This is my life now, I earned it, you’ve had yours already. So why don’t you do what old men do and die? Get the fuck out of my way.
—Young Joe, “Looper”
And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.
—Luke 5:36-38, KJV
The 2012 Rian Johnson film Looper is not really a film about time-travel, though certainly that is the “device” used to facilitate the narrative. On the surface, it’s about trying to undo the mistakes of the past with hindsight—but that’s not really it, either.
Looper is nothing less than about the coming of a new Aeon, and how we can either work with the spirit of the age or resist it.
[Note: Even to discuss Looper in any degree would spoil some surprise elements of the film, because at some point it does a 180-degree turn and becomes a totally different movie than one would expect. So I leave that warning out there for those who haven’t seen it but want to.]
I. Cid the Kid Messiah
In the movie, Old Joe (Bruce Willis) goes back in time to kill a little boy with great powers, Cid, who he says will grow up to be a destructive force of nature called “The Rainmaker.” The story of the child-messiah with incredible super-powers being hunted down has been pretty deeply ingrained in both our mythology and popular culture, but as the 2012 “end-date” loomed—and ideas such as the Singularity and Indigo Children continued to permeate our culture—the topic had suddenly become particularly relevant.
These Messiah Children—so powerful and dangerous and persecuted and full of potential for good or evil—can be found everywhere in pop-culture:
Andrew Detmer in Chronicle:
Renesmee Cullen from Breaking Dawn Part 2:
The Children of the Damned:
Most of these children are portrayed as “monsters”—but also the heralds (literally, in the case of The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby) of a New Era. This new era is the Aeon of Horus—Horus, the infant child of the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris, referred to by occultist/poet/philosopher/etc. Aleister Crowley as “the crowned and conquering child”:
The Aeon of Horus is here: and its first flower may well be this: that, freed of the obsession of the doom of the Ego in Death, and of the limitation of the Mind by Reason, the best men again set out with eager eyes upon the Path of the Wise, the mountain track of the goat, and then the untrodden Ridge, that leads to the ice-gleaming pinnacles of Mastery!
It is, literally, a new stage in the Evolution of mankind, a stage where man and woman can become so much more—and these creepy movie children, “kid-messiahs” with their freaky powers, represents the fear our current Osirian society has over this Big Change. And the character of Cid in Looper is the latest “kid-messiah,” a Horus stand-in.
Old Joe, played by Bruce Willis, won’t accept the New Aeon—his “job” is to kill the Messiah, to stop him from ever becoming into his full-flower. Old Joe is basically trying to stop the so-called “Anti-Christ”/New Age, and, like Herod of old, he’s not adverse to killing innocent children in his quest to do so.
Who does Old Joe represent?
And, for that matter, who does “Young Joe,” played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, symbolize?
The answer to these questions will plant us firmly not only in the Aeon of Osiris—the Aeon that has passed/is soon to pass—but in the Bible as well.
II. Old Joe/Old Testament
When “Old Joe” first appears in the life of “Young Joe,” he seems like a wise, older, paternal figure we can trust. He is convinced that the seemingly omnipotent Rainmaker, a figure that he claimed was causing widespread destruction in the future, had to be stopped. But soon we find out Old Joe has more in common with the Terminator robot than as a true savior.
The moment Old Joe carries out the murders of little children in the name of his “quest,” he has lost all his credibility as our theoretical hero—much less someone who can teach Young Joe to be a better person. Slaughtering innocents to root out the “kid-messiah”—this is Herod-style behavior. And it carries with it the occasional brutality of Old Testament-style logic (God telling Abraham to kill his son Issac).
Old Joe represents the Osirian Aeon—the one of organized religion, of the Dying God, of the Aeon that is passing. He is obsessed with preserving the past, even to the point of literally traveling back to it and—in his plan to assassinate the “Kid-Messiah” Cid—kill the potential of the future. Thus Young Joe tells him in the diner scene: “So why don’t you do what old men do and die? Get the fuck out of my way.”
