Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Looper: Spoilers

So, I don't like leaving the blog to go dark but due to computer problems it's kind of hard to do much of anything.  Thinking requires a degree of comfort.  (There's a reason formal mathematics arose from the privileged class of a slave holding culture, before that no one really had the comfort needed to do that kind of thinking and people relied on memorization and approximation instead.)  The temperature alone makes comfort difficult but to be close enough to see what I'm typing I have to a) be disconnected from the internet (the cord isn't long enough to reach) and b) be in a position that would be uncomfortable even if temperatures were reasonable.

So what can I make a post about when I can't really put due thought in?


The existence of loopers makes it impossible to talk about the original timeline, further something about loopers makes changes in the timeline sluggish or worse.  The first example we see of a loop on the run brutally shows us how quickly changes in the present effect people from the future.  But his memories don't seem to have time to be effected and neither does his location.  The damage they did to him would have made it impossible for him to get to where he was when the damage came through yet he was still there.

Time changes, and doesn't change, as the plot demands.  Wibbly wobbly.

The more notable example of time not changing is that brutally killed guy still has all of his fingers in Bruce Willis' memories from 30 years gone.

The most notable example of time changing is the movie itself.  In the first go round Willis was bound gagged and shrouded as he was supposed to be.  But the mere fact of getting that payoff and living life from that point somehow changed things.  Where before he went quiet into that night now he'd met his wife, seen her killed, kicked ass, taken names, and willingly gone back to change things so they didn't happen.  Which meant that in the present things went differently.

So lets work out what we can:
First timeline: We know the least about this timeline.  What we know is that it does not involve the main character killing his future self as he was supposed to and then living his life as naturally he would because that's timeline two which has a very different outcome.  In truth we only know two things:

  1. The rainmaker comes to power and orders all loopers killed.
  2. The main character is captured, bound, and sent back without incident.

Second timeline: The captured bound and sent back version of the main character appears here.  He is killed.  The present main character collects and lives out his life as naturally he would.  This results in him meeting his wife.  The rainmaker comes to power an orders all loopers be killed.  A fellow looper finds out when and where the rainmaker was born.  Shares the information with the main character.  The main character is captured, his wife killed in the process.  He is able to defeat his captors but goes back anyway, hoping to save his wife by erasing the rainmaker from existance.

Third timeline: The movie itself.  Main character from timeline 2 appears and, on account of not being bound, is able to escape.  The present version of the main character wants to kill the timeline 2 version because he thinks he'll get his life back.  He is able to steal information from timeline 2 version and make it to the rainmaker's house first.  The rainmaker, presently a child, is an utter asshole to his mother who he refuses to recognize as such.  (He was raised by his aunt for a couple of years, until he killed her accidentally, and his dead aunt is the only person he'll call mother.)  It is completely believable that he'll grow up to be a mass murderer.

As a result of the time travel and telekinetics and such he finally recognizes his mother as his mother.  She's willing to die to protect him, timeline two main character is willing to kill to get to the rainmaker believing it will save his wife.

Timeline 3 main character has, or thinks he has, a revelation.  This is timeline 1.  Timeline 2 main character will kill the rainmaker's mother right in front of him moments after the rainmaker finally admitted she was his mother.  This is why the rainmaker will go evil (he was on his way already) this is why the rainmaker will have a grudge against loopers and order they all be killed.  This is why everything that happens happens.

He shoots himself, thus causing the future version  of him from timeline 2 to cease to exist before he can kill the mother.  The rainmaker, now capable of loving his mother, is raised by a loving mother presumably to never become a mass murdering crime lord.

The fact that his family was now rich (all of dead main character's savings, in silver and gold, was left for them) probably helped with that.  No longer is he a member of the under privileged class that sees crime as the only means of advancement.


