Tag Archives: Time travel

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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#3 Robert Zemeckis/ Spielberg – Back to the future (Part III)

Control your anger. It is just one letter away from ‘D’anger.

~ Unknown

Our memory is selective. For us, time is highly relative. Days, months, years tend to pass before we know it and some moments tend to linger for longer than usual. When we are one day old, the next day means 1/2 of our conscious life. When we are ten years old, the same one day means only 1/3650 of our life. That is why we tend to make more memories when we are young. We are open to experiences, which will occupy a greater space in our life and hence our memory!

If we think about it, all the three parts happen within the span of two days for the rest of the world. But for Marty it takes longer. Because whatever happens to him, is relatively more important to him than the rest of the world. For him, time moves slowly!

Marty fixes the time machine with the help of Doc Brown in 1955 and he is all set to go back to his present. Instead he goes to the old west after reading about Doc’s murder. I think both the characters switched places over here. Marty became the guide and Doc became the hero. The film unveils how Marty sculpts himself into a mature adult while Doc discovers the adolescent inside him as he falls in love!

There are moments in the film which make you recall a few incidences from the prequels, which are thoroughly enjoyable. I am sure, for the people who watched the trilogy at the time of its release, it must have been  a journey through time for them, witnessing such amazing references. The first and the third part have a lot in common, structure wise. Yet, the third part seems fresh. That is very commendable.

I loved Doc more than Marty in the film. But the most interesting character for me, is Seamus McFly. Marty’s great great grandfather. I don’t think he appears for more than 10 minutes on screen. Yet, he manages to be Marty’s guide. Telling him to control his anger. The character is played by Michael J Fox himself. And this adds a lot to the story. You see, every one of us right now want to go back in time and guide our younger selves. Michael J Fox does that! How cool…

The film ends on a very positive note. Jennifer hands over the blank paper from the future to Doc and asks him, “What does it mean?” And this is where I have my moment!

“Your future hasn’t been written yet. No one’s has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one, both of you.”

I think I have no problem in believing that Marty and Jennifer lived happily ever after without any hinderances. The lines convinced me. And I enjoyed the closure!

I feel overwhelmed at the end of the third film every time I watch the trilogy. The last film was released in 1990 and in 1991 Michael J Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. I find it poetic. I cannot imagine how hard it must have been for him. A small incident changing someone’s life, that’s what Back to the future trilogy spoke about, and that is what happened to Fox. Cinema loves poetry. The “cinemagician”, the inventor of  multiple exposures, time-lapse photography, dissolves, and hand-painted color – Georges Méliès died penniless. Superman, Christopher Reeve ended up quadriplegic. And then we have Fox! But maybe these obstacles made them transcend boundaries and become a legend.

Even after this incident Fox has given us many more moments to cherish. Homeward Bound, Spin City, Atlantis and Stuart Little!

Back to the future (Part I)

Back to the future (Part II)

#2 Robert Zemeckis/ Spielberg – Back to the future (Part II)

Doc: The encounter could create a time paradox, the result of which could cause a chain reaction that would unravel the very fabric of the space-time continuum and destroy the entire universe! Granted, that’s worst-case scenario. The destruction might in fact be very localized, limited to merely our own galaxy.

Marty: Well, that’s a relief.

The quote is complicated enough to convey why this film took a giant dump on the first part. It is way too complicated! Or in other words, “Heavy!”

I feel it takes time for the audience to blend into the character’s boots. Unless the audience is totally convinced, that the lead character or at least one of the main character is a reflection of themselves, it is unlikely that they will care for what they do.

Jumping from intro to pitch is good in some cases. It should’ve worked in this one too, assuming that people know the first part fairly well. Over here, it was a bit too much. Had I watched this film in theaters, I feel I would’ve missed a major part of the plot as I managed to get comfortable on my seat, figuring out which hand-rest is mine. And frankly speaking I don’t have a flying DeLorean to go back in time and catch up on what I missed.

