Looper Director Rian Johnson Discusses How to Make Time Travel Real
09.12.12 by Ryan
Time travel. From 1921's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court to director Rian Johnson's upcoming Looper, audiences and moviemakers alike have enjoyed cinema's ability to transport our imaginations to the past or the future. Looper, however, isn't about a cyborg assassin sent from the future or about two rock-and-roll-loving high school kids traveling through time to collect historical figures for a history presentation. Instead, the movie follows Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a hitman whose targets are sent to him from the future, and he is forced to kill his future self (Bruce Willis). Johnson admitted to The Huffington Post that he's not a person to "pick apart" the logic of a time travel movie, but said that he did come up with a system that was "consistent."
Well, first and foremost, and this sounds like a cheat, but, in reality, this is the only thing that made sense to me: I feel like so often the paradox element of time travel is approached from a chart perspective, or from a timeline perspective — from a mathematical perspective where "A" happened so "B" happened so "C" happens. In my mind, it made much more sense to look at the universe and the way the universe deals with these paradoxes. To look at it as an organic body and to look at it ... it's almost like you push a foreign object into an organic body. It doesn't have a machine like response to it. It kind of figures out what it is and tries to do its best to adjust to it.
And, so, that's why when the older self is back in the present, a physical thing, like a scar, that's kind of like more of a one-to-one simple thing — so that happens and then that appears on the younger person. But, in terms of the memories changing — and there was originally a longer thing in the diner, where the old Joe character went into this in more detail — but the memories are kind of doing their best, and so it kind of gets really, really cloudy when things are still in flux. And in the present moment where they're defined, they become sharp again. But the main thing is, the memories are just trying to adjust and trying to figure out how to deal with this paradox. Which, to me, is how the universe actually works. You know, it's a big, organic mass.
What Looper won't do is have the characters constantly caution each other to not do something that would mess up the future. "And, again, it's the sort of thing that sounds like a shortcut, but, to me, it also just sounds like the way it would actually be, which is the scientists don't know exactly how it works," said Johnson. "There is nobody who can draw, 'don't do this, don't do that.' They know it's dangerous and they know the less you mess with it, the better."
So who made the best time travel movie in Johnson's opinion? "I mean, the first Back to the Future is kind of a perfect script, I think." What do you think? What's you favorite time travel movie? Let us know with a comment below.
Image courtesy Sony Pictures