take the thing that makes time travel hard to do, and unilaterally declare that it doesn't matter. None of the events of the film should happen because Old Joe ever exists. To me, a *smart* time travel movie finds a way to tell an interesting story bound by the limit of paradoxes. This movie took the approach of just laughing and saying *Ha-ha! We're just going to declare that OUR time travel works in a way that makes paradoxes OK!* And hell, if you're just going to ignore paradoxes you can make any kind of crazy time travel movie you want without putting in any effort whatsoever to be *smart*.

  • ...In any script, even if it's not a time travel story, if there are too logical flaws it take you out of the story. AND I say it again, I really enjoyed the film inspite of these flaws. I just think it's fair to point out these problems. The over hype lessened my enjoyment of the film, I would have enjoyed it a hell of a lot more if people had told me it isn't a flawless masterpiece before I went to see it. Again, I WANT someone to address my issues, I WANT my issues to be proven invalid so I can go "Oh, thanks!" and enjoy the film a hell of a lot more. If you can offer answers and prove to me I am wrong in any of the points I make, I'd love to hear it.

  • ...I'll watch Jack & Jill as an appetizer

  • But daddylonghead is insisting that examining the flaws in a time travel movie means you probably only like Adam Sandler movies, and that's ass backwards. People who can't enjoy time travel movies because of the paradoxes are too smart for time travel movies, not too dumb for them. And if you are able to enjoy a time travel movie because the logical flaws literally aren't visible to you because your brain doesn't discern them, then it would seem likely that *you* would be the one more likely to enjoy an Adam Sandler movie with fart jokes.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 8:54 a.m. CST

    fluffyunbound, exactly...

    by FreeBeer

    ...Not surprised that someone who thinks something illogical like over thinking something makes you stupid, had no problem with the logical flaws in the film.

  • And, for the hundredth time, (because some of you seem to think I'm attacking the film, which if you look at my comments, is not the case at all) I did enjoy it. I enjoyed it more than both Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises, and was able to do so without ignoring the films flaws.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 9:14 a.m. CST

    You are seduced by the package

    by Dheep

    Inception was a great movie to look at and ponder, but awhile after viewing it seemed like an empty shiny Box. Especially on re-viewing. Looper, on the other hand had character and much more. I think its going to age well and be something to Savor.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 9:17 a.m. CST

    Thank you J. Blake

    by Dheep

    That happens all the time. Thanks for pointing that out ( The discussion as if these Flics are REAL ). Looper though - can anyone deny the greatness of that little Boy? Awesome and chilling when he got angry. Even scarier than "wishing someone to the cornfield".

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 9:39 a.m. CST

    Pointing out lapses in logic is not unfair...

    by FreeBeer

    ...If a man gets shot in the head in a film, then turns up alive and well later without explanation, wouldn't that take you out of the film? I'm not saying there is anything that nonsensical in Looper, but the fact remains, when you break the laws of the universe you set up it doe's take you out of the film. You're brain cant help but go "Wait, that doesn't make sense." I want to be immersed in a film completely when I'm watching it, and when something doesn't make sense it's distracting, and you can't help but think about it, try and make sense of it, when all you want to be doing is enjoying the film.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 10:57 a.m. CST

    2x spoilers included.

    by Mark

    Didn't Bruce( old Joe) come back twice? He had to die in order for young Joe to have the life that would lead to him finding his wife that would save him. I also think the whole changing the future is smaller than what we think. Sure you can change your future and those in your immediate surroundings but if your life happens to be "small" then your ripples of your time disturbance wouldn't be that great. I think that's why the big boss from the future really surrounds himself with very few people or doesn't leave the cave as the director suggests. He would make a lot bigger ripples. I really loved the idea of that your past (time and place) your future self landed and future were so pliable once you went back in time, and that your memories would change accordingly to your actions. That torture scene was so horrifying, really showed how the director viewed time travels repercussions.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 11:05 a.m. CST

    Freebeer, what I meant was

    by JimKakalios

    whether the dark future with the Rainmaker was changed. I was trying to be spoiler free, but see that I was just confusing. I assume that was the "question" alluded to above. cheers. More Spoilers. And if the Mob in the future has to go to such trouble to dispose of bodies in the past, how can they kill Old Joe's so cavalierly?

