Tag Archives: Rian Johnson

Looper: The endless circle

For his trickery, the Greek Gods condemned Sisyphus to the underworld. For his punishment, Sisyphus was tasked to push a rock uphill. No matter Sisyphus’ efforts, the rock would roll back down the hill before Sisyphus reached the summit, leaving him no choice but to start the task anew.

In The Terminator, Kyle Reese (Michael Biehl) and The Termintator (Anrold Schwarzenegger) are sent back to the past from a future where robots have risen up against mankind. The presence of both Kyle and The Terminator create the future apocalypse for different reasons. Kyle’s romance with Sarah Connor, whom he has been sent from the past to protect, leads to Sarah bearing their child, who becomes the future resistance leader, John Connor. The Terminator’s remains, following its destruction, are obtained by the U.S. government, leading to the creation of Skynet, the computer system behind the robotic uprising.

Time travel stories are a realisation of fate. Characters travel backwards in time, hopeful that they can change their path, only to find that like Sisyphus’ rock rolling back down the hill, their actions in the past perpetuate their future, binding them to an infinite struggle to reach the summit, their infinite loop.

At its heart, Looper is about a man’s inability to escape his destiny of becoming a monster.

The world of Looper

Set in a quietly dystopian vision of Kansas City in 2044, Looper exists in world where time travel is invented in the 2070s and exploited by criminal syndicates who send their victims back 30 years, where assassins, called Loopers, dispatch them.

Looper‘s main character, Joe (Joeseph Gordon-Levitt), is a Looper, and like all other Loopers, will one day be forced to kill his future self from the 2070s. This act, called ‘closing your loop’, was created by the crime syndicates for fear of the unforeseen consequences if a Looper, later in life, interacted with his victims from the 2070s thereby endangering causality. Nor do the Loopers know when they are about to kill their older self, as their victims arrive from the future with their faces covered by sacks.

The plot begins with the Loopers around Joe closing their loops with increasing frequency, on the command of a mysterious new figure in the 2070s who has taken over all five crime syndicates, known simply as The Rainmaker.  Old Joe quickly arrives and escapes, hell bent on killing The Rainmaker; who in 2044, is a child living in Kansas City. Joe attempts to hunt down and kill Old Joe or face a gruesome death at the hands of the crime syndicates.

‘I could see how you turned bad’: What Joe becomes

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(Old Joe becomes what he is meant to be)

Before Old Joe arrives, local crime boss Abe (Jeff Daniels) reveals what Joe would have been if he had not become a Looper. Speaking with fatherly affection, Abe recalls recruiting Joe as the youngest Looper ever, after he caught Joe robbing one of his fronts.

‘This kid, like an animal…. you looked at me and I could see it…the bad version of your life… I could see how you turned bad. So I changed it, I cleaned you up and put a gun in your hand…I gave you something that was yours.

Abe’s prophecy sadly rings true after Old Joe’s arrival. We witness the timeline Old Joe comes from, where Joe kills his older self and embarks on his retirement. Joe heads to Shanghai and falls into the bad path of his life which Abe foresaw. Squandering his retirement fund in 7 years, Joe becomes a psychopathic assassin and gang leader, spreading violence and spilling blood across Shanghai.

Old Joe appears reformed when he meets up with Joe in their favourite diner, condemning Young Joe as ‘A killer…a junkie. A fucking child mentality…what’s mine, my life…you’re so self-absorbed’. Yet Old Joe has only worsened, willing to kill children he suspects might be the Rainmaker so that he can still meet his wife and never lose her.

The inevitable bad path

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(The Eiffel Tower behind the needle, a sign of what could have been and what will always happen)

Joe’s work as a Looper and his wife are both a temporary leash restraining the monster he is. Once back in the past, Old Joe completes his transformation when faced by Abe’s gang, butchering them while he takes on the air of a demonic figure, bloodied and silent staring back at Abe’s security camera before killing him as well.

Before his death, Abe recognises that Old Joe was destined to descend into the bad version of his life, shouting out to Old Joe that

‘I guess I put the gun in that kid’s hand, huh? I guess everything comes back around.’

Sisyphus can push the rock each day, straining to reach the summit, but every day will begin anew, with Sisyphus still struggling uphill. Joe, like a figure found in Greek myth, is predestined to follow ‘the bad path’.

