Sunday, July 18, 2010

Thoughts on "Inception"

**warning, probably spoilers ahead, see the movie first**

Not gonna write a full formal review because I'm tired and not used to that particular format (after all, everything else on the blog so far HAS been music...). This is mostly to get my own thoughts in written form, so it's probably long and boring. But for those of you who care, here are my reactions to the film, because I've heard very little actual criticism of it yet and think that should change.

I think Inception would make a fantastic book. And here's why.

There is a lot of substance in this movie. The world Nolan created was friggin' AWESOME. And he took that concept, and ran with it, and did a LOT of really cool shit with it. Inception is a good movie. But I care about details, and when people start enthusiastically singing a film's praises while simultaneously ignoring its glaring problems, I get itchy.

The problem is, he took this AWESOME concept and tried to fit it into a Hollywood film. And despite the longer-than average running time, I think the film only skimmed the surface of that concept's potential. This is manifested in several ways.

First of all, the pace is breakneck from the very beginning. Exposition is fired at you with very little time to digest it. I find this ironic, seeing as they have a whole scene where they talk about making an idea as simple and organic as possible before planting it in a mind...and they do not present us this totally vital information in a simple, organic way. It comes at you at 100mph, and there is very little time to process. I managed to catch about 85% of it. And, mind you, that was definitely enough to get through the movie and still enjoy it. But it wasn't enough for me, and not only me. I share similar opinions with the crew on this subject, among others (do your own research, I'm not crazy, I swear)

Example: they talk about the "dreamer(s)" vs. the "subject" in dream sharing. Think back to that scene. They skim over it, show examples of it, then immediately dive into the "getting a team together" part. So when they finally get to the meat of the "mind-heist," as it were, I was able to recall most of the reality they established, but I was still left wondering what exactly the difference was between the dreamer and the subject...because first is it fischer's dream? leo's? joseph gordon-levitt's? the asian guy's?

Now, for those of you who feel the urge to explain it to me, don't worry. I understand it now that I've read synopses and forums and such. But I didn't during the movie, not completely, and that's called bad cinema. Bad writing and story editing, more specifically.

As I said, I believe Nolan & co. skimmed over the substance this film could have. They expected us to accept the science-fiction aspects (dream technology) as fact, with only one really half-assed reference to military testing (of COURSE! because THAT explains EVERYTHING) as an "explanation." They also place all this emphasis on ellen page's role as the architect, show her learning the ropes, then have only one shot where she's actually designing. And one line later where she tells Leo about a structural thingy. Other than that her role was pretty much "Leo's emotional companion."

Finally–here's my biggest beef with the movie–they treat the surrealism of dreams as if it were a convenient plot device. And not even an important plot device! It's used once to show that Page has control of Leo's "showing her the ropes" dream (she never exercises that power again on camera), and once to have a fun little gimmick in the (awesome) fight scene in the hotel (eternal staircase paradox). Granted, it figures in in more subtle ways, like something in the real world causing a shift in dream-reality, but didn't you notice that pretty much most of the stuff in those dreams was relatively realistic? Dreamlike in some aspects, sure, but not nearly as paradoxical, surreal, or nonsensical as most the dreams I have.

Now, I was intrigued by the "heist movie" approach Nolan took. It was hit or miss for me. On the plus side, it totally reimagined and in many ways did away with the cliches that come with heist movies. But in using such a classic Hollywood format, as I mentioned earlier, he skimmed over some actual substance. Total moral lapses were involved in order to right Leo's past mistakes, but after it's all over they just have the "FUCK YEA." Ocean's 11-esque sequence (cliche alert) with the slo-mo and the glances at each other's faces, like they just robbed a rich asshole and got away with it and are totally absolved of all moral responsibility. But they completely altered another human being's reality and life, by convincing him of something that was completely fabricated and quite possibly untrue (his father's desire for him to forge his own path, i.e. split up the company). So Leo gets his kids back, asian dude gets rich, and not ONCE is this up for discussion. Probably because the movie gave its audience enough to think about without throwing moral quandaries into the mix...

As for the ambiguous ending, I have zero opinion, because how can you have one? It's ambiguous; dreams are ambiguous, existence is ambiguous, and sometimes the endings of movies are ambiguous. Though quite frankly, Nolan would have a lot to explain if the top had fallen. Dunno if that really fits into the rest of the film (I guess that's why I've heard people debating it).

If I had to give it a grade, it would be a B, B- maybe. Lots of really really good stuff, but you can NOT make a movie that fast-paced and still have tons of exposition. Either slow down and let me process and accept the world you've created at a normal pace, or make it less interesting, honestly. Ditch the substance, stick to the heist-ness, and draw me in with the suspense!

So. Granted, to fulfil all of my wishes for this film to realize its true potential, it would probably have to be four hours long. And that would try my patience in other ways. So why not a book? Reader can take it at their own pace, vital exposition can be given the time it deserves, and maybe the damn thing could dive more into what it really means to dream, rather than using dreams as the backdrop for a Hollywood movie. Ah well. A man can dream.


Congrats if you made it this far down (unless you skipped to here. I don't really blame you, just don't try to argue if you haven't read it). I've just done two REEEEALLY long posts, so expect a break from me. Peter, we await the next interesting thing you have to post...maybe that submission?

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