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 11:34 a.m. CST

    jimkakalios, the whole Looper system is flawed to begin with...

    by FreeBeer

    ...Why do they have Loopers kill their older selves? To tie up loose ends? No withnesses? The Looper retires for thirty years, in all that time he could tell anyone about the mobs activities, about the abuse of time travel, about Loopers. Why then, 30 years later, doe's the mob decide it is unacceptable having an old Looper walking around? Why is he suddenly now a threat, a loose end, but he wasn't considered one for the past 30 years? I'm sorry, things like this just can't be ignored, they take you out of the movie.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 11:43 a.m. CST

    Freebeer, regarding closing loops

    by JimKakalios

    I thought it was the Rainmaker realizing that a looper killed his mother, and closing ALL loops as revenge. And I do not think Abe and Kid Blue are the same person. Look how close Kid Blue comes to death throughout the film. Abe lives in a cave in order to avoid any ripples in the space/time continuum, but he lets his younger self carry a gat. Yes, Abe did seem to have a slight limp, and Kid Blue had shot his own foot off, but really, would you smack your younger self's hand with a hammer, if you would then have to live with the consequences? Despite carpings, I greatly enjoyed LOOPER, perhaps more than you did Freebeer. I was original, and the scenes on the farm really worked for me.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 11:50 a.m. CST


    by FreeBeer

    ...and I know the reason it's 30 years is because that is when time travel was invented, and they couldn't send a Looper back any time before that. But they do have agents in the past, Abe, he's henchmen, probably more like him. They could have killed the Looper any time during those 30 years. They didn't. And in those 30 yrs, the Looper proves not to be a threat, so why kill him? It would make sense if they didn't say ALL Loopers eventually have to close their Loops, that they only send a Looper back to be executed if they threaten to expose the organization or become some other kind of liability.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 11:51 a.m. CST

    About sending the older versions back...

    by FluffyUnbound

    ...The one thing that I thought about that makes a little sense is that you could send the older versions back BEFORE you send back the rest of the people the young version kills. Because until you send people back for assassination, from your timeline's perspective no crime has been committed. So the aging loopers have nothing to tell the cops. If they go to the cops and say, *The Rainmaker killed John Smith!* while John Smith is still walking around, their information makes no sense. If a looper goes to the cops, you can just not actually send them that person to kill, so they'd end up reporting something that never happened.

  • I thought it was the Rainmaker realizing that a looper killed his mother, and closing ALL loops as revenge.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 12:04 p.m. CST

    Time travel logic.

    by just_thinkin

    I really liked the film, review here: I think that any time-travel stories that have the time-travelling characters altering their timeline are inherently illogical, so you either accept the impossibility of the conceit to begin with, or you don't. ** Spoilers for Looper & other time travel films** Timecrimes, The Terminator, and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban are films where the timeline isn't altered -- rather you see how the travel fits into what already occurred, but you weren't initially privy to, and are only made aware of as the travellers become aware of it as previous events are replayed from the new perspective. Terminator 2 alters the timeline, and creates that paradoxical loop of altering it in such a way that prevents it from having been altered in the first place. If the T-800 prevents Skynet from existing, he prevents his own existence, and thus can never come back to prevent Skynet, which in turn allows his existence, which allows him to then come back and prevent Skynet -- it's a real 'loop', a little pocket that is like a never-ending binary switch between two outcomes. Looper's internal rules seem to be that when a timeline is altered you're in a new universe entirely, except that scenario *should* make it so that base-timeline Old Joe is unaffected by whatever happens to Joe in this new timeline when changes occur. Joe killing himself in the new timeline should have no effect on Old Joe. But, that's not what happens. Instead we get a strange combination of that and the Terminator 2 paradox -- Old Joe could never have come back if he never existed, but if he never comes back he doesn't create the circumstances for Joe to kill himself, so Old Joe exists, and then comes back... creating another never-ending binary switch loop. Either the time travel actually works like a shift of the travelling character into another universe (which strictly speaking isn't really time travel any more), or it doesn't. What does it say then that, as is the case with Terminator 2, that I cared not at all about this, and think that Looper is one of the best films I've seen all year? Only that I buy into the conceit, illogical as it is, especially with how well the film is made.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 12:06 p.m. CST

    Ten Questions answered by Rian Johnson

    by JimKakalios

    Found this and found it interesting. Does not address the Abe/Kid Blue question.

