Nobody watches a time travel film anticipating all the answers. As a result of the idea of transferring characters against the usual flow of time, time travel movies frequently contain unsolvable mysteries. Even in a lousy time travel movie, part of the fun is getting your mind to bend around the layers and repetition of time travel. Even the poor time travel movies are a favourite of writer and director Rian Johnson. Thankfully, Looper, which is currently in theatres, is a fantastic one. (You can read our review here.)
However, even after leaving Looper, you’ll probably still have questions that need to be addressed. That was the only thing we discussed during a recent, 15-minute conversation with Johnson. There are spoilers everywhere. Everything—questions left unanswered, concepts hinted at, character motivations, etc. We’ll publish the complete video interview on Monday, but for now, Johnson himself helps us to clarify ten unsolved mysteries from the movie.
After the jump, there are MASSIVE SPOILERS for Looper.
You’ve been made aware. There are a tonne of major movie spoilers below.
Ten mysteries that Looper leaves unsolved, along with Rian Johnson’s explanations, are listed below.
1. Old Joe flees the first time he returns to the present. Later, we witness him perish there. Which occurs first, and why the trickery?
Old Joe really makes an appearance in the straight story twice; the first time we see him, he escapes. Johnson claims that the plot of the movie follows a straight line: Joe becomes a looper, kills Old Joe to end his loop (this is the second time we see the scene in the field), travels to China to meet his wife, then is sent back without the hood and escapes, starting the rest of the movie, which is the first and third times we see him.
“The narrative flaw is that our main character is now essentially Old Joe, which is why I made the split and chose to invert it. since we are now following him and I wanted young Joe to be the protagonist, “Johnson remarked.
2. The movie speculates that Cid became the Rainmaker as a result of Old Joe killing Sarah. However, in order for Young Joe to meet his bride and become Old Joe, Old Joe must first be dead. But in that scenario, Sarah wouldn’t have been murdered by Joe, therefore Cid would develop normally. How does all that operate? How does the Rainmaker exist if Old Joe didn’t murder his mother in that alternate reality?
Unfortunately, this is a case of the chicken and the egg. There is no solution. Although one depends on the other, without the other, the first wouldn’t have been possible. Let Johnson take the initiative here.
“The Terminator question is that. You’ll need to delve into various time lines that exist in infinite logical loops if you want to properly justify that beyond saying, “It makes sense in a story type of way.” It can be forced to make sense, “added he. “For me, it’s a time travel movie trope, and you have to use a little bit of mystical logic to make a story like this make sense,” the author said.
He does, however, draw a connection between the statement of the Rainmaker getting a false jaw in the future and then getting shot in the present. “He must be in a timeline where that precise event has already occurred, but he is still in one where it is not yet. Although, in my opinion, that’s one of the things that has altered in his memory because his memory is adapting.” We may never be able to know for sure, but I’m going to venture a bet that this loop has occurred numerous times, and this is just the most recent.
3. On Young Joe’s watch, Old Joe is late both times he returns to the present. Because of the battle, it seems sense that he escaped at that moment. Why would he be late when he passes away as well?
Johnson assumes that because of the passing of his wife, he would have been late for both appointments regardless. In addition, the first time “though we don’t witness it, he fought back against the guys but they overwhelmed him.” The second time he wins, he returns to the scene in the movie a short while later.
4. What will happen to murder in the future? What occurs when Joe’s wife is slain, why can’t the mob kill there, and why?
Future murders are prevented by tracking technology, according to a brief remark in the movie. However, we clearly see Joe’s wife being killed off in the future. Johnson claimed that this was one of a number of ideas he had for the film but decided against using since they were unnecessary to the plot. Instead, he gave us an explanation.
“Everybody in the movie has this tracking material embedded in their bodies thanks to nanotechnology, and once someone dies, the tracking material transmits a location tag to the authorities. In the future, they are unable to murder individuals. However, if they send them back, nothing happens.” The substance has a two-year life after the individual dies and is fuelled by the body’s heat, he explains. The mobsters made a serious error when they killed the wife, and their feeble attempt to cover it up is why we get the shot of the village burning.
5. Is the Rainmaker shutting all these loops in retaliation knowing that a looper killed his mother?
“Or is he eradicating everything because he has gained power and is doing it? It’s a wise inquiry.” Johnson asserts that there isn’t truly an answer.
6. Why is closing one’s own loop necessary for a looper?
Another query that Johnson had an answer for in his thoughts but left out of the film is this one. In fact, he even planned a scene in which Abe addresses it but it was never really shot.
“People in the future only have fear-based knowledge of time travel. They therefore want to maintain it as tightly as possible. The causality loop was intended to be as tight as possible, therefore that’s why they initially built it up this manner “Johnson remarked. Because what’s to stop you from killing them or doing anything to ruin everything else, for instance, if someone else kills your older self and you have to live with your own murderer for 30 years? When you murder yourself, all of the evidence is erased from that loop, he claimed.
7. Was Joe in love with Sarah, and if so, was this subject given more attention in earlier draughts of the script?
Johnson made it clear that he didn’t want Joe and Sarah to become romantically involved because Joe’s final choice must be motivated by his identification with Cid rather than his feelings for Sarah. It is simply “two lonely people in an extreme scenario together” that makes up their love scene. Johnson acknowledged, though, “Although there are signs that Joe might have survived, what would have happened in the story’s overall context? No.”
Does Joe’s final suicide succeed? Is the cycle of violence broken?
If you choose to conceive of it that way, then yes. Johnson calls Looper’s scenario a “very narrow, focused, one-minded picture of time travel,” while in reality, one can choose to travel down a number of different time lines. He gave Seth’s limbs being hacked off as an illustration. On some level, Johnson added, “you might say that each time it happens, you’re slipping down to another time line.” But the character only experiences things as being this way for a brief period of time before they change. In other words, Joe’s suicide succeeded for the purpose of the film, but he is only one person. Nothing can be altered completely.
9. Old Joe criticises Young Joe for being self-centered, but isn’t Old Joe just as self-centered in his behaviour?
Absolutely. When we initially meet Old Joe, he believes he has moved on from the life he led as a child, but when Young Joe offers him the chance to check his watch to save the wife and he declines, he keeps making the same mistakes. Johnson stated that Old Joe’s goal is to “hang onto her, just like Joe was trying to cling onto his silver at the beginning, rather than save her.” Then, when he begins murdering children, it is finally Young Joe who realises that his older self is incapable of learning and is compelled to end the cycle.
10. Did Johnson decide to advertise the film as an action movie and completely leave out Cid and the family angle?
Man, that was Sony, Johnson said. We were quite fortunate that we didn’t have to battle for any of that because kid-related merchandise isn’t particularly marketable. Even Bruce Willis, he claimed, praised the trailers’ decision to downplay the movie’s focus on the family because “people are genuinely going to be startled by a key section of the movie.” Who would have guessed that a sci-fi movie would be about how essential parenting is?
For the complete video conversation with Johnson and to see Looper, currently in cinemas, check back on Monday.