I loved The Prestige. I, of course, loved Batman Begins and the Dark Knight. I haven’t seen but bits and pieces of Memento because I didn’t originally see it and I kinda want to save it for a time when I’ve got a while to watch from front to back, not when I poke in on the cable movie channels and it randomly shows up half-way through.
When I first saw the previews for Inception, I was all about it.
Christopher Nolan and Leo DiCaprio doing a movie about people who steal things from your dreams? Cartesian-heavy philosophical plot promised by taglines? Matrix-like action and surrealist visuals? Giant supporting cast including half a dozen actors who generally kick ass?
Yeah, I was sold from day one. I knew I would have to see this movie.
When I walked in to the theater this Tuesday, the bar had been raised pretty high. The major reviewers had given it, for the most part, high marks. Facebook exploded in a torrent of status updates proclaiming that Inception was awesome. All except for one person on my friends list, who despised the movie, gave it one thumb up at the very least. People had talked about needing to see it again after their first viewing because it was that good.
The theater was packed to the gills. This was extremely odd for the usual Tuesday night screenings in which my wife and I regularly partake. I found myself getting slightly more excited for the movie than I already was. A few people were already discussing portions of the movie without spoiling their newbie friends (and your humble narrator). They seemed just as excited to be at their second screening as I was to be at my first.
For once, I was content to let my wife abscond with all of the popcorn. I knew I wouldn’t want it once the lights went down and I started paying attention.
I was upset that I had paid $5 for the whole seat in the theater when I had assumed I would only need the edge.
Turns out it was $5 well spent. I wound up using the entire seat and both armrests as well as the lean function.
I’m not saying I didn’t like Inception. It had all the advertised elements.
It was clearly a Nolan flick. Leo and the awesome indie-flick-style cast (including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Ken Wantanabe, Marion Cotilliard, and the inevitable Nolan staple, Michael F***ing Caine) delivered the Descartes and the Matrix-like action sequences. The FX department delivered the stunning surrealist visuals.
Why, then, if it was everything I wanted it to be, did I leave the theater unsure of the quality of the movie I’d just seen? I had just sat through a heavy-handed, two-and-a-half-hour long, Escher-esque, philosophically-heavy gun ballet which encourages the viewer to question their own reality. That speaks to many elements I like at the same time. How is it possible that I could be so shaken that the movie I had just seen might not have been that good?
Again, I’m not saying I didn’t like Inception. Quite simply, I just don’t know how to feel about it.
It’s not like the flick creeped me out or something. I’ve been paying attention to reality-questioning philosophy since I was in sixth grade. I’ve wanted to teach myself to dream lucidly for probably just as long, but never had the patience. I love the concept of it all. I just… I don’t know.
Have I seen this fish before? That could possibly be it. Another reviewer for a much higher profile publication than a working-man’s blog said that Nolan is “less a disciple of Kubrick and more of a bastard Wachowski brother.” Maybe that was it, I dunno. Maybe it was too reminiscent of the Matrix.
The more I think about it, though, it was the set up of the entire end-game, which seemed rather obvious from the first ten minutes. I will refrain from any true spoilers for the benefit of those who have not yet seen the movie.
The whole film seems to build on that one starting moment, though, and from that scene the flashback branches down to the exact point at where it started. Have movies I’ve loved done this before? Absolutely. One that springs right to mind was Fight Club.
I think what this movie was missing (and which Fight Club and its ilk possess to the first time viewer) is the Shamalanian/Hitchcock-esque/typically Nolan-esque twist. They gave you too much up front and entertained you with subplots, fight scenes, and philosophy while you ultimately waited for that first scene to arrive in proper context. They spent enough time alluding to it throughout the dialogue. They most certainly gave you enough set-up to get there. When it happened, I found myself thinking “finally…”
And, if you don’t see the last shot coming after at least half-way through the movie, you’re probably not trying.
If you’re super-psyched to see this flick, see it. By all means. Go to the theater and enjoy. For the third time, I’m not saying I didn’t like it. It was a fun romp through a sort of familiar but not too different philosophical garden with guns and shifting gravity.
If the trailer didn’t immediately catch your fancy (as was the case with my wife), wait until you can get it on Redbox or Netflix or HBO. Maybe catch it at the cheapie-theater for a buck.
It’s worth seeing… if you know you’ll be into it.
Bidula’s Last Word: 7.5/10
Keep fighting the good fight.