  • ...The Loopers know that one day they will have to close their Loops from the very beginning, so this rule existed before The Rainmaker took over. what the Rainmaker was doing was closing the Loops all at once.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 12:12 p.m. CST

    fluffyunbound, brilliant point!

    by FreeBeer

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 12:17 p.m. CST

    Damn, spoiler in my heading! My bad!...

    by FreeBeer

    ...Spoiler from something that's revealed pretty early on, but still, sorry!

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 12:46 p.m. CST

    Oh, and to add to THAT theory...

    by FreeBeer

    ...Abe being Kid Blue. I listed my reasons for believing this above, but I'd like to add the fact that Kid Blue is called Kid Blue. We are never told what his real name is. Abe might have given him this name, to hide his identity from others in the organization. Also, Kid Blue seems desperate for Abe's approval, there is definitely more than a boss/subordinate relationship going on here.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 12:49 p.m. CST

    Found a page, filmschoolrejects, where they discuss THAT theory...

    by FreeBeer


  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:28 p.m. CST

    Rian Johnson addresses Kid Blue/Abe question

    by JimKakalios

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:35 p.m. CST

    jimkakalios, PAGE NOT FOUND...what doe's he have to say about it?

    by FreeBeer

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:41 p.m. CST

    Link worked for me, but...

    by NoQuarter

    Here it is: One of the things I picked up on in ‘Looper’ is the relationship between Kid Blue and Abe. It’s very much like a son trying to win his father’s love. I think a big question for a lot of people watching it is whether or not they’re related. I know! Or some people have asked… Are they the same person? Are they the same person, which is interesting to me. I never thought that they were. I don’t think that would work, but I think it’s really cool that people’s heads go there. That’s definitely the dynamic I was reaching for with it, to see that kind of older/younger, a different variant on that — a sort of variant on the same theme between them. The stuff between them is so great because Noah’s part is very much the comic relief, but once we get to know him a little better, it’s ultimately very sad. Good, good. That was a big part of casting Noah, the same way you cast to a certain actor’s strengths. Noah’s so likable, and he’s got that little boy quality to him that just… even when he’s playing this kind of f— up villain, your heart goes out to him. I knew that was going to be a really important part of that character landing.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:42 p.m. CST

    Hats off to Rian Johnson, for making...

    by Darkness

    One of the most exciting , inventive pieces of cinema since, well, Chris Nolan's "Inception". I was expecting a disappointing trip of incohesiveness, but came out having faith in Johnson's reliance on treating the audience with a modicum of intelligence. I was profoundly disappointed with his debut feature, "Brick": It started off well, then lost it's way. So, now here we are: Chris Nolan, watch out: There's a new figure in town indulging in intelligent cinema. Oh, and the score by his cousin, Nathan Johnson, is best of the year. Bastards!!

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:49 p.m. CST

    noquarter, thanks, but SPOILER...

    by FreeBeer

    ...I'd still like to believe that they are the same question. I find it hard to believe Rian never considered this, in almost their first scene together I leaned over and whispered "I bet they're the same guy" to my buddy. And he says he doesn't think that would work? I don't see how it wouldn't, there's a lot of other things in the film that make a hell of a lot less sense. Blade Runner works for me better with Deckard being a human, even though Ridley disagrees, and so it is with Abe being Kid Blue.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:50 p.m. CST


    by FreeBeer

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:50 p.m. CST

    gunrunner, re: BTTF2

    by 3D-Man

    There is a deleted scene which shows Old Biff returning to 2015, staggering out of the DeLorean in obvious pain and then vanishing out of existence. This would suggest that they at least tried to adhere to the time travel rules that were established (i.e., that version of Biff no longer existed and was perhaps even killed at some point in the past). But then again, it's a deleted scene, so whether or not it should be considered canon is debatable.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 1:56 p.m. CST, cool, never saw that deleted scene before.

