Rian Johnson is about to premiere Glass Onion, a follow-up to his hit Knives Out, and his first major success. Johnson has made a name for himself as an innovative and clever writer and a stylish and deft film maker. A man who blends genres, styles, and themes without compromising his vision is a story teller unlike any other in Hollywood.

His place in the industry is thanks to looper It was the science fiction film starring Bruce, Joseph, and Emily that turned him into an overnight sensation, the rare Hollywood talent who could deliver a commercially viable spectacle that both mainstream audiences and thinking-person cinema aficionados could love. It is time to look back at what made it so successful.

The risk that paid off

Sara holding a rifle and staring at something off-camera in Looper.

There is a plot that bravely goes into heady sci-fi territory. The plot centers on Joe, a hitman for thelooper organization, who kills victims from the past. Joe has to ally with a widow and her son to stop his older self from trying to change his life. The film requires a lot of attention to understand. Its world-building relies on exposition to develop the premise but it is basic enough to be enjoyable.

It isn't a daunting, mind-bending sci-fi film, at least at plotwise. The right amount of intelligence is needed to awaken the audience and keep them interested. It was still a gamble in the modern, franchise-dominated landscape. It was an idea from a director whose first film had been a decent performer. It is surprising that Tri-star and four other production companies agreed to a $30 million budget.

A man sits at a table with a younger man in Looper.

It was odd that Johnson chose a leading man. There was a time when Joseph Gordon-Levitt was at his best. Gordon-Levitt was poised to become Hollywood's next leading man, but he wasn't there yet. He was a familiar face for audiences because of his roles in Christopher Nolan's Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, but he wasn't the first choice when it came to an "action man."

He was a strange kind of actor who could play hotness like no other. It isn't pretty but it's what it's about. Gordon-Levitt wasn't hot enough to pull off the smoldering bad boy look, but he was cool enough to overcome his quirks and try his luck in the action genre.

Bruce Willis created the exceptional-everyday-man- against-the-world genre in the '90's. At one point, he was the greatest action star in the world, bigger than Cruise and Arnold and predating Johnson and Statham. After a string of hits, including Sin City and Die Hard, Bruce's career slowed down.

The film had a main cast. She became one of the most promising rising stars after starring in The Devil Wears Prada. The Adjustment Bureau and Your Sister's Sister were two of the inspired choices made by Blunt in the following years. She became one of the most versatile actresses in the business after entering into a career that quickly became one of the most interesting out of the 2000s.

Many people had their eyes on the film, but from which few knew what to expect. It made $176 million at the box office. The performances of the central trio were praised by the reviews, but the supporting turn by the actress received more attention.

In the end,Looper favored Johnson, but had an effect on the other two. Lucasfilm trusted him with The Last Jedi because of his success. The Chicago Film Critics Association gave her attention, but she never received Oscar buzz.

The film's leading men didn't fare as well as they could have. In a lot of ways, Looper was the end of the road for Gordon-Levitt. After a string of uninspired films, he retired after being diagnosed with aphasia. Gordon-Levitt's career got derailed around the middle of the decade after his directorial debut, Don Jon.

The film has effects on four main players. The film always treats Bruce Willis as if he were a stand-in. When it comes to Gordon-Levitt, the action star of tomorrow, the film drops one when it comes to juggling many things at once.

His swan song was supposed to be his graduation into leading man status, but it ended up being his final song. The script doesn't ask for anything from him other than to be Bruce Willis. Emily Blunt holds the film's beating heart in her shaky but capable hands, but that doesn't mean she's the only one who plays two parts of the same character.

Johnson, the commercial auteur

A promotional still of RIan Johnson looking at the viewer with a serious expression.

It was Johnson who made the most of the success of the film. He was able to helm a big-budget space movie that launched a thousand think and hate pieces, each more cynical than the one before. Hollywood doesn't just hand out things like prestige and respect. Johnson became the ever-elusive and mystifying commercial auteur thanks to his ambitious sci-fi film.

Results are what the film business rewards. The business's most respected auteurs have a hard time getting funding for their projects due to the fact that the best intentions can result in commercial flop. Few directors are allowed to blend spectacle with a good story. Johnson became an overnight sensation after Warner Bros. got a hold of Christopher Nolan.

Johnson's strengths were shown by looper. The plot is fast-paced and exciting and blends action with exposition that never overwhelms. The action set pieces were fresh and striking, making the best out of their $30 million budget without looking cheap, and Johnson's love for the craft shines through in every frame. There is a love letter to noir smeared with sci-fi elements to create a brilliant chimera.

Above all, the film showed Johnson's love for plots with multiple endings. The director makes puzzles and invites the audience to solve them with him. Knives Out is a film that pulls off some of the most pleasantly surprising twists in modern mystery. This year's Glass Onion is said to deliver a collision of facts, characters, and mindsets that is wild but never messy.

It is possible that is Johnson's greatest gift. He pulls the table cloth from underneath it without spilling any wine. It is difficult to say that his films invite chaos but he is always in control. He doesn't lose the showmanship that made him famous. Johnson is the ring leader in a circus of images, subjects, emotions, and motifs. His shadow looms large in every scene even though he isn't on camera.

Looper and the modern sci-fi

Older Joe restrains Young Joe and points his gun at something off camera while on a diner in Looper.

Despite its brilliance, Johnson should have been nominated for the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, but I won't take any questions on the matter. Looper deserves more love than it gets.

It is difficult to write a sci-fi novel. It is cold and calculating toying with men's nature and sense of purpose. sci-fi is not as rewarding as fantasy is. It's rare that a sci-fi movie will make you feel something, but those that do stay with you for the rest of your life. It is more important than the average Star Trek/ Star Wars offer. It tries to lure but never demands. It cares too much about its broad appeal to be more daring with its themes.

That was Johnson's goal. With Looper, Johnson set out to create a noir thriller that kept audiences interested just enough to keep them entertained. Like a puzzle that keeps your attention for an hour and leaves you with a clear sense of satisfaction, looper asks questions but makes sure to answer them quickly. Johnson has a rather in-your-face approach to his recurring themes.

A man aims his gun to the ground in Looper.

A compromise his future films don't necessarily share is that he wants to entertain, not beat you over the head with social commentary. Johnson is a born entertainer who understands the value of a happy audience; he pushes the right buttons to awaken frustration, rewards you with a mystery that is easy to comprehend, and pats you on the back on your way out of the theater.

It won't be a great sci-fi film, but maybe it should be. It makes up for it with purpose, a surprising amount of heart, and just the right amount of artistry, even though it is more conservative and less dazzling than other entries. We go to the movies because of that.

There is a movie on the streaming service.

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