Ultimately what I liked about the film is that it had two science fiction "buys." "Buys" being defined here as two sub-genre elements of science fiction/fantasy. I.E. Come for the time-travel stay for the TK. What I find interesting about both those plot elements is that they are actually classically fantasy elements and not science-fiction per se. So, it almost gives you (Mister Johnson) some flexibility with the genre to talk about important things like raising children, being loyal to your wife, selflessness, etc.
I guess my plot hole submission would come with how the film treats the exposition of time-travel. You can't really explain TK, but you can explain time-travel. The film seems to push away from explaining time-travel, it almost rally's against it; that line Mr. Willis has about how he and Joe would be drawing diagrams with straws is an example of this.
I keep seeing Rian have to explain on twitter that the time machine is "not adjustable." I really think if there had even been two lines of exposition where Abe said, "I'm from the future, it's not adjustable." or some sort of established rule beyond the "wound in present is wound in present future" there would have been more clarity to the time-travel element of the plot. As it ended up there seems to be more flexibility in the narrative there, but as it ended up, the TK plot becomes more relevant to the story at hand.
This seems to be a big question that all of our time travel friends keep coming back to - the movie's responsibility to not just show the rules in action, but to tell in detail the mechanics of those rules. My approach in the film is to show, not tell. If you think that the rules change based on the needs of the story, as someone who spent two years setting those rules in stone and making sure the story stuck to them I'd ask you to go back through it and have another look. The rules are consistent, and though like all time travel rules they create their own framework of quasi-logic, within that framework they are rock solid.
The implication that because of that diner line I'm asking the audience to not think about time travel sets my teeth on edge, because that is actually the exact opposite of what your true complaint is. You're not accusing me of asking you to not think about time travel - you're accusing me of making you think
about time travel. Instead of spelling it all out with lines of exposition, I'm presenting a working world, and if you want to think it through and figure out how it works, it's designed to stand up to that scrutiny. The one thing I'm not doing is connecting the dots for you. The non-adjustable time machine is a good example. I don't spend a line of dialogue explaining it. Why? Because if you care about it, and if you look at the way this looping system works and how it's all set up, you have two options: 1. Assume the time travel machine can be adjusted and the movie makes no sense, or 2. Assume the time travel machine is not adjustable, in which case the way it's set up and the way all the characters use it makes total sense. Having built and clearly shown a world where only option 2 makes sense, I reject that idea that it's my responsibility as a storyteller to explicitly tell the audience that it's option 2.
Which I guess brings me to my most inherent frustration with the narrative. When Joe kills himself as the end, it's played off as a selfless act. Something he does in order to prevent the rainmaker from ever occurring. But ultimately I disagree, it comes off to me as very selfish. I don't believe in self-sacrifice as being the answer to a problem, I think it reaffirms that Joe learns nothing the whole film and just ends up not changing at all.
Which is fine, I'm fine with that, because the movie is actually about Cid and Sara right? It's about their future, it's not a story about Joe anymore, but the film is descends into montage. I'm given around 3 to 5 minutes to digest that somehow this single mother is going to raise her son right because she has a lot of gold now? I wish there was a scene that showed me something at the end beyond that, I really do- because it would have but a solid closed loop on their plot line. Something beyond Cid in a bath, maybe her and Cid go into town to a General Store (leaning on the western theme) and they see a poor child and Cid asks "Why?" and she has to explain something to him. To me the ending as it is violates the "show don't tell" rule. The film is telling me that the Loop is closed, but not showing me.
Edit: Obligatory rant apology. Read at your own risk.
Obviously I disagree, but that's something I probably shouldn't engage with, because it's more a debate about thematics of the film. I will say that I don't think my ending has a problem of "telling not showing" so much as "not showing you exactly what you wanted to see."
I will also give you a big hug right now and say "good talk."