Thursday, May 8, 2014

#DoubleFeature - 12 Monkeys/Looper

Did you know Bruce Willis basically starred in the exact same movie twice, over two different decades?! True story!

This is Time Travel Thursday, opening up this feature with...

The year was 1995. Bruce Willis starred as a criminal in the year 2035, sent back in time to help find a cure for a future virus. Only he ends up locked in a time loop and ultimately finds meets his end...

The year was now 2012. Bruce Willis starred as a hitman in the year 2074, sent back in time to be executed by his younger past self. To break the time loop he had to ultimately meets his end...

Okay, so taken apart, they don't seem that close from one another. Nevertheless, both films are highly stylized scifi/thriller films both encompassing some of the best filmmaking in their respective.

Yet I always felt Looper kinda disappointing on that front. Maybe had it come first... Or at it been put in the hands of a different director... or simply if the science-fiction premise of that film had made some actual sense.

Anyway, let's not carried away and check both films one at the time...

Movie: 12 Monkeys 
Directed by Terry Gilliam 
Release date 1995
Genre Science-fiction/thriller
Country USA

Based on a French 1962 short film "La Jetée" by Chris Marker following mostly the same overall plot, 12 Monkeys is a unique post-apocalyptic time travel story.

Directed by notable ex-Monty Python member turned-great film director Terry Gilliam for Universal Pictures.

It's a gritty science-fiction story at its finest.

Gilliam considers it as sort of his "second entry" in what he calls his "dystopian satire trilogy" along 1985's Brazil and 2013's The Zero Theorem

The film stars Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt. In fact it's the film that mostly helped establish Brad Pitt to a wider audience back then.

Our story follows this man James Cole from what appears to be a post-apocalyptic future in Philadelphia, 2035

The world is getting worse by the minute. If corporate greed, overpopulation and pollution weren't enough, a dangerous virus helped clean the planet of half its population. And now the world is slowly dying...

Humanity now lives mostly underground.

James Cole was a convict and has been selected to help put a stop to this threat destroying the planet every day. They will attempt a time travel experiment to send him back in time on a mission. He has to collect a sample of the original strand of the virus that was leaked out ages ago when the terrorist group the "Army of the 12 Monkeys" appeared on the front scene. But he has to remember, the past cannot be changed, it's impossible. Anything that has ever happened will always happen no matter what. That's why his objective is simply to find a way to cure the virus in the future.

Cole is sent in the past to collect a pure sample strand of the virus. He has been plagued by recurring nightmares about an airport chase and people firing guns around him for years.

Cole finds himself back in time... but he didn't arrive in 1996 as planned, but instead in 1990! Cole is immediately arrested and locked up in a mental institution. There he is put under the care of Kathryn Railly. Cole meets Jeffrey Goines, another mental patient, who keeps babbling endless eco-rants about saving the world and how corporate greed are ruining life. 

Cole tries to leave message at a special number in hope it reaches people in the future. He later vanishes from his cell and is able to return home, in the future. 

He is sent again back in time, only he lands during World War 1 by accident! He is shot in the leg. Then finally sent to 1996 now. Cole learns the truth about Goines. He was the son of some scientist and actually the founder of the Army of the 12 Monkeys! Cole might have given him the very idea to found the "rebellion" during his time in the asylum! Cole disappears once again, but he started to leave way too many clues in his trail, such as his involvement with Goines in the asylum back in 1990 - even his time during WW1 was caught on a photograph! 

Cole starts to think his memories from the future are actually hallucinations.. He convinces the people in his era to send him back in time one more time. 

As Cole tries to escape in an airport, he put the pieces together. The Army of the 12 Monkeys was never the source of the virus. The only real terrorism they were responsible for was for simply releasing animals from a zoo. As Cole finally understands all this and tries to put a stop to the real criminals he is shot down by the cops, right in front of his younger self as a kid. Making him a witness of his very own death that would haunt him for years to come.

