Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

A Lesson From Looper

Last weekend, I finally got to see the movie, Looper.

This was a movie I wanted to see from the instant last summer I saw the teaser on television (and this will tell you what’s on my mind lately: when I wrote that line, I wrote ‘query’ instead of trailer).

The concept is fantastic. Men recruited in the present (which itself is about thirty years in our future) to assassinate men from the further future. The targets arrive at a predetermined time and location, where the ‘loopers’ (killers) shoot them and dispose of the body. At some point, however, the loopers themselves are deemed unnecessary, and you get to kill your future self. Mind blown.

Time travel stuff fascinates me, but it also has the potential to overwhelm a story, and can lead to all kinds of complications. I suspect J.K. Rowling may have gotten rid of the Time Turner from the Harry Potter series after finding herself with a device that could have been too powerful, too complicated to explain, and too easy to use as a way to get Harry and company in (and especially out) of trouble.

But here’s how they dealt with time travel in Looper:

Abe (the man sent back in time by organized crime to run the Loopers): “All this time travel crap, it fries your brain like an egg.”

Old Joe: “I don’t want to talk about time travel because if we start talking about it then we’re going to be here all day talking about it, making diagrams with straws.”

Hah. I love it. The movie just presents time travel as an established fact and ignores trying to explain how it actually works. The simple truth is, none of the characters need to know how it works, thus we don’t need to know how it works, either. And instead of getting lost in all that wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff, we can focus on the story, which is really NOT about time travel. Well played, Rian Johnson. Well played, indeed.

10 Responses

  1. I thought Looper was strange (oh heck, lately I'm thinking all movies are strange). I like time travel stories, but that first loop did NOT make sense to me, and because of that, I got lost (confused) in the story. I'm just glad I didn't fork over any money to see it – my son owns the DVD and brought it over! 🙂

  2. I liked the movie too, but spent waaaaay to much time trying to figure it out after it was over – even with the director's dismissal of a need for a time travel explanation. It was just so much easier with the De Lorean…

  3. This is a great point! I've seen this frequently when breaking down a film or book. Readers/viewers are willing to swallow a big assumption at the beginning as long as everything that rolls out from there is logical. I'm still waiting to see Loopers. You've just upped my urgency! 🙂

  4. I still haven't seen that one, but I want to. Time travel stuff fascinates me too. I don't understand it at all, of course. If I were to write a time travel novel it, too, would make the assumption that that's just the way it is.

    A show I'm hooked on right now, Continuum, is doing the time travel thing well. It asks some really great questions about messing with time. 🙂

  5. I agree with you, Jeff, it was a great decision on the director's part to remove that requirement for a time-travel explanation… But having said that, I still spent waaaaay to much time trying to figure it all out after the movie was over. (Do you smell that? Like a fried egg smell?)

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