Looper, from Writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick and The Brothers Bloom) is easily one of the most-anticipated science fiction efforts of 2012 – as many moviegoers are expecting a slick film that offers both style and substance. The concept alone is certainly interesting – a young assassin executes mob hits after they are sent from the future to his time – until he discovers that his latest target is actually an older version of himself. Plus, anyone who has been following the Looper trailers will likely agree that watching Joseph Gordon-Levitt attempt to tackle Bruce Willis mannerisms is not only intriguing – it’s also pretty entertaining.

However, Rian Johnson didn’t just wrap a full film around a solid premise – the director also attempts to tackle some of science fiction’s biggest questions, including the time travel genre’s most notorious head scratcher: “If you could, would you go back in time and kill Hitler?”

Speaking before Sony’s Comic-Con 2012 panel, Johnson addressed his approach to some of Looper‘s larger themes and moral questions:

That’s part of the pleasure of science fiction in general and time travel movies specifically. They always seem to come back to these big moral questions. The ‘would you kill Hitler’ questions. And they are just very good at making you confront questions like that. My answer to that would be the movie itself, I can’t articulate my answer better. I can’t articulate it better than I did in the movie.

Similarly, Joseph Gordon-Levitt wasn’t ready to condone the actions of most onscreen heroes – asserting that, in many cases, there’s a more meaningful way of tackling conflict than simply killing:

I think violence begets violence and I don’t think a way to solve any sort of conflict is with violence. Because nothing ever ends up solved that way.

While Johnson might have, at first, struggled to articulate how the film addresses some of these larger ideas, Gordon-Levitt’s comment apparently helped give the director some traction. Building off the actor’s answer, Johnson said:

That’s a big part of the movie, in many ways the movie is about this thing you see in action movies but unfortunately also in real life, this notion that can you solve a problem by finding the right person and killing them. That’s very available to the movie, Looper, the notion that that kind of thinking creates a sort of self-perpetuation loop and what can we do as human beings to break that sounds very highfalutin and yet these are some of the things that we hopefully wrestle with in the movie.

Considering Looper is an entirely original IP, not another installment in the seemingly never-ending parade of Hollywood reboots and sequels, it’s easy to be excited for what the writer/director has in store – especially considering that Johnson isn’t just pumping out another sci-fi action story. Plenty of movies and TV shows have tackled time travel in interesting and compelling ways but few have been able to hit some of these larger philosophical (not to mention character) implications head-on – while also providing plenty of gripping onscreen action.

Of course, a solid headlining pair in Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis, plus Emily Blunt, certainly doesn’t hurt the film’s chances at the box office.

Audiences won’t have to wait too long to get a more concrete answer to these questions when Looper releases September 28th 2012.

Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more Comic-Con and Looper coverage as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.

Looper hits theaters September 28th 2012.