Earlier this week Ben Pearson got to sit down with Rian Johnson, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Noah Segan to talk about their time travel thriller Looper, which opened up yesterday. That interview was spoiler free...
This article however is nothing but SPOILERS. If you read on before seeing Looper, you might as well blow off your other foot. If you got that reference, you've seen the movie, if not... you did not pass the test.
The whisperings and discussions started immediately after the credits rolled on Looper. I'm sure you've got some theories and questions of your own that you and your friends have discussed. Our friends over at /Film got a chance to talk to director Rian Johnson about certain unexplained mysteries in Looper. I definitely wouldn't say that this will answer every question you have, in fact, the explanations may lead to even deeper pondering. But there are some great things Johnson reveals that give us a better understanding of the logic behind the world and certain actions people take and why the story is unfolded to us the way it is.
Germain Lussier: "The first time Old Joe pops back to the present, he escapes. Later we see him die in the same place. Which happens first and why the deception?"
Johnson explained, “The reason I made the break and decided to invert it was the problem, narratively, is our main character is now – for all intents and purposes – Old Joe. Because now we’re following him and I wanted the protagonist to be young Joe.”
So when we see Old Joe, with no hood, first see escape, it's actually the second time he appears in the straight story. So in the straight narrative Joe successfully closes his loop, moves to China, meets his wife, and comes back to kill the Rainmaker when his wife is murdered, setting off the rest of the movie.
Germain Lussier: "The film surmises Old Joe killing Sarah eventually made Cid become the Rainmaker. But Old Joe can’t become Old Joe without first being killed and letting Young Joe grow up to meet his wife. In that timeline though, Cid would grow up normal because Sarah wasn’t killed by Joe. How does that all work? How does the Rainmaker exist in a timeline where Old Joe didn’t kill his mom?"
This is the kinda stuff that 'really fries your brain.' Because they are so interdependently connected, there is no real answer. “For me it’s a trope of time travel movies and there’s a slight amount of magic logic that you have to apply in order for a story like this to make sense,” Johnson said. If you wanna spend all day making diagrams with straws, feel free. “That’s the Terminator question. If it’s important to you to really justify that beyond ‘It makes sense in a story type way,’ you’ll have to get into multiple time lines existing in neverending loops of logic. You can shoehorn it into making sense.”
Johnson does point out though that there's mention of the Rainmaker having a fake jaw in the future, in the present he is shot by Old Joe, so there are still connections.
“That specific thing must have already happened, but he’s still in the timeline where that has yet to happen. Although, in my mind, what happens is cause his memory is shifting to accommodate, that’s one of the things that’s changed in his memory.”
Germain Lussier: "How does murder work in the future? Why can’t the mobsters kill there and what happens when Joe’s wife is killed?"
As it mentions in the opening of the film, because of tracking technology, it's nearly impossible to murder someone without leaving behind a trace. But as we see in the straight story line, Old Joe's wife is shot and killed.
This is one of several things Johnson had worked out in his head but didn’t put in the movie because it felt unnecessary to the story.
Johnson explains, “Everybody in the movie has this nano technology tracking in their body and whenever there’s a death, a location tag is sent to the authorities from this tracking material. So they can’t kill people in the future. But if they send them back, that is not triggered.” This also explains why they burn down Old Joe's house, as their half-assed attempt to cover up traces, “The material is powered off the body’s heat and it has a two year life after the person dies.”
Germain Lussier: "Why is it essential for a looper to close his own loop?"
“People in the future, all they know about time travel is to be afraid of it. So they’re trying to keep it as tight as possible. So the initial reason they set it up this way was to keep the causality loop as tight as possible.” It'd be pretty awkward to know one of your friends killed your future self. With that knowledge, what’s stopping you from murdering them? ”Every bit of evidence is gone from that loop when you kill yourself,” Johnson said.
This was also something Johnson had envisioned in his head, going as far as to conceiving a scene where Abe explains this, but ultimately he never shot it.
Germain Lussier: "Was it Johnson’s decision to sell the movie as an action movie and totally remove Cid and the family angle from the marketing?"
“That was Sony, man. We were really lucky that we didn’t have to fight for any of that because none of the kid stuff is very marketable.”
Johnson even went onto explain that Bruce Willis called it early on that the trailers were going to ignore the family aspect of the film, which turned out for the better since
“people are actually going to be surprised by a big element of the movie."
I loved that the trailers didn't reveal too much. It gave the audience so much more to anticipate and chew on during the movie.
Be sure to head over to /Film for the rest of the ten. They'll also be releasing the full video interview on Monday. Can't wait!
Are there any other mysteries that you feel are unsolved? Share your theories and sound off in the comments!