I watched Inception on April 13. Here’s a review from then!
Heh. The internet has been raving up and down about it since its release… what, two years ago? I can’t even count the amount of Cracked articles there are about it, and apparently dubbing something mildly paradoxical as “[noun]-CEPTION” is the height of internet hilarity. Not to mention all the discussions that have erupted over it. I suppose there’s good reason to be nuts over it.
But you know me, I don’t really do anything everyone else is doing. Skyrim? Not for me – yet! Inception? Pfft, please! Using a combination of male and female sexual organs for pleasure and/or producing offspring? God, everyone’s been doing that! Let me know when people have found a way of making our genitalia into short-wave radio transmitters and then I’ll be interested.
There’s also the matter of how I’m crazy biased against Christopher Nolan. Okay, I’ve only seen his Batman films, but he’s got a very signature vibe; which is good and bad. He’s got an eye for artistic direction and dark themes, which is good. All of his films seem to focus around boring white guys in suits. Which is bad. Seriously, Batman Begins was a stinker of a movie, and it didn’t help how everyone was a white guy in a suit. Give one of them gloves or something, a moustache, anything to make them identifiable! Inception does give us the privilege of two main characters who aren’t white: a Chinese business man and an Arabian chap. They’re pretty neat and identifiable. And you can spot Leonardo DiCaprio’s gormless face from the back side of Mars, so identifying him isn’t an issue. Everyone else, though…
Also, female characters! Have any of Nolan’s movies had actual female characters with… well, character? There were women in the Batman flicks, but I sure as hell can’t remember who they were or what they did, if anything. Heck, do his male characters have character, for that matter? Inception’s girl student isn’t a character so much as an audience viewpoint, something for the characters to dump exposition on, and hell if I can tell what Leo’s wife was meant to be. But I digress.
Everyone knows the basic plot, right? Dudes enter dreams of people and… do shit. Chinese businessman pays Leo and his cronies to put an idea into a business heir’s head, because apparently that’s totally what the world needs – more white guys in suits doing stuff in suits. There’s like three dreams within a dream so they can really establish their idea plant, but they’ve got the heir’s mental defences to deal with and also Leo’s head being fucked up and having his wife enter the picture. Craziness ensues.
I watched it last night (Friday, Apr 13!) and my mind was elsewhere so I can’t remember the complicated ins and outs of the story, but let’s face it, when every concept in the film is also in a Scrooge McDuck comic strip, it’s not going to be that weird – it’s just Inception has more white guys in suits expo-dumping. It’s a hard movie to watch when the entire bloody internet has talked about it – I knew the themes, I knew the concepts, I even knew the ins and outs of the apparently ambiguous ending (it’s only the fate of Leonardo DiCaprio, so who cares?) before I had watched it, so it was pretty damn spoiled for me.
I enjoyed it enough, though. I’m always a sucker for stories focusing on dreams and the psyche, and Leo’s sub-plot about memories and his wife was an unexpected inclusion, if a bit hard to follow. There was some pretty creative stuff, like the time extension of dreams, how the sleeping environments alter the dream environments, and so on. A lot of great eye candy – the gravity-shifting hotel brawl was great, as well as whoever-it-was’s plan to ‘kick’ everyone awake without gravity using an elevator shaft.
My personal beef is that there wasn’t enough of that. A number of dream environments just seemed pretty ordinary. I suppose that’s an inherent problem of a film about dreams – it’s never going to seem as magical if you were dreaming them yourself. My brother tells me a lot of this action film-esque dreams, and hearing him describe them is always intriguing, even if the cynical side of me is thinking “you watched 28 Days Later recently, didn’t you?” Seeing similar environments in film… just isn’t the same, because it’s films like that that inspire said dreams in the first place. A film of a dream inspired by a film isn’t going to work as well as it is in your head. Dreaming that you and your crew are infiltrating an arctic base to open a vault sounds like it’d be a pretty nifty way to spend your sleeping hours, but it’s the sort of thing we’ve already seen in a dozen James Bond films – except usually the white guys in suits in those films were a bit more recognisable.
Again with the white guys in suits, the dreams were very… contained. Very controlled. That’s the point, I guess – you can’t do missions if the dream is contorting and shifting theme in a state-of-consciousness manner. There’s one scene where a white guy in a suit (he’s got facial fuzz – I guess he’s meant to be British, but I can hardly tell) chastises his comrade for trying to take care of enemies with a mere assault rifles, and then lifts a grenade launcher from off-screen. Now that’s intriguing. They’re in a dire situation where the mental defences are locking them down, so it only makes sense to ‘will’ a solution into existence. A concept that would be hard to carry without just spawning deus ex machinas every five seconds, or like a childrens’ game of cowboy. “You can’t shoot me, I’ve got bullet-proof armour!” “Nuh uh, my bullets are bullet-proof!” “Nuh- uh!” “Nuh uh!” And so forth.
I enjoyed the film. The plethora of spoilers did hamper the experience, and my petty Christopher Nolan bias probably didn’t help, but it was nice to see what all the fuss was about. Didn’t do much for me, though.