I have to say, I liked Looper – but simple enjoyment is not enough to overwhelm my obsessive-compulsive desire to pick holes in everything. Now, I’m not going to do anything like analyse the main plot or Joseph Gordon Levitt’s acting ability – it’s been done elsewhere (check out our Looper review). I’m not even going to mention time travel. Instead I’m going to pick holes in something vital: tiny pieces of background information that should have no bearing on a sane person’s enjoyment of the film. Because I have an unhealthy interest in science fiction and far too much time on my hands.
So with that in mind, let’s examine 5 Weird Things About the Looper Future.
WEIRD THING 1: MEGA KANSAS CITY
Cut to Kansas City circa 2044 – it’s a gargantuan hive which appears almost entirely under the control of organised crime. Now I’m not going to criticise the notion of an entire, bustling metropolis being administrated by gangsters – I mean, just look at Russia. But those gangsters must have some fantastic contractors, because Kansas City’s skyline seems to have changed a little over the previous 37 years:
Holy fuck. Kansas City looks larger than Manhattan and Los Angeles combined. Sure, we all love towering skyscrapers amidst a sea of corruption (or, in this case, sugar beet plantations), but we have to bear in mind that:
- This is 32 years into the future
- This is 32 years into a future which has been suffering (at least) a 30 year depression
Joe appears to be at least 30 years old (and I’m being very, very generous to Joseph Gordon Levitt’s face by writing that). He also states that his mother was one of the many hoards of vagrants and that he was sold by her as a small child – suggesting that the depression has lasted his entire lifetime. Then there’s the fact that Sara (who keeps herself armed at all times) seems pretty used to masses of desperate homeless people invading her house every single week. Either that or she keeps mistakenly shooting the mail man.
So maybe the construction industry is booming, even though everything else has collapsed. Perhaps they’re the 2040s equivalent of Goldman Sachs. But then why make a point out of the fact that there are enough homeless people wandering around to found an entire new metropolis? Did they just build all those towers for decoration? Or has Kansas City seen a baby boom of grand enough scale to overwhelm even the grandest of maternity units?
WEIRD THING 2: SUPER-RETRO CLOTHING
It’s common – if somewhat lazy – to dress every character in a sci-fi film with the same clothing and hairstyles that we have today, which would requite a fetish for retro clothing surpassing even the trendiest of hipster districts. Not only does Looper do this, but it references this very issue, with Evil Crime Lord Abe criticising Joe for dressing so retro-like. So the film references the lead character’s unusual taste in 20th century clothing, but not the fact that every single other character we meet afterwards is dressed in the same way.
Why did the scriptwriters bother to point out that his dress is unusual, when it so obviously isn’t? Strange obsessives such as myself might not have even noticed the clothes if they hadn’t directly brought it up (that’s a lie, I obviously would have). Abe – who is from the 2070s – is dressed a little like Bison from the Street Fighter games, so clothing does change eventually – but why did fashion stagnate between 2012 and 2044? And who got it going again?
WEIRD THING 3: SUPER-RUSTY CARS
What’s the best way of indicating that an enormous depression is still occurring? Well, vehicles are a pretty good indicator of economic circumstances, and in Looper everyone who isn’t a murderous gangster seems to be driving around in vehicles made purely from rust and broken dreams. In fact, the cars are all from our era, with the addition of crudely-converted fuel sources:
But … why? Sure, everyone’s poor, but Kansas City has just grown to around 100 times its normal size – couldn’t they have stuck a mass transit system in there? Even just a bus or two? Or failing that, why is no-one riding bikes? Wouldn’t that be cheaper than converting your car to solar power? If that’s not possible, why not just take the omnipresent helicopters and use them to get people to work?
Seriously, the first person to get any form of public transport up and running is going to make a killing. It’s surely a more reliable industry than time-travel assassinations.
WEIRD THING 4: HEART ATTACK FOOD
Tastes come and go, and the rule is as true of food as anything else: thirty years ago spaghetti bolognese was considered exotic, and now every hipster is filling his fancy bladder with bubble tea (damn you hipsters!). What we eat changes constantly, and we pretty much never go back to eating things we gave up in the past. Which is why it is weird that in the Looper world this is considered acceptable food:
Mmmm, steak and eggs. Let’s throw in some liver and soiled rags while we’re at it.
OK, so let’s assume that people in the 2040s have a strange retro taste for disgusting 1950s scurvy-laden diets. This is a run-down diner for poor people in a city of run-down poor people. Protein-heavy foods tend to cost money (a lot of it) – steak especially. It might be abundant now in the ‘good’ times, but the average citizen isn’t going to be eating a whole lot of it after three decades of economic ruin. True, loopers earn a good wage – but why is it on the shitty diner’s menu? It’s like McDonald’s offering caviar-and-Cuban-cigar-stuffed lobster. With a gallon of champagne.
WEIRD THING 5: THE LEAST-FUN DRUGS EVER INVENTED
Drugs are something of a trade-off – there has to be a correlation between how good it makes you feel, and how much it hammers your precious shell of a body. People like marijuana, for example, because it makes them feel good and has few physical side effects. Hell, even the most gum-rotted meth users have acknowledged this trade-off – it totally messes with you physically, but is reported to feel very, very good. It might often be a stupid cost-benefit analysis, but it’s at least understandable.
This is not the case in Looper. The popular designer drug of choice doesn’t seem to have an especially magical effect – the camera is simply twisted upside-down to give a dizzying impression, and the users kind of laugh a lot. Pretty much like any party drug now. The cost, however, is huge – Joe goes a couple of days without taking it, and he’s a writhing, agonised mess. Seriously, he looks like he’s suffering withdrawal symptoms from heroin and crack simultaneously. The people of 2044 would be better off huffing paint or drinking deodorant, at least they’re not ingested through the eyes.
In fact, I’m pretty certain if you paused the film at any random moment, there will be at least 3 things in shot which defy sanity. I didn’t even comment on Joe having a basement trapdoor even though he lives on the fourth storey of an apartment building, or Gordon-Levitt’s horrifying eyebrow alterations to render him more akin to potato-human Bruce Willis. Let’s face it – the future is weird. Looper just takes it that one step further.