With Rian Johnson‘s long-awaited foray into the science-fiction genre finally hitting theaters this weekend, it’s time to brush up on a few essentials that will enhance your Looper experience — and what a wonderful one it is. Full of smart ideas, captivating visuals, and a blisteringly precise pace, Johnson’s third feature certainly stands on its own, but one will find a handful of works that clearly influenced the filmmaker. We already wholeheartedly endorse checking it out, so get to watching (or rewatching) the below before this weekend.
12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995)/La Jetée (Chris Marker, 1962)
Despite the obvious similarities when it comes to Bruce Willis, the time travel conceit, and both Terry Gilliam & Rian Johnson being spectacularly inventive filmmakers, we’re stretching this first choice a bit. Adding in a nod to the the classic La Jetée, which Gilliam’s film is based on, Looper also infuses a tragic romantic angle to give the film a gripping, emotional center. There are also some key similarities when it comes to the plot mechanics of Marker’s classic, but those connections are best concluded after a first viewing.
Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)
Even though the landmark film is celebrating its 85th anniversary this year, Fritz Lang‘s sci-fi classic is still influencing just about every entry in its genre. Looper is no exception, as it builds a living, breathing dystopian world complete with a futuristic cityscape just outside its lavish set. As exemplified early on in Johnson’s film, we are also privy to a similar, stark class divide between the wealthy and the vagrants.
Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947)
If you’ve seen Brick and The Brothers Bloom (both obvious must-watches before checking out Looper), then you know Rian Johnson’s love for dialogue that pops and that he can call all his own. His sci-fi feature, especially the first act, brings back the noir-tinged element from his debut, but adds a fully realized world around it. While a handful of classic noirs could be picked here, few excel in sublime dialogue better than Tourneur‘s classic. Both surrounded by a city succumbed to corruption, and Johnson similarly introduces us to his immoral world with well-orchestrated voiceover from our lead — one who also has a femme fatale by his side in Piper Perabo.
The Terminator (James Cameron, 1984)
While both The Terminator and Looper are impressive science-fiction debuts from young directors, the time-travel hook only touches the surface of their similarities. Along with some lead characters sharing similar missions, both films feature clear, world-altering motivations and successfully bridge blockbuster-esque entertainment with engaging genre elements. As a bonus, there’s also a nice nod to one of James Cameron‘s most iconic characters with Emily Blunt’s character name.
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
This write-up can quickly veer into spoiler territory, and the mere mention of a similar film already goes too far, but Looper shares a few traits with this Stanley Kubrick classic. Pierce Gagnon gives an unsettling, thoroughly terrifying child performance as Cid, one that stands next to Danny Lloyd‘s Danny Torrance. Emily Blunt also wields an axe worthy of Jack Nicholson, but, before we dive in further, it’s time for you to check out Looper yourself.
Looper is in theaters everywhere on September 28th.
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