Tag Archives: science fiction

Looper

Back to the future…

I went to see Looper last Friday when it opened. I’d been waiting impatiently for it to come out ever since I first heard vague rumblings on the net about a scifi movie with Bruce Willis in it. You may chuckle to yourselves at that statement, especially given that his most famous science fiction movie before this is either a cult classic or the worst movie ever made, depending on who you ask. From my level of breathless anticipation, you can tell that I fall firmly in the former camp.

I like scifi. I like Bruce Willis (yes, I admitted that in public). Turns out that Bruce Willis was the icing on a brutally good cake.

Joseph Gordon Levitt and Bruce Willis play Joe, a looper (basically a mob hitman) whose hits are delivered to him from the future via time travel. The technology is outlawed but used in secret anyway by the mob as an efficient means to carry out hits, since bodies are apparently too impossible to hide or dispose of in the late 21st century.

Joe explains the rules of the system to us in a slow but satisfying build up to the main action of the movie. You show up, do the hit, collect payment (silver bars strapped to the victims back), take care of the body, go blow your cash on drugs and women. Rinse, repeat. Until… You are sent back to be killed by your younger self (this time with gold bars strapped to your back) and you “close the loop” by executing yourself.

When young Joe and older Joe lay eyes on each other is when this science fiction movie really takes off and spreads its wings, a mean feat considering how stellar the set up is. The dichotomy between these two versions of the same person is palpable. Young Joe is looking out for #1. He still wants to please the higher ups and retire to France (probably because that seems romantic to him) when his loop is closed. The elder Joe has lived a lifetime full of what the younger version’s choices have set him up for; he wants to hold on to what he has at any cost.

I don’t want to give away anything by explaining anymore plot points. The two leads are fantastic in their respective portrayals of the same character. Extra kudos to Joseph Gordon Levitt for picking up the the voice, cadence, and physical tics that we expect to see on Bruce Willis and making them believable.

The supporting cast, including Jeff Daniels, Emily Blunt, and Piper Perabo, also give excellent performances. The writing, direction, and most important, pacing, are all top notch. I highly recommend this movie even if, especially if you are not a scifi fan. At its heart this movie is a character piece and the speculative element is the purely to drive the story along in the best possible way.

I’ll be seeing this again and definitely adding it to my collection.

Total Recall

Totall Recall: Remade.

I saw the big budget remake of the Arnold Schwarzenegger/Sharon Stone scifi actioner, Total Recall. This new version stars Colin Farrell (taking over from Arnie), Kate Beckinsale as his wife/watcher (originally played by the Mars hating Sharon Stone), and Jessica Biel in the rebel/lover role (originally played by the sleazy but demure Rachel Ticotin).

The plot for this “remake” > and its predecessor is very loosely derived from a short story by Philip K Dick. In this version of the story, Farrell’s Douglas Quaid is a lowly factory worker with a beautiful, devoted wife (Beckinsale) who lives in the oppressive confines of The Colony but commutes to work (via a world spanning train tunnel) to the seemingly utopian Britain to work. He feels a deep dissatisfaction with his daily life and has dreams about being trapped in a place, trying to escape with the aid of an equally beautiful mystery woman (Biel).

One of the things that I like most about Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall is that it has a sense of humor; it’s a wild romp and had a “damn, doesn’t that make you grin at the shittiness of it all” kind of pluck to it. It took itself just seriously enough to carry you along for the ride. The fact that at the end of it you, as the viewer, we’re left to decide if it was real or all in Quaid’s head was icing on the cake.

This version is humorless, joyless and filled with hard, ruthless people who aren’t even enjoying being hard and ruthless. It doesn’t help at all that the script and direction don’t bring anything new to the table as far as ideas are concerned. You’re left realizing at the end of it all that you just watched a fairly standard chase movie with a lot of special effects thrown in purely for the sake of spectacle. Themes of identity and purpose are present but so eclipsed by visual bombast that you just don’t care whether Quaid finds out who he is or isnt.

I was disappointed by this effort in the extreme. I will take the Verhoeven/Schwarzenegger version over this one every time because as cheesy as it is, it has a heart. Wiseman/Farrell and Co? Do not pass go, do not collect $200.

I really think that instead of rehashing movies that were pretty great in their original versions (Footloose and Spiderman, anyone?) Hollywood should focus on taking a chance on creating something new and different. There are some great scifi stories out there that could be crafted into the next big thing. I’d rather have somebody try and fail at that than get served another helping of “been there, done that”.

Final recommendation? Skip it. Go see The Dark Knight Rises again.