For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with time travel. Messing with time and heading forward or backwards in one’s life has always been one of those things that is usually in my brain taunting me at some point every few days. Whether it was to head back to the 3rd grade and knock some sense into a bully or tell that girl I had a crush on what I really thought of her(I’m sure neither would’ve ended well, but still.) Or maybe shooting into the future of JHubner73 and see if maybe cutting back on the stouts and cups of melted butter might give me a few more years on this miserable planet. Or you know the usual ones, like taking Hitler out, saving Kennedy and King, or buying a few thousand dollars worth of a fledgling Microsoft’s stock. And there’s the vinyl collector in me that thinks heading back to the 60s and buying up a few hundred copies of various Blue Note records would be a smashing idea as well.
Point is, time travel would be a portal to so many things and so many opportunities to destroy existence as we know it. The Butterfly effect and all(but still, Blue Note. Blue Note!) Of course time travel at this point is delegated to leafing through old photo albums(or flash drives) and visits with older relatives that can still stand to be around you. You sit and pretend to care as Great Aunt Colleen starts talking about the time she and your grandma burnt all of old Man Higgins’ wheat field down smoking stale Chesterfields and drinking a mess of hooch they found in Higgins’ dilapidated barn.
I think the first time time travel became interesting to me was watching the first Superman movie with Christopher Reeve. I was probably 4 or 5 years old and my parents took my brother and I to see it at the Warsaw Drive-In. Towards the end where Superman flew against the earth’s rotation and caused it to rotate in the opposite direction, causing time to go back and save Lois Lane from being crushed in the earth stuck with me. Of course that was ridiculous, but it was still something that stayed in my brain. Then when I saw HG Wells The Time Machine with Rod Taylor as Wells the idea of time travel hit me even more. His time travel on that steampunk-looking machine made me want to build a time machine of my own. I had to settle for a blanket draped over two chairs in the living room, but still in my head I traveled far and wide.
Through the years time travel has stayed with me. Time travel films have always been a favorite, with movies like Back To The Future, Peggy Sue Got Married, 12 Monkeys, The Terminator, Primer, and Synchronicity being favorites. I’m not sure if Groundhog Day would be considered a time travel film more than a Frank Capra-esque morality play, but I’m giving it props anyways.
But I think one of my favorite time travel films in the last few years has to be Rian Johnson’s Looper.
Looper, if you haven’t seen it, is about a future where time travel has been created but is outlawed. Crime syndicates illegally use it to get rid of people that they want to disappear. They toss the unlucky saps in the machine with their faces hidden and some silver bars attached to their backs where they’re then shot back in time 30 years where a weird looking Joseph Gordon-Levitt is waiting in a corn field with a shotgun. He blows the sucker away, takes the loot from their back, and disposes of the body where there will never be a trace of the person. Now the reason Levitt looks so weird is because he’s sort of made up to resemble Bruce Willis who Levitt is playing in a younger version. After a looper has done his time he retires from the crime syndicate and has 30 years to live their life. Once the 30 years is up the looper is sent back 30 years for his younger self to kill himself, which is called closing the loop. Once your loop is closed you retire and the cycle continues. What happens, though, is that Willis decides to change the past in order to change his future, which requires him to escape his fate of being blown away in a field by his younger self.
Are you lost yet? Listen, it’s not as hard to follow as that last paragraph made it out to be. Johnson does an amazing job of taking the usual time travel tropes and making them into something new and unique, and also adding a lot of heart. There’s a couple love interests, a cute/creepy little boy with a unique ability, and plenty of futuristic action and violence. Everyone in it, from Levitt to Willis, to a sweaty Emily Blunt and the aforementioned cute/creepy kid(played by the great Pierce Gagnon) all do amazing work in this. Willis, for my money, is still one of the great actors. He seems to make five or six middling films then churns out winners like this. He’s especially great in this. Same with Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Despite my family obsessing over how weird he looked in this I think he did an amazing job pulling off Willis’ mannerisms and squinty looks.
Rian Johnson, who is making The Last Jedi currently, has a great eye for a eye-catching scenes. He fills the screen with beautifully built shots and goes from gritty city shots to wide open spaces. The film is a take on the old noir film(much like Johnson’s excellent debut Brick, also with Gordon-Levitt.) There are nods to Blade Runner for sure, but Looper is its own cinematic beast.
I must also mention the score by Nathan Johnson is absolutely beautiful. There’s a great mix of modern and classic sounds here. A little Blade Runner, a little Solaris, and a little Star Wars if you will. This is one I need to own someday.
I think one thing that got me the most about the film is the idea of the younger self and the older self. The idea of how different we are 30 years apart. In the film, the young Joe and older Joe meet in a diner and the older Joe is disgusted looking at his younger self. He sees a kid wasting his life, getting high, and not appreciating how great life can be. He just sees his own regrets incarnate sitting across from him. I could see myself now having similar conversations with myself in my 20s. While maybe not thinking I’m wasting my life away, I could certainly tell my younger self to maybe take care of himself a little better and to appreciate each day. Or something like that. I just like the idea of seeing ourselves at a different age as someone completely different. Someone foreign to ourselves at our current age.
Time travel, man. Time travel.
I recently bought Looper. It was the Mondo Steelcase edition and when I realized Mondo has a whole series of Blu Ray releases with special artwork done for these I saw lots of money disappearing from my wallet. Looper will certainly be the first in many special editions I’ll buy and hide from my wife for a year.
There you have it, folks. A time-traveling post. I actually did create a time machine. I traveled into the future and saw that I buy lots of records, drink lots of stouts and many cups of melted butter. It was a strange future, let me tell you.