Inception

Bruce Willis, holding a pig in his hand, while troops on fire march in formation behind him


I can now take great pleasure in its being worse than I remembered. This doesn't count as being wrong. It counts as not being right enough.
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Reported on 23rd of January, 2014

Being lazy, and not really understanding how the internet works, I recently discovered RiffTrax, which is sort of the better, funnier, more insightful and paid version of whatever the hell it is I do. Fortunately, I won’t be losing my readership anytime soon (see ‘paid’, sentence previous). If you didn’t bother with the link, or don’t have knowledge of the outside (technically the inside) world, it’s basically the ol’ MST3K guys finally taking it to the movies that deserve it, instead of the ones they could just afford.

Inception

16 July 2010 @ The Duke of York's


-$21.00 or, if one must be jejune, and one must... 
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

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RiffTrax also allows me to see films again that I have no desire to see, and finally write about them here. This would include, as part of an impressive binge, Inception, which, to my mind, our gentle space travelers did not rip into nearly enough. I know this by virtue of the fact that I did hear some occasional dialog.

Now I detest Inception, and not just because it is a terrible film. It is also an overpraised terrible film. But over the years (two technically) I had begun to think, given all the people going on and on about it, that maybe it had some imagination or flair. Maybe, I thought over time, I was wrong. Well, and lucky you, I’ll never say that again. Having seen it the second time, I can now take great pleasure that it was even worse than I remembered.

Which doesn’t count as being wrong. It counts as not being right enough.

I had the weirdest dream: a bunch of people...in a nice hotel. They were standing...in a circle.

For the first, let us consider the subject of the film. Beyond the story, films succeed in their Zeitgeistiness, the way they plug into whatever it is we’re having a freak-out about culturally speaking. For Inception, the topic is…corporate hijinks. There’s the baffling sense that this film, like the idiotic Arbitrage or Wolf of Wall Street, was made in a world where assholes hadn’t bankrupted the world, and, by said virtue, might be the equivalent of making a film about child-molesters at Aushwitz who are super mean to their doggies.

Don’t worry, they don’t hurt them. Come on now.

Worse still, the desires of corporations are just so boring. One character doesn’t want to sell his company, and the other one does. This is because of global something or other. Whatever the explanation was, it was so boring my brain couldn’t process it. That, or it was yet another half-baked convenient idea. In either case, there’s nothing less interesting, ever, than corporate hijinks. If you don’t believe me, see night-time-tension-free-characterless-so-you-can-get-some-rest Duplicity. Scratch that, I’m not a teacher who has sex with his students while taking welfare for an accident I didn’t have. Don’t see it, and just agree with me.

Thing is, the core concept – invading dreams – is a good one. And maybe that’s what we remember. But use the idea is something else, anything else:

1) Analyze This: Mr. Billy Crystal invades Mr. Robert DeNiro’s mind to make him feel less sad about, well, all that killing he does.

2) Love Potion Nr. 9 (original cast). What would work better than planting idea that someone loves you, especially if they’re doing the same to do.

3) Spy Game: Because it was terrible, and anything would make it better.

4) All three of the above combined, which I’m pretty sure was the plot of Tyler Perry’s Medea’s Family Reunion.

5) The Dead Zone, because wouldn’t we want to go into Mr. Martin Sheen’s mind and see why we liked nuclear holocausts so much. Other than the obvious, of course.

6) Clockwork Orange. Let’s face it, we’ve reached the point in society where the doctor in this film is no longer the bad guy. Finally Clockwork Orange told from the perspective of the sympathetic character!

7) Batman. You find out his secret identity putting him under, and going into his dreams man.

What’s that? Why not just look under his mask? Yeah, that’s kind of where I’m coming from, since besides subject matter, Inception really distinguishes itself as a disastrous failure on basic story mechanics. Rules are applied, go out the window, are applied in a different way outside (see ‘window’, previous). It is the equivalent of a the movie reboot of Criminal Minds or an episode of the TV version of Battleship, where the Deus ex Situationus means the film potato rices the characters into increasingly preposterous situations in an attempt to make us feel something.

Worse at an art house cinema?

Worse at an art house cinema?

