Before I saw Looper, I drove past a billboard poster which had a very bold but excitement-inducing statement across the top – “This decade’s The Matrix.” Now I love The Matrix. Its one of my favourite films (I even like the second one but I won’t get into that argument here.) So when I see a statement like that, I’m expecting benchmark-setting special effects, mind-blowing action, a very cool story and a concept that keeps you thinking way after you have left the cinema.
I can see why that comparison was made. There are some aspects to Looper that are very Matrix. Its science-fiction, it deals with a dystopian future concept and it also has a mind-bending and potentially complex plot.
In fact, the initial story is one of the things that drew me to Looper in the first place. The idea of a man who kills people who are sent back from the future being confronted with his future-self, is an intriguing and potentially brilliant story. Add Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the potential for this films brilliance gets even bigger.
To the films credit, both the actors and the story did the film a great credit. Joseph Gordon-Levitt had all the heavy lifting but you genuinely believed he could be a young Bruce Willis. A scene where he is confronted by Jeff Daniels mobster is a perfect example of how Levitt can portray the swagger and confidence that made a young Willis so cool to watch. Willis himself still has a great story to play through and does some very questionable things himself which I believe tested his acting skills but also pushed this film above a normal, sci-fi-by-numbers movie.
What I expected from the story was a The Fugitive/Minority Report clone where both Willis and Levitt are on the run through a dystopian future. That wasn’t the case though and a more “complex” story developed which used the time-travel aspect of the plot very well. The ways in which they played with the idea of the same person existing in the same time and affecting each others future’s was done in humorous, clever and in one scene, horrific ways which placed this film slightly ahead of lesser sci-fi movies.
There were some holes in the time travel plot but you will always get that whenever you try to create an intriguing story around the futuristic but difficult complex. At one point, Bruce Willis points out to his younger self, quite rightly and very cleverly, that if they were to try to get their heads around time travel, they would be there all day with straws and diagrams. It’s the films way of asking the audience to suspend their disbelief, but you never have to do this too much.
The billboard statement reared its ugly head about halfway through though. Once you have got the time travel aspect of the story out of the way and the secondary story begins, I soon realised that this film would never deliver on the “Matrix” promise. Now I understand that it is unfair to judge a film against another based on one billboard comment, but the advertisers decided to set this benchmark when they put this statement on the poster.
The issue is that the film never really “amazes” me. I wanted to be “blown away” and really entertained and while I enjoyed the film and the story and aspects of it were fantastic, I never felt like I was watching anything incredible or something that I would want to watch in the near future. Although the film does a great job of building on a concept that could have made the movie thin and predictable with another story which gives it good depth, this never presented me with any stand-out “sci-fi” moments that The Matrix or even Minority Report, did have.
Overall, Looper does a great job of taking a very intriguing and interesting time travel concept and building a world around it. Once they have got the first story out of the way, they develop a great secondary story which helps the movie develop further. Unfortunately, good story, performances and ideas aside, the film never really “blew-me-away” and certainly isn’t “This decade’s The Matrix.”
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)