  1. What made the rainmaker hate loopers in timeline two?  It couldn't have been Bruce Willis, he died without incident.
  2. Was the main character right that if not for his suicide timeline 3 would have been the same as timeline 1 thus leading to timeline two and then back to itself in an unending loop?
  3. The mother knew about loopers, how?  Could it be something that relates to how she knows that that made the rainmaker hate loopers in timeline 2.
  4. Without the rainmaker taking over everything by force, what happens to the loopers?  All of the closed loops we see are a result of the grudge that the rainmaker no longer has.
  5. Will the rainmaker take over everything by force anyway?  You don't need to be evil to think that organized crime shouldn't be in charge. (and doing it under the guise of being a criminal isn't unheard of (It's the Green Hornet!))
  6. What becomes of timeline 4?  In thirty years time the main character won't exist to be sent back.  The very fact that the movie exists means that changes in the manner in which one is sent back do change the timeline, that's a fairly major change.  In fact, let's break out of this whole numbered list thing.
Our little mass murder to be is not going to turn out to be a mass murderer, yay.  That means a timeline unlike any we've seen or heard tell of.

If he doesn't take over and order all the loopers killed then everything we see in the movie doesn't happen.  If he does do enough that the loopers stop getting jobs then there's a decent chance that the main character will grow up, meet his wife, go clean, and then, since the rainmaker isn't ordering loopers killed, live happily ever after.

Nice for the main character in timeline 4.

But, there's always a but, the rainmaker not being evil in timeline 3 probably depended on the events of timeline 3.  The confrontation that caused him to finally accept his mother as his mother, the fact that they had a sudden windfall in the form of silver and gold which presumably took the two away from whatever made him hate loopers in timeline two.

He could, in theory, send money to his mother solving part of the problem, but admitting his mother was his mother is played up as a major event in his life and that only happened as a result of a confrontation that cannot possibly happen in timeline 4.

So what's to stop timeline 4 rainmaker from becoming evil and kicking off the whole thing all over again?  There are probably any number of possibilities but if we don't want everything to collapse into "like none of this ever happened and all progress is erased" land it would need to be something that has the appearance of a predestination paradox.  An infinite loop.  Something done in timeline 3 that can be repeated in timeline 4 in such a way it will be repeated in timeline 5 and 6 and so on forever.

(A simple example of this would be if future rainmaker could help present rainmaker reconcile with his mother, how I do not know, because then future rainmaker could go back, both could live out the next 30 years, and then present rainmaker, now as old as future one was when he went back, could in turn go back and do exactly what future one did, and repeat the process every time.  Stable time loop.)

So the big question is, what about timeline 4?  For the movie to have a happy ending timeline 4 must be stable, which none of the previous ones were, and stable in such a way as to make the rainmaker not grow up to be an evil mass murderer.  Something that, in timeline 3, required a confrontation with someone who won't even exist for timeline 4 because he's already dead.


  1. I've seen at least three diagrammatic approaches to this: at film.com, at wired.com, and while searching for those another one on a tumblr.

    1. The wired diagram is what we see in the movie accurately portrayed.

      What it describes as "original path" is what I call timeline two. What I call timeline one doesn't appear in the wired diagram except insofar as "Old Joe" from "Young Joe kills Old Joe" had to come from somewhere. For them it would be, I guess, the pre-original path. For me it's timeline 1.

      The film.com diagram draws things weirdly but once you've gotten passed the weird (logically instead of old Joe going up in a loop and coming down in the same timeline while young Joe gets kicked to the next timeline down it should be old Joe going down to the next timeline when he goes back in time) it's largely ok except that it doesn't explain a damned thing.

      It doesn't explain why "positive influences end" it doesn't explain what made the kid become the rainmaker, it doesn't explain why the rainmaker had a grudge against loopers. It doesn't explain shit. Given an eraser and some time to rewrite stuff it can be used to show Joe's path through things, but all the unanswered questions remain unanswered in spite of it introducing assumptions not based on anything in the movie.

      The tumblr one is the worst. It introduces all kinds of assumptions not present in the original movie, several of which make no sense, are flatly contradicted by what actually appears on screen, or both, and for all its random guesswork fails to answer any existing questions.

      It's as if someone were asked what they knew and they said, "Well if I assume [eleventy billion things there is no reason to assume] then... I still don't know anything."

      Thanks for sharing those, though, it was interesting to see them.