It's a great film with a slight steampunk look for its future scenes. Featuring a perfect time loop. Cole inspired the future Army of the 12 Monkeys and couldn't stop a thing as much as he wanted to. He should have sticked with the original plan... but he never had a choice to begin with. It's a dark interpretation of time travel, but one that makes a lot more sense usual.

It's a movie about memory and time, and their relation with one another.

12 Monkeys was originally about to star Nick Nolte or Jeff Bridges but they finally settled for Bruce Willis - which was as great as they could hope for.

As soon as Cole visits the past he is immediately confused by the world we live in. Is he mad or are we the ones that are mad?

His recurring nightmares about an airport shooting, haunted by images of his very own death.. 

You can even interpret the story several ways. The film leaves enough clues you can doubt Cole's entire backstory regarding the whole time travel angle. His sanity comes into play quickly. Although there are some proof, some physical evidences regarding his time in WW1... he might be possibly insane. Is Cole even really from the future or just an insane man?

The film owes a lot to its great art direction, in typical Terry Gilliam fashion. Great effects and sets built for the film, giving it a strange captivating original tone.

The music was brilliantly composed by Paul Buckmaster.

Overall: 12 Monkeys is a very powerful film.

Compared to most time travel films, the implications of it make a lot of sense here. The enable, the way Cole is able to travel back through time is never explicitly explained or shown. In the past he simply vanishes out of camera..

The film features some stunning camera work. This is a great movie done by an old school film director at his best. Great moody lighting. 12 Monkeys has such a great dark gritty look. 

The movie was released to a mixed reaction at the time. The complicated aesthetics and dark take on time travel (this was coming of the likes of Back to the Future or Bill & Ted afterall!). The whole chaotic nature of the film, its almost surreal world didn't help much for a broader audience.

Anyhow, it went on winning several awards and gained a cult status over the years.

It has been announced SyFy was working on a TV series adaptation based Gilliam film aimed for next January 2015, from the folks behind the short lived series Terra Nova (not feeling it to be honest...).

I give it:
3 / 3 UFOs!

Movie: Looper 
Directed by Rian Johnson 
Release date 2012
Genre Science-fiction/thriller
Country USA

Written and directed by a promising new director, Rian Johnson, Looper is also a dark moody science-fiction tale about time travel.

Starring Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emily Blunt.

The story revolves around the idea people were finally able to unlock the secrets behind time travel by the year 2074. Only, it quickly became outlawed by the government by then. Such as murder which had been simply completely eradicated in the future. But criminal organizations always find a way.

As such, they found a "loophole" of sort. Instead of killing disposable people, they abduct them and send them back into the past to be killed there. The usually strap them with cash in the form of gold bars that will be the payments of the killer in the past. And why not use those same killers to terminate themselves once their contract is over? Our main protagonist is Joe, a looper having to kill his own older self.... 

Our story takes place in the "near future" of 2044. Joe is a 25 years old "looper", a hitman for the future crime organization that doesn't exist yet. He usually disposes of his target-victims in an abandoned place, their face always hidden by a bag. 

Once a looper "retires", they cover his body with enough riches so that he can live his older days as a king, as far as he might go. Until they have to dispose of them because they probably know too much by then. They send them back to the past to "close the loop" so to speak of. 

Joe's friend Seth is a psychic. One day Seth tells Joe he didn't close his own loop, and was able to warn himself that in the future of the year 2074 there's now a new boss that took over all major crime and crime families. And he's apparently closing all the loops. 

Joe's next target ends up being is own older self the next day. But you see, this old Joe knew how things would be played out. Well at least, not the first time. The film introduces this idea of multiple timelines. The first time, "Young Joe" killed his older self, then moved to Shanghai, he then met this woman, fell in love with her and they got married and all. But 30 years from now, she was later killed while they were trying to take in Joe, strap him in the time machine and sent him back into this point in time... 

But this "Old Joe" knew all this because it already happened for him. He used his own gold bars as shield, free himself and started changing the past with his knowledge how things would play out.

Now Old Joe will have to kill this future mob boss, this so-called "Rainmaker" while he's still only a child, to change the future and save his would be-wife.

