OK, I don’t usually review films here, let alone mainstream blockbusters. There are plenty of other people around who write for the proper media who know far more about these things than I do, so it’s really not worth the bother.
Except, this one annoyed me. Actually, it really, really, REALLY annoyed me.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD AFTER THE BREAK.
ALSO SOME BAD LANGUAGE. I AM REALLY, REALLY, REALLY PISSED OFF.
So, I take it if you’re still reading this far down, you’ve seen the film, right? I don’t need to recap too much of the plot, then. Basically, this is an attempt at a novel spin on one of the classic tropes of science fiction, the time travel movie. Let’s narrow that down a bit, as well: we’re talking about the sub-trope in which the protagonist is using time travel in order to alter a particular course of events. Which means that the first problem that the movie has that it’s up against two bona fide classics, “The Terminator” and “Twelve Monkeys”. Which is doubly unfortunate, because it just happens to include an almost shot-for-shot
rip-off of homage to the former, and the principal actor of the latter. 10 house points for chutzpah, I guess, but risky nonetheless.
This could have been so good. But it wasn’t. Here are ten things that were bad about the film.
Bad thing #1: What the holy bleeding FUCK was all that guff about telekinesis all about? Here’s my reconstruction of the entire thought process:
This concept of future gangsters sending back victims to be disposed of in the past is REALLY cool, right? And it would be, like so AMAZINGLY cool if someone got to be scheduled to be killed by themselves, right? And they escaped?
Well, they go on the run.
OK, maybe they’ve got some other motivation.
Like they got sent back deliberately?
Well, no. But maybe they sort of saw it coming and planned something.
Ooh, COOL. Um, like what?
Maybe … maybe there’s a Mr Big who’s got really, really big and bad and they’re going to kill him before he gets so big and bad?
Like “Let’s Kill Hitler”?
Um … yeah?
No. ‘Cos some other asshole would probably have taken advantage of the climate instead. You’d have to take out every single potential Nazi.
Well, maybe Mr Big’s someone really SPECIAL. With SPECIAL POWERS!
Um … like X MEN?
No, no. More sort of OMEN, I’m thinking.
COOOOOOOOOOL! Um … What special powers?
Dunno. Telekinesis? Telekinesis is cool.
Yeah. Love it. But … how does he get it?
Um … genetic mutation?
So, X MEN, then?
NOOOOOOOO! Just telekenesis.
Riiiiight. And does anyone else have this?
Um … 10% of the earth’s population? Except Mr Big’s got it really bad.
(Pause) Yeah, that’ll do.
Problem is, we’re in the future. Ignoring the fact that there is actually NO FUCKING REASON for the film to be set in the future AT ALL, we are in a dystopian future, in an even more unequal society than today, and something tells me that in an unequal future, the 10% of people with an utterly extraordinary gift would be using it to make capital instead of turning party tricks to impress girls. Unfortunately, this isn’t supposed to be a film about telekinesis. It’s just there to provide the Rainmaker’s back story.
Bad thing #2: Old Joe’s motivation.
We are told that Joe is prepared to carry out his Herod-like cull in order to save his future partner, a character who is so important to the movie that she has no dialogue whatsoever, and is there purely to (a) have sex with Old Joe and (b) die (don’t bother reaching for your copy of the Bechdel test, BTW – it really isn’t worth it). This is manifestly bollocks, because he wrote the medical number of his target(s) on his hand BEFORE she was killed. He’s only after saving himself, the bastard.
Bad thing #3: Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
Christ, he’s dull. Also Exec Producer. Never a good sign.
Bad thing #4:
Easily the most obnoxious child character in a movie since LOVE, ACTUALLY. I would have gladly hired Bruce Willis to dispose of him myself. Oddly, this removed a lot of the tension as far as I was concerned.
Bad thing #5: Massive continuity error and shit
Sara shoots Young Joe in the RIGHT shoulder. Later she is seen cleaning up his LEFT shoulder. Mind you, it’s always nice to take a visit to that old cliché of the hero surviving all manner of shit being thrown at him with barely a whimper and then bursting into floods when a girl dabs at him with a sponge. I’m also wondering why she never asks him why he’s got a bloody towel wrapped around his right arm and the word “BEATRIX” scratched into it like a particularly insensitive tribute to Richey Edwards.
Bad thing #6: Yeah, that BEATRIX crap
Oh, come on. That must have seemed really clever, to follow up one of the few genuinely brilliant and downright fucking scary bits of the film (the disintegration of Old Seth during the torture of his younger self) with a gag like BEATRIX. However, as a means of establishing communication with Old Joe, it’s just STUPID. I guess you could just about manage 140 characters if you used both arms and maybe a leg, but I don’t see it catching on.
Bad thing #7: The bit with Joe first meeting Sara and Cid
I remember drawing the short straw years back and taking our 6-year-old son to see “The Little Mermaid”. Half way through, he suddenly announced, “This is a long film”. I felt the same way here. All good action films need a breather now and then, but the whole thing just sagged here. I was only kept awake by the knowledge that at some point Joe and Sara would have sex for absolutely no reason. Which they duly did. Oh, and why did she allow him to hang onto his blunderbuss?
Bad thing #8: Looper recruitment policy
Someone needs some diversity training. I spotted one (non-speaking) black looper, and NO women. Srsly, when was this movie set? When was it made, for God’s sake?
Bad thing #9: Old clichés revisited, part 2
Car flies up in the air, flips over onto its roof. Petrol tank fails to rupture. Occupants extract themselves with barely a scratch. I know. It’s
only a film. But … oh, never mind.
Bad thing #10: Who was telling the story?
Sorry, but you can only get away with ending a story with the death of the narrator if either (a) you’re about nine years old, (b) you’re being dead clever and avant garde or (c) he’s using a dictaphone. I didn’t see no dictaphone.
HOWEVER (and here’s the important bit)…
NONE of the above (well, almost none) would actually matter if I’d actually cared about any of the characters. The only one who was remotely interesting was Abe – and Jeff Daniels was clearly having a whale of a time hamming it up. But no-one else came close. No depth, no internal conflict, no progression. Not even any interesting hobbies, for fuck’s sake.
To take another example for the world of time travel, almost every single episode of DR WHO is RIDDLED with plot holes. But most of the time, it doesn’t matter a toss, because the characters are engaging. Think of any science fiction film that actually WORKS, and it isn’t the clever special effects and it isn’t the AMAZINGLY far out ideas: it’s the characters. Han Solo. Darth Vader. Ripley. The Terminator. Sarah Connor. Pretty much EVERYONE in SERENITY / FIREFLY. Ditto GALAXY QUEST. Ditto AVENGERS ASSEMBLE (well, that’s what we call it over here). And so on. If you’ve got strong characters that your audience can identify with or boo or laugh at, they’ll forgive all the flaky science and shortcuts. But if you cock your characters up, be sure they’ll spend the rest of the weekend analysing what’s wrong.
And don’t even get me started on PROMETHEUS.