I cannot deny that the acting — all of the acting — in the new movie Looper is good. It is.
I cannot deny that the prosthetic make-up used on Joseph Gordon-Levitt to make him look like a young Bruce Willis is both subtle and effective. It’s excellent, as is his mastery of Willis’ smarmy smirk.
I can’t even deny that the story is interesting and, at times, clever. Check.
But I really didn’t like this movie.
Here’s the thing: I don’t go to the movies to get more miserable about life.
(Warning: Some of the content which follows may be construed by some to be spoilers. Maybe.)
Let me tell you a quick true story. In the weeks after our first child was born, my husband and I spent a lot of time hanging out in our living room with close friends and our new baby, watching movies. I couldn’t really get around very well postpartum, and the Orange-Belt Fairy Princess Badass-to-be mostly slept and ate and slept and ate, mostly in my arms. It was an excellent few weeks — even with all of its trials, still some of the best of my life. And one of the movies we watched one night with our friends Philip and Libby was Snatch, a film which I had seen several times and loved because it was, frankly, hilarious and clever and an all-out good time.
Now, it’s important that I make the point that I loved this movie, because it is very violent in a variety of ways and generally uncomfortable when you really think about the stuff that’s going down onscreen. I’m not squeamish about violence when it has a point. (I don’t go for gory slasher movies which exist solely to exhibit the worst parts of humanity without much of a story. Yeah, Saw series, I’m looking at you.)
But becoming a parent re-sensitized me to the gravity of gangster sh*t.
Snatch, from the vantage point of having a slumbering, milk-coma infant in my arms, had become a frightening, horrible movie filled with very bad people who were unfortunately very much out there in the world.
The next weekend we watched Shaun of the Dead. I don’t think I need to tell you how much I didn’t love that film, regardless of how much I love Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s work. (Go see Paul; that movie is AWESOME.)
The long and short of this is that I don’t really like movies where the point is to see bad things happening to people. And I especially don’t like movies about bad things happening to children. And Looper is very much about bad things happening to people, and it definitely has bad things happening to children, and at times only the threat of bad things happening to children, for part of the movie. Strike one.
Looper is also incredibly violent in a gangster sh*t kind of way. By that, I mean it’s a movie about people who work for the mob and how the mob gets rid of them using time travel. The mob-employed peons have to commit suicide from three decades away. And they know they’re going to have to when they take the job. As Joe (Gordon-Levitt’s character) voice-overs early on in the expository phase of the film, it’s not a job for forward-thinking men. (And I admit, there are occasionally funny moments in the movie, like that line. Maybe four of them. And they truly are funny in a gallows-humor sort of way. That was nice.)
But the point is that the premise of the movie is depressing. You know, like The Departed. I mean, I can’t deny that that movie was also technically astute and well received by critics and audiences. But I sure didn’t enjoy watching it, even if the cast was incredible and Mark Wahlberg was freakin’ hilarious. So Looper, despite being a relatively well made film with only a modicum of plot holes and continuity errors, was no fun to endure. Strike two.
But here’s the biggest thing I really didn’t like about it: I’m very tired of sci-fi’s desperate clinging to the pessimistic — nay, cynical — fanaticism for the near-future dystopia. It has become a cliché. I’m starting to wonder whether people in general have become so jaded about caring for the environment and their fellow human beings because entertainment tells us there is no point because the world is just going to hell anyway.
I reject that.
I prefer to believe that there is a point to life and that there is something we can do to make the world a better place. I’m far from being a Pollyanna — just ask ANYONE who’s ever met me — but I do think that individual moments of benevolence and foresight do actually add up to something when there are enough of them. And though I’m imperfect at it and am always trying hard to live up to it, I generally abide by the motto that you should live your life so that your children can tell their children that you stood for something wonderful. And you know what? This is not actually, on a daily basis, all that difficult to do. It’s really not. I encourage everyone to try it.
And I like science fiction and speculative fiction; I always have. I’m just not into the world-gone-to-hell-in-a-handbasket-sure-wish-we-were-dead type all that much. At least, not when that’s the main thrust of the story. (I loved Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game series.)
So, Looper, for atmospherics, you get a STRIKE THREE.
Some people will love this movie. In fact, the three people I went to see this movie with all, as far as I can tell, enjoyed it, and that’s cool. I’m glad they did, and I’m glad I got to hang out with them. That was the good part.
But I wish I’d gone to see Frankenweenie instead.