    by FreeBeer

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 2:11 p.m. CST

    Leaving aside any possible plot issues or lingering questions...

    by NoQuarter

    ...what makes this movie work so well for me is that it's just so damn emotionally satisfying. I had chills for a good 10 minutes after leaving the theater. Thematically at least, it is brilliantly cohesive and moving.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 4:52 p.m. CST

    Give this man The Flash, WB

    by terry1978

    Do it.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 5:04 p.m. CST

    what did bug me and the Spanish Inquisition

    by Malcolm

    I thoroughly enjoyed the movie and gave a pass on the paradoxes in the plot cause what mattered to me was that they were great characters and a really good story. What did bug me was the scene in the diner between the Joe's where the older Joe brings up the weekend waitress Jen and how it would have been "less letters". Call me a grammar nazi but that dropped me out of the flow of the movie; it's even more surprising having read the interview above where Rian obviously knows the proper usage of fewer vs less in the discussion about saying more with fewer words. Did anyone else find the outfits of the gat men in China evoked the Spanish Inquisition ala Monty Python with those hats and long frocks?

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 5:13 p.m. CST

    and then there's the question...

    by Malcolm

    Wouldn't the authorities in the future figure out what the mob is doing and go back in time to "solve" these murders?

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 6:44 p.m. CST

    Would like to see one day

    by tonguestubble

    A time travel movie where people initially don't realize they are creating parallel universes by going back, but then come to see that they changes they are making don't effect they're current existence. They then have to try to return to the universe they left because they realize that the only way to make effective changes to their situation is in the present. Sort of like realizing that living in the past is futile and that living in the moment is the only way to get the most out of life. Too cheesy?

  • "Are they the same person, which is interesting to me. I never thought that they were. I don’t think that would work, but I think it’s really cool that people’s heads go there. That’s definitely the dynamic I was reaching for with it, to see that kind of older/younger, a different variant on that — a sort of variant on the same theme between them.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 7:55 p.m. CST

    Sorry just saw tHat quarter posted it spoilers

    by Katet19

    None of kid blues clearly permanent injuries manifest themselves in Abe. (Limp, busted hand) I don't know why he'd be so cavalier about injuring him either. Although I thought it would be interesting if blue we're abes father or grandfather. He quotes either his grandfather or father at one point and then says ahh what did they know as if they werent too bright. Is it ever stated exactly how at ahead from the future Abe is from? Outside of assuming he's from the generalized 30 year ahead period.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 8:24 p.m. CST

    Saw it twice already...

    by jackofhearts29

    And I really enjoyed it. That said, there are a couple of things that irritated me, but they are almost completely balanced out by the things I really liked... mainly nuances and stylistic touches that made me smile, constantly being kept on my toes, instead of sighing "oh, THIS cliche again." And I really liked the scene between old Joe and young Joe in the diner. It's like a perfect distillation of how you would feel talking to your younger self... or to your older self.. you really feel the sympathy and connection to both of them. I won't deal out any spoilers yet, but I will say that some of Bruce Willis' scenes are brutal and shocking, yet affecting, in a way that I thought I would never see in a Hollywood film. If you've seen it, you know what I am talking about. Kudos to this film for trying something different, and pretty much succeeding.

  • You're a crime boss in the future. You can't kill anyone because of some forced plot device that alerts the authorities whenever someone dies, but you do have access to a highly illegal time machine that those same authorities can't find because you cleverly hid it .... in an abandoned building. You decide to send your victims back in time and have them wacked in the past. So, you send back a representative to manage the executions. So far, so good. Why on earth would you set it up so that anyone else knows the victims are from the future? Only the representative has to know. You build a freakin' shed around the spot where the victim appears and your rep hires a few people to show up ten minutes later, kill the guy and dispose of the body. Simple. Or you have him transported DIRECTLY into a furnace. Even simpler. There is no need to "close any loops" because the executioners are never in on the plot. And if an executioner does happen to accidentally see someone appear out of thin air, you take care of the problem THEN, not 30 years later. I was waiting for the movie to offer an explaination for all this but it never did. Therefore, I never bought what it was trying to sell. A big ol' waste of time.

