Looper (feat. Ted Chiang, Author) : Episode 25

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What: Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a Bruce Willis mask meets his future Looper Bruce Willis self, hijinx ensue.
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Jeff Daniels, Pierce Gagnon

Featuring guest co-host
Ted Chiang Headshot
Ted Chiang, science/speculative fiction author

Recommended and Related Media

Stories of Your Life and Others by guest co-host Ted Chiang
This is our guest’s short story collection and a great place to start to get to know his work. It includes a couple of stories that recommended before, including the almost-titular work “Story of Your Life” which is the basis for an exciting upcoming film starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.
Read it with your eyes iTunes | Amazon
Read it with your ears iTunes | Amazon

There is No Loop in Looper by Prof. James Van Cleve
An outline of examples of actual loops in time travel movies, and the reasons why there the author thinks there is not one in this movie. Plus visual aid!
Read it on A time Travel Website

Director Rian Johnson Talks Plot Holes and Burning Questions
Director Rian Johnson explains his time loop logic and why he had to send folks back to 2044 to be killed.

Show Notes

Ted Chiang, Guest Co-Host

Thanks to Ted for coming on and helping us figure out what’s going on in Looper. Rather than an interview, Ted is a fully-fledged guest co-host with all the power that entails. 🙂

Plot Outline

This gets a little convoluted, because the movie is not incredibly worried about logical consistency.

Looper Isn’t Actually About Loops

Despite appearances and the language in the film about loops and looping, we decide that either there are no paradoxical loops or the movie just doesn’t make a lot of sense in this regard. Or maybe both things. Probably both.

Diagramming Timelnes

We straighten out how many Bruces/JGLs there have been and how they all lived out their lives. It might be more than you think! Ted has to reign us in so we don’t spend the whole show making diagrams with straws. 🙂

looper timeline whiteboard diagram

no straws, but we spent some time with a whiteboard. too much time. here is a sampling.


Actually it turns out this movie is about motherhood (an uncommon topic for science fiction) and the importance of a mother in keeping boys from growing up “lost.” We needed a professional writer on the show to get us to shut up about time travel long enough to figure out the point of the movie. Thanks, Ted.

Free Will

Comparing and contrasting the appearance/reality of free will in this film and other examples (Twelve Monkies, Back to the Future).

Rewriting Looper

Ted tries to rewrite the movie but realizes how important all of the logically difficult plot devices are to the story and characters.

The first half of the film, where criminal organizations are sending people back in time to be killed – that made no sense at all! And that really bugged me.

But I quite liked the second half of the film, which was about the importance of motherhood and the possibility of breaking the cycle of violence.

I wanted there to be a way to fix the first half of the film, but keep the second half.

So I, in my mind, tried to rewrite the film…


Abe: [Joe has been teaching himself French] Why the fuck French?
Joe: I’m going to France.
Abe: You should go to China.
Joe: I’m going to France.
Abe: I’m from the future. You should go to China.


And keep an eye out for the upcoming movie based on Ted’s story “Story of Your Life” (with Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams) probably some time this year. Should be really good!

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