When we witness Old Joe’s timeline unfold, a model Eiffel Tower is briefly glimpsed in the background as Joe spirals further into addiction. The tower evokes an alternative life for Joe, where he would have gone to his original retirement choice of France instead of China. A needle lays before the tower dominating the shot, symbolising that Joe’s choices throughout life have no weight. The needle would have still been there even if he had moved to France, leading Joe down the bad path Abe foresaw. It is inevitable because of one moment which shaped Joe forever, the loss of his mother as a child.

‘What’s mine’ and ‘What’s yours’

Joe perceives himself in Cid, Sara’s troubled young son and revealed to be the future Rainmaker. When asked about his mother by Cid, Joe reveals that she sold him for drugs. Joe escaped and in his words,

‘I saw myself over and over again, killing those men that bought me and got my mom on what she was on, until I met a man in the city (Abe) who put a gun in my hand, gave me something that was mine’.

The loss of Joe’s mother forges his looping destiny of ‘the bad path’. Fending for himself, Joe becomes like the gang members and drugs who forced his mother to abandon him, adopting their mentality of ‘what’s mine’, even praising these men to Cid as ‘the only kind of man there is’. Thrust into a life with no one to guide him, Joe walks through life fending for himself at the cost of anyone who crosses him, be it his friend Seth, his victims from the future, or the children he believes to be The Rainmaker.

Joe learns to change

Joe appears just as selfish as Old Joe, displaying no remorse for betraying his friend Seth and hunting Old Joe in order to save himself from Abe. Joe begins to change once he meets Cid, seeing himself in the troubled boy as they share their traumas with each other. Despite discovering that Cid is the future Rainmaker, Joe spares Cid, realising that unlike himself, Cid still has his real mother Sara, offering Cid the chance of being nurtured and guided away from his destiny of becoming the Rainmaker.

By sparing Cid, Joe rejects his ‘what’s mine’ attitude, recognizing in his final meeting with Old Joe that his selfishness will cause him to become the monstrous Old Joe. When faced with the opportunity from Old Joe to walk away from Cid and Sara and live your life’ Joe rejects the offer, screaming ‘Your life, my life, becoming you!’.

The rock rolls back

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(A constant loop)

Realising that Old Joe’s actions in the past will perpetuate Cid becoming the Rainmaker, Joe kills himself to prevent an endless loop of Old Joe and Cid both trying to kill the other to save their loved one.

Yet without Old Joe’s presence in the past, none of the events leading up to Joe’s death can happen. Once in the past, Old Joe irrevocably changes future events, not only creating the Rainmaker, but causing Joe to sacrifice himself for Sara and Cid. Joe may remove Old Joe from existing in the past, but the events in Looper are permanently changed by Old Joe’s presence. Old Joe’s sudden absence in the past causes a paradox in the past, resetting the timeline.

A loop can be a single circle, or two circles conjoined at the hip. Old Joe’s hunt for the Rainmaker causes one circle as Joe foresaw, with Sara’s death and Cid becoming the Rainmaker. Joe’s sacrifice causes a second circle. His death leads to a paradox, resetting the timeline we witness in Looper . The two circles feed into one another like a loop, with Old Joe returning after living his life, desperate to save his wife,  while Joe realises what he will become and resets the timeline. If the timeline resets, Old Joe does not change the timeline. Thus Joe will still lead the life that Old Joe had lead, becoming the monster we witness in Looper. 

 

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(Old Joe’s loop, gagged and dead)

Over and over again, Joe has lived the bad path, returning as Old Joe, creating the Rainmaker as he constantly fails to save his wife, while the Rainmaker searches for Old Joe. Looper concludes with Joe making the only choice he can, to reset the timeline and to refuse his task of pushing the rock back uphill in an infinite loop. Looper concludes with Cid still bearing a scarred jaw like the Rainmaker, a hint that Cid is still destined to become a monster, despite Joe’s efforts and that ultimately, Joe and Cid are two men both walking the bad path towards each other.

Joe may change as a person and sacrifice himself but his actions change nothing, just merely reset the loop like Sisyphus’ rock rolling back down.

By Saul Shimmin

Looper is available now on Netflix in the U.K. It has been available for a while, so watch it before it goes!