  • Sept. 30, 2012, 10:01 p.m. CST

    tonguestubble, that's actually a really good idea

    by FreeBeer

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 8:59 a.m. CST


    by TheMachinist

    @tonguestubble:A little cliched, but that actually sounds promising. @malckwan: The future police wouldn't investigate because that person technically never existed. Of course, that invites the question" If they never existed, you'd never need to send them back, right?"

  • Oct. 1, 2012, 11:45 a.m. CST


    by Malcolm

    They would still have existed in the future up to the point they get sent back to the past. Though even then, their being dead in the past doesn't negate their existence in the future prior to being zapped back. It's not as if their birth was prevented in the past or they were killed as a child in the past and thus their older selves were erased. They'd still be missing persons in the future after they get sent back by the mob; there just would not be an trace evidence of a murder.

  • Oct. 3, 2012, 2:25 a.m. CST

    Is there a non flawed time travel movie?

    by Bedhead7

    and can anyone actually claim to understand Primer who has'nt poured over the mega diagram for days? The only problem I see with Looper is that it's being called sci-fi. Looper is fantasy. No scientific explanation is presented or even hinted at anywhere in the film. To demand one from a fantasy film is just blowing hot air.

  • Oct. 5, 2012, 7:38 p.m. CST

    Ooooh Time travel.

    by orcus

    Orcus like

  • Oct. 6, 2012, 3:32 a.m. CST

    bedhead7 yeah,Timecrimes.

    by Fixthe Fernback

    Best time travel movie ever...

  • Oct. 6, 2012, 6:22 p.m. CST

    Timecrimes is overrated. The mechanics add up, sure...

    by Larry_Sanders

    But the main character's irrational behavior in order to get those mechanics to work just completely cuts the legs out from under the movie. When your protagonist is tormenting a woman (who, herself, is unbelievably naive in helping strangers continually), when he chooses to wrap himself up like a monster, when he sees knifing as a way to alert his past self, you lose interest in whether or not he makes it out okay. I was hoping he would actually pay for his "time crimes" at some point, but no, we're stuck with an asshole for a hero. It works as a time travel story because of the attention to detail, but it totally fails as a movie because of simply unbelievable actions on a human level.

  • Oct. 7, 2012, 8:55 p.m. CST

    I had to log in

    by animas

    just to state this is the worst major movie I have seen since Star Trek.

  • Transport them into a furnace. Yes. The end. I, too, think this movie makes ZERO sense, from start to finish, and I couldn't overlook it. Another major disappointment from 2012, joining the list that includes Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus, The Master, and Cabin in the Woods. Beyond the logic problems, Looper felt clumsy and derivative, at one point coming off like a near-direct copy of the original Terminator. Also, the second half really dragged and felt badly paced, and the Kid Blue / Abe business ... what a waste of time that turned out to be. A mess all around. I did see one great movie this weekend, though: End of Watch. No super clever ideas--in fact, many ideas that we've all seen a million times before--just masterful execution. THAT movie packs one hell of an emotional punch.

  • He said in the interview that he decided that paradoxes wouldn't be prohibited or impossible, but that they would dealt with in some organic way--not left alone, but somehow integrated & modified. Also, if you read his early comment about being inspired by Ray Bradbury, and if you know anything about Ray Bradbury, you would know that Bradbury didn't write "hard" science fiction: he used the settings and tools of the future, sci-fi, other planets to tell character stories, idea stories, concept stories. Looper is not a hard sci-fi movie, and it doesn't need to be. It succeeds at it intended purpose, to tell a character/concept/idea/morality story. One fundamental posited "rule" of time machines is that you could only travel back in time as far as the first existence of a working time machine "receiver". And, the way you will know if your first-ever implementation of a time machine works is that there will be a message from the future for you waiting inside the instant you turn it on. This is one rule from one hypothetical time-travel set of rules. If the "experts" here were to cling to that set of rules, NOTHING in Looper would have been possible. Hard-science approaches to time travel will still have to make a set of assumptions, and a lot of hand-waving and dodging the issues around paradoxes. Are they possible, are they not. Do you change your own timeline, or do you just create another. Since no one knows, it doesn't matter which you pick.