Friday, September 28, 2012

Movie Review: Looper

For those of you keeping track, Looper is the second big-budget science fiction movie released this year which uses time-travel as an excuse to have a younger actor play the same character as an older actor. I enjoyed both, but between the two, I preferred Men In Black 3.

Looper is a good movie, but it's a tad overrated in my opinion. It reminds me of Inception in several respects: it's a good genre film for those without much interest in the genre, but those of us familiar with the tropes will recognize the terrain. Looper wears its genre proudly: this movie is absolutely science-fiction through and through. The trailers undersell this, in fact: time-travel may be the most import element here, but it's far from the only one. They took some impressive risks with the setting and should be commended for doing so.

But this movie isn't driven by its setting: it's driven by its plot twists and ideas. And, in that respect, it feels a little flat. Like Inception, it delivers enough complexity and attention to detail to engage its audience. But, like Inception, it winds up feeling by-the-numbers to those who have seen it before. It takes a while for the movie's premise to unfold, but once it does, it becomes clear that it's basically a mash-up of two very iconic properties.

This doesn't mean the movie's stupid: it's actually quite clever. But, despite this, it never shakes the sense that it's ultimately generic. We've seen these ideas, we've seen this setting, we've seen this premise and variations of this plot: hell, we've even seen Bruce Willis playing a mentally unbalanced time-traveler. Mixing and matching those elements isn't enough, especially when the movie lacks a distinct tone.

There's also a sense in which Looper is a Hollywood production trying to pretend it's an independent film. To its credit, this does mean the filmmakers are able to sidestep several missteps common to big-budget science fiction... but not all. There aren't a lot of action-movie cliches in the movie, but that does make the ones that got in feel all the more egregious.

Looper is absolutely worth seeing, but personally I wish I'd waited for the DVD. Not because I don't think it was worth the money; for its faults, it was still a satisfying experience. But this is exactly the kind of movie that I've found I enjoy more on a smaller screen, where expectations are less encompassing. At the end of the year, I'm pretty sure I'll be ranking this below Chronicle, and I'm honestly not sure whether that's just because I saw this in the big screen and that on the small.

As a science-fiction movie, it's really quite good. As a time-travel flick, it's a lot of fun. But don't expect it be one of the best, because - contrary to what some reviewers are claiming - it isn't. Yeah, Looper has some great effects, but it's not Avengers: my advice is to wait for this to show up on video.

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