Interesting to note that Young Joe’s unforgiving, brutal boss is named Abe—like the Biblical patriarch Abraham. His law is absolute, with punishment for infractions severe. Though he and Old Joe are seemingly at odds, Abe also wants Cid dead, and sends his own assassins after him (in a strange sync, the hired killer that gets the closest to Cid resembles Michael Biehn, who played John Connor’s father in the original “Terminator”). Abe has already been “cast out” of the future by Cid, known as The Rainmaker, a future that resembles the fire-and-brimstone of Revelations.
The name “Joe” is also reminiscent of that of the Biblical patriarchs, such as Joseph, son of Jacob. Much like that Joseph, Young Joe was literally “sold” as a boy into a slavery of sorts. But as an old man, Joe is filled to the brim with the fury of an Old Testament God, raging at an Aeon that is steadily passing away.
But Young Joe represents another Biblical character…
III. Young Joe Is Jesus
There are many parallels between Joseph of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament, to the point where it has been suggested that the latter was just a re-representation of the former. Edgar Cayce went so far as to claim Joseph was the reincarnation of Jesus.
If Old Joe = Old Testament Joseph, then Young Joe is the New Testament Jesus. Further, Old Joe = Old Testament God, and the paradox of how both Joes can be two and also one mirrors “I am the Father and the Son” quality/dilemma of Jesus Christ. And there’s a part of Looper where he is, at least subliminally, connected with Jesus. From the scene where his friend Seth (another esoterically “loaded” name, especially when paired with “Horus”) comes to Young Joe for help:
Seth: Ssh! They’ll be here any minute. Are they here?
Joe: No. Who?
Seth: Oh, Christ! Joe! Christ!
But unlike Jesus, Young Joe takes on the actions of the god’s opposite number: Judas. The Biblical tie couldn’t be more clear with Young Joe accepting the bars of silver in exchange for Seth’s life. This will be not the only “flipside” to the established mythologies—the most glaring one being “Anti-Christ” child Cid being actually a symbol of hope, as well as “wise mentor” Old Joe being a murderous maniac.
And since we’re on the topic of the Aeons of Osiris and Horus, there’s one more flipside: the character of Seth—”Set”—being cut into pieces, as Set did to Osiris.
The passing of the Aeon of Osiris would necessarily mean the passing of Jesus, as well as the Old Testament God. However, though Young Joe shares a love of “antiquity” with Old Joe, he knows intuitively that destroying the potential of the future to re-instate an “idyllic” past is wrong. And killing little kids in order to make this happen is also wrong. Looking into the face of Old Joe, Young Joe realizes that this is not what he wants to become. The real Jesus would not chain the world down with an old dogma.
Young Joe decides to protect Cid—”Kid-Messiah”—from Old Joe. But in the end, he realizes that the only way to resolve this ancient, seemingly endless loop of humanity being chained down by this procession of Gods is to end it. And so he does what the Dying God does—he turns the gun on himself and dies, taking Old Joe with him.
However, this is not the Jesus-figure touted by organized religion, filled with “thou nots.” This is the Cosmic Christ. This is the Vegetable God, literally sacrificed in a field, so the new era might grow.
Now, how do we know that Cid might not grow up to be that “Anti-Christ”—that destructive force?
Well, see, I think it is all at how you are coming at this story—and religion in general— from your own reality tunnel. The Big Change is going to happen. The Old Ways are going to die. This is inevitable. To some, this is categorized as an “Apocalypse.”
But we can also embrace change. Instead of shunning Cid, Young Joe embraced him. Young Joe knew that by welcoming the New Aeon, that of Horus, with hostility and death would only beget more hostility and death.
In the end, we create our own realities, choose which reality tunnels to follow. Young Joe realized that things didn’t have to be “fated”—that we all don’t have to collapse in a terror-filled blob at the prospect of grisly prophecies of the future. Young Joe’s Hero Journey ended with him learning about Choice. And in a world that is rapidly changing, we might also face similar lessons.