Rian Johnson’s next film, a little piece called Star Wars: The Last Jedi is quickly approaching its Christmas release date. Read Hagood’s thoughts about the recent behind the scenes video from Disney here.

 

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi [Behind the Scenes Trailer]

Today, July 15, in its measured roll-out in anticipation of The Last Jedi‘s December release, Disney delivered its second “trailer” for the film. While it is not a real trailer, the short video reveals just under three minutes of riveting tid-bits. We’ll discuss some key aspects of it below, but first, here is the trailer:

Key aspects:

  1. During their interviews, Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill hint that The Last Jedi will depart from the Star Wars norm. I, and I’m sure many other fans, would welcome such a departure after The Force Awakens highly derivative plot.
  2. In a brief clip, Kylo Ren appears in front of an elevator and walkway that looks incredibly similar to The Emperor’s throne room in Return of the Jedi. Maybe we will meet Snoke here, face-to-face. But once again, I hope this does not indicated that Rian Johnson is ripping off the earlier films like J. J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan did with Awakens.
  3. Who are the Stormtroopers with the black, First Order emblem emblazoned on their arms and wielding weird claw weapons?
  4. This video is laden with intriguing creatures and characters. I hope they mean that multiple, rich and well-thought out planets will fill The Last Jedi, unlike the two, rather boring planets from The Force Awakens.
  5. I’m extremely excited to meet Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro’s characters who we see for a few seconds in the trailer. The only thing I know about del Toro’s character is that people call him DJ. I also know he was a bad ass in Sicario so hopefully his savageness will carry over.
  6. We see Finn exiting his bacta tank so he is obviously alive and Kylo doesn’t appear too badly injured from the slash Rey dealt him at the end of Awakens. Also, who are the two young gentle sparring with him? Possibly, Luke’s padawans that Kylo and the Knights of Ren massacred? Rey seems to also have some sword fighting ahead.

Sorry if I criticiseThe Force Awakens too much here, but after each viewing, I dislike it more and more. Its dialogue failed to fit into the Star Wars universe, its world building seemed lazy, and, as I mentioned earlier, its plot relied way too heavily on A New Hope‘s.

I have high hopes for this installment, in no small part to Rian Johnson.I hope his skill at film making remains iconic and deft in this endeavor into the Star Wars universe.

The Last Jedi [Teaser Trailer]

Outlook: Face-melting excitement

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, Benicio Del Toro, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, & Kelly Marie Tran

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Hagood’s Review: 

To be perfectly honest, I cried when Rian Johnson introduced the trailer for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. I am beyond excited for this movie. But I must steel myself and try to be logical.  I was equally excited for The Force Awakens and after three viewings of it, I must admit, I’m a bit let down. Rogue One was a much stronger movie and I’m hoping that Kathleen Kennedy and Lucas Film have learned that Finn’s modern dialogue/humor and a hackneyed plot do not belong in the Star Wars universe.

Now, to the trailer. It begins during Rey’s training. The first shot shows her scared and out of breath with Luke’s voice telling her to breath. This harkens back to Luke’s training on Dagobah when he entered the cave to face his fear. I’m sure Luke will not take his training of Rey lightly, especially after losing all his former padawans to Kylo and his Knights of Ren. He’ll want to overly train her so she can survive another bout with the new Dark Lord. Also, during The Last Jedi panel, Mark Hamill mentioned that Daisy was his “dog” then he caught himself and said “companion,” which I’m sure means Luke puts Rey through hell.

I was quite fond of the shot of Rey standing above the sea pit during another training session and the next shot of her training with the lightsaber as Luke looks on. Kylo’s crushed and smoldering helmet is certainly intriguing. Why did Kylo destroy it? Does he feel he finally realize that he needs to forge his own path instead of trying to follow Vader’s? Was he even the one who destroyed it?

Also, what are in the Jedi scrolls Rey touches? How did Luke get them? Didn’t the Sith destroy them after they executed Order 66? I was happy to hear Rian Johnson say that The Last Jedi will uncover more of Rey’s backstory. That was another one of my qualms with The Force Awakens. It just stated stuff (i.e. Maz having Luke’s lightsaber) without backing things up. Some mystery is fine, but I hope this movie substantiates such plot holes.

