Well, i just read an analysis of issues in Looper over on the Huff Post, and I felt the need to write a rebuttal analysis. I run rather quickly through some points, since I’ve written multiple in-depth analysis about various time travelling, media on various forums, but I’ll try to be as clear as possible. If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me an ask.
***WARNING - TERMINATOR & LOOPER SPOILERS***
The main point that I address involves the various difficulties that Looper has to deal with the John Connor paradox in the form of the Rainmaker’s origin within a single cascading timeline. Here we go.
In the Terminator series, we have multiple cascading timelines. Every change creates a complete divergent timeline. This is why Judgement Day is continually occurring, and every time traveler is just changing the way that they fight it. This is also why all the time travelers come from different futures, and the changes they make aren’t seen in the present immediately. This is loosely detailed throughout the films, but becomes most apparent in The Sarah Connor Chronicles when it’s shown that Derek Reese and his girlfriend Charley Dixon are still dating and recognize each other, but they realize that they have actually come from similar, but different futures where they were together with different versions of each other.
This presents the issue that at SOME point, there was an origin timeline that didn’t involve time travel, which also means that at some point there was a John Connor who lead the rebellion who WASN’T the son of Sarah Connor & time traveler Kyle Reese (which I referred to earlier as the “John Connor Paradox” despite it not actually being a paradox). Past this point, the John Connor we see in the films becomes the child created by time travelling Kyle Reese in the continuing timelines. It’s his existence multiple factors continue to attempt to alter or eliminate in the films, despite there being a John Connor that had existed before those events interfered.
In Looper, we have a similar situation, but rather than creating a multiple divergent timelines, it loops back into into a single point in the same single timeline. This is evident because each timeline change directly propagates through time into the time traveller’s life without them having to live through the entire series of events back into the present.
For example, there’s no full timeline where old Seth goes back in time, and wanders all the way to the building missing various limbs as they’re cut off. This is also explained by the mental blur that old Joe experiences with his memories after crossing back into his own timeline. Old Joe’s memories become clear when they are overwritten by young Joe’s experiences as they happen, with his future memories only loosely intact. The altered timeline stays variable until young Joe completely lives it out.
Let’s look into the details of this mechanic further:
First, things like this is why Loopers have to close their own loops. If anyone killed them in the future, they’d become obsessed with attempting to change it, and it if was anyone else, they might attempt revenge against the other mob associates. Secondarily, this also makes the action a point in time that ensures everything that happens in their future. By running, they risk losing everything they experienced - which is what we see with old Joe and his wife. This brings us to Seth.
There’s a reason that Seth’s younger self AND his older self had to be at the same location when he’s killed. That way, the mafia knows WHERE he is in the past and in the future at all times, and those locations sync up throughout the timeline. They keep him there and ensure that in this altered future, he’s still gonna die in the same place as an old man, which (loosely) holds the continuity together. (It’s only held together loosely, because Abe talks about the significant risk of interfering at all). As long as they can at least ensure that past Seth and his Loop both die in ways that they have total control over, they have a smaller risk of casting ripples into the existing timeline.
Since there’s a single timeline, this also means that Looper must have an origin with Cid becoming the Rainmaker that was not created by a time travelling Old Joe, because (as we see in the film) Joe originally closed his loop.
The Huff Post article makes this seem like a fairly significant issue, but it’s not. This is because the actions of young Joe affect Cid in a way so as to PREVENT him from becoming the Rainmaker. It doesn’t matter that during an origin timeline, Joe wasn’t involved in the Rainmaker’s creation, because like John Connor, he still manages to emerge through a different series of circumstances. Joe’s story is important and is the one that we follow in the film, because he becomes involved in Cid’s life, and sacrifices his own in an attempt to allow his mother to take care of him and raise Cid so that he DOESN’T become the Rainmaker.
Now let’s look into the timelines that occur during Looper to fully understand this. (Note: despite being labelled “Timeline 1” this isn’t the first timeline of events in the story of Looper - which would involve the non-old Joe-created Rainmaker - but the first timeline of the events directly in the film).
- Young Joe kills old Joe.
- Young Joe continues his life and ends up in China.
- An unknown series of events leads Cid to become The Rainmaker.
- Old Joe’s wife gets killed and he gets sent back in time.
- Old Joe crosses into his own timeline and survives.
~ This event creates Timeline 2
- Young Joe’s future is in flux due to his future self directly interacting with his past.
> This leaves only a few points of old Joe’s certain: having his wife, and not having a child.
- Young Joe now meets up with Sara & Cid.
- Old Joe kills the first child born in the same hospital as the Rainmaker.
- This changes his own timeline, and he does have a child with his wife.
~This is now technically a different timeline, Timeline 2b (where old Joe is also dealing with losing his wife AND child), even though it hasn’t ever become fully realized.
- Old Joe continues his rampage an slaughters the mafia.
- Joe continues to interact with Cid & Sara.
- Jesse comes in to take out Joe, and gets killed by Cid.
- Old Joe attempts to eliminate Cid, who does become the Rainmaker.
- Young Joe realized that he will now become responsible for the Rainmaker.
- Young Joe shoots himself, cascading through the timeline, and instantly eliminating old Joe.
~This creates Timeline 2c
- Cid’s mother cares for his facial injury so that it won’t become infected and (almost certainly) preventing him from becoming the Rainmaker with the synthetic jaw, as well as the one whose mother was killed.
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a fun bit of “what if” speculation that makes for an interesting interpretation of the film’s events involving the interesting relationship between Sara, Joe, & Cid:
Very shortly after we learn that old Joe is attempting to keep his future intact by remembering the first time he saw his wife, we see something REALLY interesting…
Sara sits down outside of her house, and pantomimes taking a drag from a cigarette, while spinning her free hand. She does the exact same thing later, just after sleeping with young Joe. She’s smoking while using her TK powers to float her lighter. THIS event is the final thing that ensures that Joe cares enough about the two of them to kill himself to prevent old Joe from turning Cid into the Rainmaker. It should also be noted that Cid - who is a GENIUS - also says candidly that she’s not his mom.
This means she’s could actually someone looping back to care for Cid, after he accidentally killed his real mother in a psychic tantrum. This would explain how Cid originally came to be motherless and turn into Rainmaker without old Joe’s involvement. This would also explain how she knows about Loopers, why she does’t shoot Joe when she sees him, why she bears a striking resemblance to Joe’s hookup Suzie so as to attract him, and how she would know what to do in order to ensure that Cid doesn’t become Rainmaker.
…or maybe that’s all just a clever coincidence. ;)