Old Joe is now on the run while Young Joe is tracking "himself" (kinda).

YJ is able to keep a part of OJ map with the possible locations of Rainmaker. 

OJ gets all like "John McClane" on the organization tracking him, goes on a Rampage and guns down through hordes of enemies. 

Meanwhile YJ finds a woman named Sara and her son Cid living in a little farm. They might just be the ones his older self is looking after! During that time OJ kills several children that might one day become Rainmaker (I never thought I'd see the day I would watch Bruce Willis killing children relentlessly in a movie..)

Now there's only one place left to visit. OJ arrives on the premise, set on to kill them all and YJ having to guard them. YJ waits at the farm while some men arrive first. We get to see Cid's own telekinetic abilities and how he just might one day become the most powerful psychic ever born... hence the "Rainmaker"! OJ arrives and kills the men about to kill his younger self. As he's about to kill the child - which he would miss but end up killing Sara, triggering the events that would turn Cid into the Rainmaker - Young Joe kills himself instead. Which erases Old Joe... somehow. It works! 

...But wouldn't that mean Cid still becomes the Rainmaker since in the original timeloop where his mother was never hunted down/Joe never met her Cid still turned into Rainmaker... or did I miss something? Who knows! Our writer/director certainly didn't knew or at least didn't try to figure it out!

Wouldn't Joe killing himself not kill his older self, after all his older self killed another old Joe who was unrelated to him/from another timeline when he was the one to be Young Joe originally.. 

I dunno... 

Nothing makes much sense. Simply... go with the flow.

You gotta admit, apart from the whole scifi-angle, it's a very stylish effective film. With a great atmosphere and well paced action scenes (except the random outburst of a Bruce Willis on a rampage).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt went through a lot during the production to closely match his co-star Bruce Willis. They altered his facial enough with special effects and prosthetics to have him look the best possible as a younger Bruce Willis... It's... kinda uncanny, you can definitively tell it's him and yet not entirely recognize his face. He looks kinda Willis-ysh but it's also sort of off-putting - just so to vaguely match Bruce Willis the whole film.. !

Yet they were able to mess up prominent details. "Joe" goes from a sometimes-right handed younger self to our left handed Bruce Willis!? There's some clear goofs bringing kind of continuity issues (do people still care about the whole process of editing films nowadays?)  

Anyhow, the film received several nominations and a couple awards. It was released to a much successful reaction and received plenty of praises and a well-deserved success.

Finally the score was composed by Nathan Johnson whose work is quite unique and promising for the  new generation composers.

Overall: It's a movie which can't decide which time travel theories follow...

There's so many inconsistencies regarding its own rules it tries to establish... Apparently you can't kill in the future... yet they kill Joe's wife openly in plain sight! Time travel is illegal, yet they have so many operatives in the past (which means sending both targets and messages)! And why even bother using loopers to kill their own past self? Wouldn't it be more sure to simply use other contract killers instead, less chances they know past events to avoid them...

The overall idea is great through. A man fighting himself thanks to time travel!

It makes for such fun entrainment.

But ultimately it's a movie that wants itself to be "intelligent" but yet spends so much time with random violence, brutality and and over-the-top gunfight for Bruce Willis. 

It's a pretty good. Violent. Fun. But the time travel aspect is kinda second-guessed as you go along.

A time travel movie where the worst element is possibly anything regarding time travel itself. But it's a great character-driven story! 

Looper simply kind of feels like a big budget B-movie with a lot of polish at the end of the day.

I give it:
1.5 / 3 UFOs!

And that is it for this double review!

They're certainly made from the same mold, to speak of. But they're also very different when you come down to it.

12 Monkeys is certainly the better offering, but tagged along with Looper it makes for an interesting double feature for sure! 

All things considered, I would say 12 Monkeys is the better film, simply from an aesthetics point of view, or simply considering the overall coherence of the plot and the "science of time travel". A coherence in its structure you simply don't find much in films nowadays.

And that's all for this time's DoubleFeature!

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