Was it necessary?

The first part is a legend. It inspired so many films in the future. The makers have also confirmed that MIB III was inspired by Back To The Future (1985). The story had it’s proper climax. The hero has sorted out his life, he kisses his girl and they celebrate a new beginning. A perfect ending! Did we need a sequel over here? Content wise? I don’t think so. But we’re into making commercial cinema, aren’t we?

Doc himself says that Time Travel is not to be used for personal benefit. Then why is he concerned about his Son going to jail in the future? Why doesn’t Doc just use the sleep inducing machine on Marty’s son in the future himself, so that he never shows up at the restaurant? Furthermore. if he really wants to help Marty, why doesn’t he just tell him to be careful while driving his truck and not to hit the Rolls Royce. Frankly speaking that caused a chain reaction. So my problem being, ‘was it necessary?’

The film lacks a good obstacle. I understand that getting back the Almanac is the major obstacle, but come on; they have the time machine, fully functioning! Plus, there are two of them right now. If one person messes it up the the other can go to the same point in time and guide him like Morpheus guides Neo in The Matrix.

And there are several other points in the story which I am not to convinced with. But I do not want the analysis to be entirely a rant. So…

The film has several good references to the pop culture. My favourite being, the mockery of Spielberg’s own film Jaws. Remember, “Sharks never looked real”? It serves as a good base for the much better third part, giving a much more logical explanation for Marty being Clint Eastwood in the Old West. The film ends by showing what happens in the third part. Which suggests that the makers planned and shot both the parts simultaneously. So when we talk of the second part, we need to consider the trilogy as a whole. In that manner, the film does not have an end only the introduction to the last part!

Note: The best foreshadowing ever –

Doc:  Better that I devote myself to study the other great mystery of the universe: women!

To be concluded!

#1 Robert Zemeckis/ Spielberg* – Back to the future (Part I)

“Yeah, but what if you went back and killed your own grandfather?”

He stared at me, baffled. “Why the fuck would you do that?”

~ Stephen King

The film is ranked 49th in the IMDb top 250 list.

Time is such a vague yet interesting concept. Every great mind of modern times has spent time thinking about “time”. And for me, the Back to the future trilogy remains the best work in this subject.

If we take the time travel part out of the picture, we have a simple premise – a troubled teenager trying to correct a few wrongs in his life. This is what intrigues me! A simple premise embellished with a compelling treatment. Every good film has this feature in common.

I have watched this film so many times by now that I know the film frame by frame. Yet every time I watch it, I get excited when, in Marty’s language he discovers something, “heavy”. I love explaining the intricate details to my younger brother, just the way my dad did to me. It feels like passing on a legacy.

Why is the film so special?

Foreshadowing – a sign or warning about an incident in future

If I am correct, every major event casts foreshadow. The plutonium used in the DeLorean is shown missing on the news in the very first scene. We get an idea that Marty (Michael J. Fox) will not have any plutonium in the car, as Doc (Christopher Lloyd) mentions carrying extra shards during time travel. It is like letting the audience think that they knew it was coming, so that when it actually happens they link it to the former events and as a result recall it. If your foreshadowing succeeds you have an active audience. Nothing works better than an active audience!

The film does not really highlight this theory, but still I feel the makers must have studied it while making.

The Butterfly Effect – Can the flutter of a butterfly in Brazil cause tornado in Texas? Our smallest actions, do they have strong repercussions on the Universe? Wikipedia makes it real boring. I gave a more poetic, simple version.

Lastly, talking about the theme now. Ah, again! Who would not like to go back in past and see the moments when their parents actually fell for each other. I would like to see my father sweeping my mother off her feet. I would love to check how much of it is true and how much is, you know, amplified! I love the film because I can clearly see myself as the protagonist. I always have and I always will. And I am sure I am not the only one to feel so!

* I could not help but enter Spielberg’s name in the title. You have all the ingredients to a good Spielberg film in this one although he did not actually direct it.