Got a Problem with ‘Looper’s Time Traveling Plot Holes? Let’s Talk about That…

Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis in Looper
Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis in Looper
Photo: TriStar Pictures

NOTE: Yes, there will be spoilers for Looper in this article.

Going onto the IMDb message boards to read the discussions regarding Looper is mind numbing. People begin explaining reasons why this happens, why that happens, why this person can’t do that and why this person can’t do this. Why didn’t young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) shoot off his hand so old Joe (Bruce Willis) couldn’t hold the gun to shoot Cid? Why keep young Seth (Paul Dano) alive?

Then I read theories on alternate timelines, a theory that easily explains Source Code, but I don’t think adequately explains Looper‘s holes. Either that, or I don’t want to believe the same theory works for this film as well.

Most of the discussion seems to begin with a question and end with a rather dissatisfying solution. Take, for example, a question asking, “Why does the mob send targets back in time alive? Why not kill them in the future and send them back to the past to be disposed of?”

To begin this explanation you can look at a response Looper writer/director Rian Johnson gave SlashFilm saying, “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, using that explanation, you wouldn’t want to kill someone in the future and then send them back in time because it would lead the authorities to your time machine.

A response to this would be to ask, “Well why not at least maim them, chop off their legs, etc. That way when they get to the past there is no chance of them running?”

The only answer I can come up with for this is to say, “Because that would be too messy and you’d have to clean the time machine each time.”

“But you could just break their legs and arms and –”

“We said no!”

Bruce Willis in LooperNow consider a question SlashFilm’s Germain Lussier asked Johnson…

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?

So there’s the crux of the story, how could the events of the film happen if old Joe hasn’t already come back and killed Sara (Emily Blunt)?

Johnson replied to this saying, “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.”

I’m not even sure multiple timelines help it make sense, but as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t really matter…

Any movie involving time travel is going to have problems, without fail. That is, unless you give the audience so little they’re left scratching their heads for years and years such as all the people still wondering what the hell happened in Primer.

Why is this? Because, shocker, time travel doesn’t exist. Therefore to make it a reality in a feature film is an impossibility without problem spots. Looper is no exception, and while I mentioned some problems with the plot in my review, the time travel plot holes were hardly a concern.

Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper
Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper
Photo: TriStar Pictures

For me, Johnson made the film about something larger than time travel. In fact, in my review I commended it for going beyond its time travel plot and being about something more.

The notion of a character meeting his future self has been explored in films before, but instead of focusing on potential breaks in the space-time continuum, Johnson allows the audience to comprehend the idea of what it would actually be like to sit across from yourself over steak and eggs. While the plot may not entirely hold up, it’s moments like this that add more than enough depth to the story to help you overlook any space-time concerns.

Yes, Looper has plot holes and questions of “Why this?” and “Why that?” and it’s whether or not you can accept these holes. Can you?

What plot holes bothered you most? Were you able to overlook them and enjoy the film despite those holes?

Jeff Daniels and Noah Segan in Looper
Jeff Daniels and Noah Segan in Looper
Photo: TriStar Pictures

SIDE NOTE: The biggest question I have about Looper has to do with Noah Segan‘s character, Kid Blue. Is he in any way related to Jeff Daniels‘ character? At first I thought he might be Jeff Daniels’ son, based on the way he was always trying to please him, the way Daniels coddled him and looked at him when he saw him “dead” near the end. Then someone else posed the theory to me that he thought was Jeff Daniels. Do you have any theories?

The way those two characters interacted with one another just left me questioning what exactly was going on between them. I got the impression Kid Blue was something more than just another Gat Man.

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