Crap, It just occurred to me. I was going to make a whole list of idiotic and contradictory ideas, and I just thought of another one, and it’s a doozy. Okay, Mlle. Cotillard kills herself and sets Mr. DeCaprio up for murder. This is a classic, albeit tired by 1947, film noir trope. If her goal is revenge in the afterlife, this makes perfect sense. If her goal is to get him to come with her in death, well, there are about a zillion other ways to do that. And so, a la Dr. Strangelove:

‘Of course, the whole point of a an elaborate suicide/murder plot with certificates of sanity and planted evidence is lost, if you keep it a secret!’

‘It was to be announced at the CAA hug trust retreat on Monday. As you know, JJ Abrams loves surprises.’

But that’s not her real goal, is it? No her real goal, like so many female characters, is to provide theoretical (read ‘boring’) motivation for the male protagonist, to create an obstacle to the children. You know, the same children he’s secretly grateful he doesn’t have to raise so he can do all the cool dream stuff.

The problem of this kind of crap is that it is additive. That is to say, he left in all in. Most of the ideas were junk, some were tolerable, but none of them, none of them work together. Falling wakes you up, unless you’re in a van. You are trapped in a dream forever, unless someone saves you. Which they can do sometimes. And all this is happening in a film that does not take place in a known universe, which means that every time a situation comes up, you have to explain the rules which you going to break in a few minutes. The double downside of this is a series of long, god it’s long, explanation of what’s happening, having it happen, then having a new explanation, and the same thing with the proviso that one need not link to the other.

And that would have been fine, this utter failure on the basics of story and character and theme and tedium, if the ideas were all that great. We don’t see movies just for stories, but for the look, or just a bunch of cool stuff happening. Unfortunately the entire film, being about dreams, has less creativity in it than the fingernail of the craft service guy that worked just the one day on Eternal Sunshine; he’s the one who told Mssr. Gondry to do that freaky eye thing with Mr. Elijah Wood. Let’s call this a massive missed opportunity, that the coolness of dreams, their breaks, their vagueness, the inexplicable presence of Ted Danson (that doesn’t actually happen for me, by the way. I don’t even know why I said that. No, I can’t come up with a single explanation) is transformed into well, I guess it’s a kind of dream. If you count the anxiety nightmares Sir Ridley Scott must have before working on an Absolut ad. I had the weirdest dream: a bunch of people…in a nice hotel. They were standing…in a circle. Wild, man, wild.

Does this mean I paid for it twice?

Does this mean I paid for it twice?

Think of the one interesting (visually speaking) scene, where Paris turned into a cube. This is the closest that Mr. Nolan was ever going to get to the neat power dreams have to utterly transform reality, and to make us believe that we’ve lived there our whole lives. But it serves, within the film, as an introduction to the architect character, and not in the story part, where, you know it would have been great. Well, maybe not great, but certainly better than the mediocre second level of the PS3 port The World Is Not Enough (what, couldn’t afford the rights to rip off Goldeneye N64?). The scene in the snow fort distinguishes itself largely because it is blander that a mid-00s Bond film.

Ultimately Mr. Nolan needed an editor. Certainly with the film, but I’m speaking now of the internal one, that does two things: 1) it rejects stupid ideas, and 2) rejects good ideas that don’t fit with other good ideas. There’s both the sense of including everything, and the sense of ignoring anything that relate to the weirdness of dreams, and their deeply embarrassing connection to our idiotic desires. This dream world is thus less an accurate depiction of dreams, than it is an attempt to make whatever it is you wrote down when you woke up into a movie. Sometimes it’s ‘what if people lived in The Matrix’. Sometimes it’s ‘He’s wearing a vest!’ Sometimes it’s ‘cat’s whiskers are rainbows, man’.

Scratch that. I’d see that movie.

The Take

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Profits!
There’s a moment in the trailer, where they combine the Paris stuff with Ms. Ellen Page screaming ‘wake me up’ that gives the impression of threat and forward drive. It was a happy time, before the movie came out.
$4.00
The core concept is interesting…
$3.00
Total Profits
$7.00
Losses!
…executed via the one concept that could drain it of all tension. This almost counts in the plus column, as I feel it’s something even Hr. Uwe Boll wouldn’t mistakenly try.
$3.00
The idea that ‘I was disappointed that you tried’ is something a father says to reassure his son, gives you an indication where the lack of depth of the dreams comes from.
$2.00
The ‘Was it all just a dream?’ ending.
$3.00
The memories of film school that the The ‘Was it all just a dream?’ ending invoked.
$6.00
Implementation of P/P.X 2
Total Losses
$28.00

-$21.00

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