Category Archives: For the sake of Science

Looper, Time travel and More

“It is the big choices we make that set our direction. It is the smallest choices we make that get is to our destination.” – Dr. Shad Helmstetter

On the surface it looks like an action film based on the concept of time-travel. But as we explore further, it has more to it. I can’t say whether it is good or bad.

(The article does not contain a synopsis of the film. Please read it here or elsewhere. And then enjoy reading!)

Time Travel in Looper:

Time Travel is a very complicated subject when put to celluloid. It never answers all of your questions and creates paradoxes. By the end of the film when the credits start rolling, you always have to interpret what you saw on screen. That makes it really difficult for the makers of the film to make something palatable for the audience. We have seen films which are fairly easy to understand (Back to the Future Trilogy, The Terminator) and we have also seen complicated subjects in Cloud Atlas. (Cloud Atlas is Time Travel, kind of…) Looper has some really different theories about time travel.

Massive spoilers are ahead.

The movie has a linear approach to the repercussions of time travel. We experience stuff as the characters experience it.  Everything is kind of being created and fused in terms of the timeline in the present moment. Nothing has happened till it has actually happened. The makers have made an excellent explanation of how time travel affects the future self by torturing Seth (Paul Dano). Seth lets his future self run away instead of killing him. So his boss finds Young Seth and etches the location on his hand. The location then appears as a scar on Old Seth’s hand. While he struggles to get there, he keeps losing his fingers and eventually loses his legs. His limbs disappear. It implies that Young Seth is being tortured and his body is getting disintegrated piece by piece. Old Seth reaches the spot where Kid Blue (Noah Segan) kills him.

Similarly, Young Joe etches on his hand to give a message to Old Joe. When Young Joe gets shot, the bullet wound appears on Old Joe’s shoulder. Old Joe also forms new memories as per what Young Joe experiences. The only problem in the film according to this theory is that Old Joe disappears rather than dying in the last scene when Young Joe kills himself. When Young Seth loses his legs, Old Seth still exists and continues living in a linear timeline although it would’ve been impossible to get where he is shown in the film without his legs. So that implies that what happens to your younger self will appear instantaneously to you. In that sense Old Joe should fall down or turn into ashes when Young Joe dies.

In the Terminator series, we have multiple overlapping timelines. Every change creates a complete divergent timeline. In Looper, we have a similar situation, but everything loops back into into a single point in the same single timeline.

Metaphors and other cool stuff:

1. Blunderbuss vs magnum

As the makers have made it pretty obvious in the film poster, the Young Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) sports a Blunderbuss shotgun and the Old Joe (Bruce Willis) has a magnum. In the film, the characters explain the specific role of these two different guns. Blunderbuss is a short range weapon but it is unmissable. At the same time Magnum has greater accuracy and can cover a long distance. Maybe that is what the decisions of our lead characters signify. Young Joe always thinks about his short term gains while Old Joe thinks on a long term basis. In the end, Young Joe kills himself with a blunderbuss. He goes with his gut feeling and finds a way of making a long term impact with a short range weapon.

2. The Stubborn Stump

When Young Joe meets Sara (Emily Blunt), she is trying to get rid of a huge tree stump in her field with an axe. Young Joe tells her that using an axe might not be the quickest way of getting the results. Sara doesn’t respond to this suggestion. She continues to break the stump using her axe. She chips off little pieces every time she strikes. This may not be the most efficient way of doing the thing but Sara believes that she needs to be patient. In the narrative of the film, we see that Sara’s son Cid doesn’t believe that Sara is his mother as he was raised by Sara’s sister after Sara abandoned him. This is the stubborn idea in Cid’s head which Sara needs to clear and she needs to be very patient about it. This element makes the movie about good parenting and how it can change the world.

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#Predestination – The Spierig Brothers

Predestination documents the life of a Temporal Agent (Ethan Hawke). His primary mission is to stop a serial bomber named Fizzle bomber, by going back in time. It appears that the criminal has managed to dodge the Agent from time to time with great ease. And that results in greater frustration and some strange obsession in his work.

Suspense builds up as soon as the film opens, with a clash of the Agent and the Bomber. And the film manages to tighten its grip as it progresses. The Agent, masquerading as a bartender in the 1970s meets Jane who calls herself the Unmarried Mother (Sarah Snook). She promises him a story which would be the best story he has ever heard and tells him about her mysterious life. After listening to her story, the Agent promises her that he can take her back in time and give her a chance to kill the man who devastated her life. And that’s how it all begins.

The film, is about in how many ways the Australian newcomer Sarah Snook. And how ridiculously stunning she is on screen. Not in terms of her gorgeous looks. But in pure performance. After watching the film, I Googled her and I couldn’t believe what she looks like in real life. At the age of 26, pulling off such a brilliant character is commendable. Her co-star Ethan Hawke agrees with me.

When I searched for the word on the Internet, what showed up pretty much sums up the film, without spoiling it for those who are yet to watch it:

Predestination is the Divine foreordaining or foreknowledge of all that will happen; with regard to the salvation of some and not others. It has been particularly associated with the teachings of John Calvin.


 

Spoilers ahead

The film is based on a short story written by Robert A.Heinlein who is considered by many, the most influential as well as controversial author of his time. The story is called All You Zombies. The lead character of the film, just like a zombie makes no decision on his own. He is mindlessly following his own footsteps. And in a way, as he kills himself, he is a dead man walking.

The story brings some really good ideas (although not completely new) in picture.

The time travel paradox: One might be able to figure out that the film is about a paradox when he/she first notices the song “I’m my own Grandpa”. What if you invent a time machine and go back in time to kill your grandpa before your father was conceived? That’s a paradox. In the film, the protagonist travels back and forth in time, causing his own birth and his own death, himself.

Ouroboros: The film mentions the Greek symbol Ouroboros which is essentially a snake eating his own tail. The protagonist’s story has no beginning and it has no end, just like a closed loop.

The greatest achievement of the film is that it involves you into the life of Jane. You feel connected to her and as she leaves her old self and accepts her personality as John, you too become emotionally detached from her life. It is really difficult to manage this.

The film successfully twists your brain and touches your heart at appropriate times. I like films with some sense of redemption. This one has none. This has one of the best anticlimaxes I’ve seen in a while.