Let’s get one thing straight: Time doesn’t move. It doesn’t flow like a river, it doesn’t travel like cars on a freeway, or shift like birds in flight. It isn’t a quilt or a lake or a record or any other retarded metaphor you’ve encountered in SF media. Just like height, width and depth, time is a dimension. Talking about “the flow of time” is as nonsensical as discussing “up” moving. Quite simply, time is.

And while Einstein posited that time travel — into the past, at least — was possible, because time is a constant the way it would actually work isn’t much fun for science fiction. That’s because, if you could get into a time machine right now, and go back to, say, Berlin, circa 1939 to assassinate Hitler, you would fail. I know this because you didn’t assassinate Hitler. If you went to Berlin in 1939, then you were in Berlin in 1939, and since you didn’t kill Hitler, we know you didn’t kill Hitler. Whatever happened with your attempt, it failed, because that history has all been written.

Just because I can’t go back to 1939 doesn’t mean 1939 isn’t still there. It simply means I can’t travel in it, anymore than I can walk in Instanbul right now. By the time I get there, it won’t be right now, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

The same is true for the future. From the “perspective” of time (if such a thing existed), it has all happened already. We just haven’t gotten to it yet. If you want to indulge in metaphor, try this; time is like a huge photograph of events we’re walking across. We walk in a straight line, and from our birth to our death, we can never stop walking. We can only see the photograph right under our feet. There are parts of the photo behind us we can’t see, and parts in front we’ll never see, but those parts of the photo are still there.

If, somehow, you did change events in the past — or future — from those in recorded history, you wouldn’t have altered the past; you would have jumped to an alternate timeline where that version was recorded history, and there are theoretically as many of these as there are moments where things could happen in different ways. But that’s a very different concept, and has nothing to do with time travel.

Books, TV and movies almost always get it wrong. Marty McFly doesn’t disappear from his family photo. Kirk & company don’t erase their own existence at the Guardian of Forever. And Joe doesn’t kill himself at the end of Looper.

Oh. Sorry. Spoilers.

Frankly, Looper was a film with a shitload of wasted potential. The script alludes to Jeff Daniels’ connection with the moron Gat man Kid Blue, which had me hoping he was the young Jeff Daniels… but no. Nothing. When they mentioned the Rainmaker, my first thought was, well, you assholes sent a guy back in time to run the Loopers, who’s to say a guy from your future didn’t come back to run you? Nope. Instead, it’s a tiny part of the movie’s subplot making a fiendish attempt at taking over the A-story.

I didn’t hate the film, but it certainly wasn’t equal to Rian Johnson’s Brick. Would it have mattered if they didn’t get the time travel all wrong? Probably not. Looper‘s big issue is that it becomes a completely different movie in the second half. Once we begin learning about Emily Blunt’s son (or was he? She says yes. He says no. Anyone else feel like we missed something here?) and his freak TK powers, Johnson has broken the contract with the audience. We came to see a time-travel action movie, not a modern update of The Fury.

Once Bruce Willis has had his flashback of how he got into the past, the time travel aspect becomes largely irrelevant. It becomes a human drama peopled by characters that, frankly, aren’t that interesting. In the final analysis, Looper ends up being a mix of Terminator and Firestarter, and it makes for menudo that’s hard to swallow.

Whatcha think?

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I improve on misquotation. — Cary Grant