Why Looper was a terrible film
When you really think about it, Looper was a terrible film that made absolutely no sense. It was a confusing story about time travel and telekinesis set in the future that is strangely reminiscent of the past.
I’m not the first person to write about the problems with Looper, the Internet is littered with articles outlining why the film is confusing or inconsistent. A few reviews even focused on the fact that, even with his terrible prosthetic face, Joseph Gordon-Levitt looks exactly nothing like a young Bruce Willis. Since these issues have already been covered, I will focus on an aspect in Looper that has been shockingly overlooked: the absolutely terrible ending.
The stupid ending
Now don’t get me wrong, I think Looper was an entertaining movie and if I travelled back in time I would tell the younger me to go and watch it – right after I begged him not to kill me, that is. The concept, the acting and even the design of the film were all excellent, but the ending was an absolute mess.
At the end of the film a really confusing situation arises. The main character of the film Joe (played by the conveniently named Joseph Gordon-Levitt) kills himself which prevents the future him (Bruce Willis) from travelling back in time and killing Emily Blunt. Joe suddenly realises that if the young child sees his mother die, it will cause him to eventually become the ruthless crime boss “the Rainmaker” in the future, who is the reason that Bruce Willis was sent back in time to be killed in the first place. After some quiet reflection on this, Joe does the only logical thing and shoots himself in the chest.
Why did Joe sacrifice himself?
After establishing clearly to the audience that Joe isn’t the nicest person in the world, Looper tries to tell us that he has had some sudden epiphany at the end of the film, realising that his own suicide it the only possible option. This makes absolutely no sense because Joe is a man who kills people for a living. Literally he is paid to shoot people and not ask questions. He does this willingly and one can assume by the number of gold bars in his personal safe, that he has many, many people.
Joe is the kind of person likely has very little empathy for others, which is why his suicide is just plain stupid. I understand that the directors were trying to make Joe more likeable by showing us his redemption, but this behaviour is just out of character and isn’t even necessary in a movie. Scarface is a good example of a great and popular film with a completely unlikeable main character. This isn’t a new idea either, tragedies have had unlikable characters for thousands of years, Macbeth was a bit of a douche and Oedipus was a real motherfucker at times.
Why didn’t he just shoot Old Joe (Buce willis)?
This final scene of young Joe’s ultimate sacrifice is a perfect example of why Looper is just silly. There were so many alternatives to suicide that would have made far more sense to the story. If killing Emily Blunt would accidentally start a long and confusing chain of events that would be bad for all involved, then why not just shoot Old Joe in the first place and stop it happening?
This would have fixed literally everything for Young Joe. The entire premise of Looper (except for some telekinesis and stuff) is that Young Joe accidentally let the older version of himself free. He spends a good part of the film chasing and trying to kill the old version of himself but for some reason he suddenly decides now isn’t a good time. This would have been the most logical solution to the film. As well as Bruce Willis inadvertently creating the Rainmaker, Joe’s gangster employers would probably stop trying to kill him for not “closing the loop” once he had killed the old version of himself. Two birds, one stone.
Why didn’t he just kill the kid?
If, after spending half of the film trying to kill the old version of himself, Young Joe had a sudden change of heart, there were still other avenues that he could have chosen short of suicide. One that comes to mind is killing the kid that will eventually become the “evil” Rainmaker who can explode people with his mind. Looper already established early on that Joe is a bit of an arsehole with no morals. He clearly has no problem killing people since he does it for a living. Also, the movie made it very clear that this kid was going to grow up and kill a lot of people in the future – Joe included – if he was left alive, so what possible reason could Joe have for letting this dangerous person live? Sure there was the implication that maybe this Rainmaker fellow wouldn’t become an über crime lord if only he didn’t have mummy issues, but this is still potentially the most dangerous person in the world, why would he take that risk, especially when his own life in the future is at stake?
It’s like that old “what would you do if you could go back in time and meet Hitler” scenario. When asked what they would do in this situation, most people would probably say “kill Hitler”. But no, not our friend Joe the amoral contract killer, if he was put in this situation, it seems he would just tell Hitler to “behave” and hope for the best.
Why didn’t he just shoot his own hand off
If for some reason, Young Joe decided that killing a young child or murdering Bruce Willis was just a step too far, then there is still another less severe alternative to suicide: he could have just shot off his own hand. Though this may seem illogical to normal people, in the Looper universe, Joe shooting off his hand would make perfect sense. The film showed us very clearly that what happens
in the past has a direct impact on the future (or present, it’s not really clear). When Joe’s fellow looper Seth lets the future version of himself escape, we are treated to a very gruesome scene where limbs and appendages magically disappear on Old Seth because, presumably because the Young Seth they is having them surgically removed. Yes this scene itself just raises further questions (like why would a paraplegic be driving a car) but we can accept this because, hey it’s a movie, don’t ask questions!
Following Looper’s logic, if Young Joe just shot off his own hand then Old Joe’s had will magically disappear too, and the gun it was holding would fall to the ground or disappear. This is essentially what happened anyway: when Young Joe shot himself Bruce Willis magically disappeared (just like his hairline in real life). Sure maybe this one-armed Bruce Willis could shoot Emily Blunt with his left hand but this would at least give her some time to run away or something. Losing a hand might not be ideal but I’m sure it’s far better than suicide.
How can Young Joe be the narrator?
The last piece of utter stupidity in this otherwise great film is the narration by Young Joe. In a film full of nonsense about time travel and telekinetically exploding people, this voiceover seems to be the most stupid. Looper uses narration as a way of explaining the unexplainable but it reality it is just confusing and actually impossible.
Young Joe explains his rationale to us throughout the film and at the end he tells us that he “changed it”. This means that, by killing himself, he stopped the future from happening and preventing the kid from becoming the Rainmaker. This moment is clearly supposed to be dramatic, but actually it’s just stupid; how the hell could he be narrating the movie if he had just shot himself?