There was a distinctly Mad Max-esque shot on a desert plain that seemed to have AT-AT’s in the distance fighting Alliance (?) land speeders. This match-up will hopefully best The Force Awakens land-air battle between The First Order and the Alliance on Maz Kanata’s planet of Takodana. I found that battle to be an unfulfilling tease due to a great set-up but poor payoff.

Another question that arose for me was the fire scene at the end. Was that a flashback to the Knights of Ren destroying Luke’s training academy or in the present? Thankfully Kylo is back (my favorite character) and he seemed to be in the present because you could see the scar on his face that Rey dealt him.

Finally, what does Luke mean by “It’s time for the Jedi to end?” Does he mean they need to evolve like the Sith did when they transformed into the Knights of Ren? Or does he mean something completely different?

I loved this trailer. This is how trailers are supposed to be made. It gave away no plot, but instead raised many questions without answering them. Kudos to Disney, Lucas Film, Kathleen Kennedy, and Rian Johnson. I cannot wait for The Last Jedi. 

Saul’s Review:

Given the striking opening to this trailer, The Last Jedi may be the best directed Star Wars film so far.

In the teaser trailer, we see the First Order retaliate following their loss of Starkiller Base, mirroring The Empire Strikes Back. Captain Phasma walks towards a burning settlement while a rebel base is attacked. Clearly the First Order are going to be a far more ubiquitous menance in this film, instead of threatening the galaxy via a doomsday weapon hidden on a remote planet. It would be interesting to see the First Order begin to take over more of the galaxy, and finally expand beyond the edges of space. Hopefully, we will not lose old man Luke Skywalker due to the First Order’s wrath.

I have two questions following the trailer. Firstly, what will Finn’s role be? He briefly appears in what seems to be a medical capsule, but no other information is given. More importantly, does Luke’s belief that the Jedi must end mean that he is now between the lightside and the darkside? If he is, what new order will emerge?

For the trailer, see below:

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – Teaser

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On January 23, 2017, almost a month after Disney’s release of Rogue One, the studio released the title of its next Star Wars film: Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Once again LucasFilm and Disney decide to keep in line with The Force Awakens and drop the episode connotation from the title.

We here at Title Roll Reviews are nervously excited about the new title. We hope that “The Last Jedi” refers to both Rey and Old Man Skywalker surviving the film since Jedi is both the plural and singular form of a lightside-warrior.

Rian Johnson (Looper) helms the film as both writer and director. Looking at the IMDB page for the movie humorously Tom Hardy is supposedly going to be a “Stormtrooper.” While we would dig this outcome, we doubt that Johnson will pull another major-Daniel Craig type cameo.

We are both looking forward to seeing Benicio Del Toro’s role in the movie, especially since the Star Wars films tend to get darker in their respective second chapters.

It will be exciting to see how The Last Jedi answers the questions raised in The Force Awakens about Snoke, the end of Luke’s revived Jedi academy, who the Knights of Ren are and where Rey comes from.

In order to succeed, The Last Jedi must overcome J.J. Abrams’ legacy of liberally borrowing elements of A New Hope‘s plot for The Force Awakens. By doing so, Abrams has set the new trilogy upon the same arc as the original films. The Jedi, once again, have been betrayed and destroyed. One Jedi remains that we know about (Obi-Wan), and a young person of unknown origin (Luke) wishes to become a Jedi. The Last Jedi  must steer away from The Force Awakens’ reliance on nostalgia and deliver a new tale. Failure to do so will render the new films so similar to their predecessors, that they will effectively be reboots.

Mr. Johnson’s first film, Looper, is a flawed but underappreciated film that deserves a second viewing by most people. The film revealed Johnson’s talent as writer and director through the movie’s reinvigoration of the concept of time travel with new ideas. At times, Johnson’s attempts in Looper did falter, but five years have passed since Looper’s release, giving Johnson time to hone his craft.

We are both confident that Johnson will deliver a bold departure for the Star Wars series due to his competency as sci-fi writer and director who creates plots replete with unorthodox concepts. After three prequels, a spin-off and a soft reboot, Star Wars needs to take a risk.

Disney will likely soon release a trailer for the movie in the coming weeks so check back here for that and may the Force be with you.