Over the weekend I eavesdropped on a conversation where someone raved about Inception and explained why the other person had to see it immediately. I remain unmoved from my earlier position on it. None of my concerns has been overridden by the people I know who’ve loved it, and after doing a quick Rotten Tomatoes search, I see that although I’m still in the minority on this, it’s a proud minority. (I am somewhat bummed, and tempted to be persuaded, by this favorable review by Scott Tobias of the AV Club. Historically, the AV Club’s reviews have been pretty strong indicators of whether I’ll like a movie or not (the music reviews, less so). I always find it vaguely distressing when I don’t care for something they rave about, almost to the point where I begin second-guessing my own take on the film.)
The review that says it best, in my opinion, is Andrew O’Hehir’s at Salon. There are many good observations in it, but a couple really hit home with me:
-“So, yeah, if you approach ‘Inception’ with lowered expectations it’s a pretty good time. Problem is, there are no lowered expectations around Christopher Nolan . . .” I couldn’t articulate this point in discussing the movie with people who wanted to view it just as a dumb action movie, and thus to grade it on a curve, but this is it. If P.T. Anderson made a really awesome, “dumb” action movie, I would be disappointed. (And in fact, one of my enduring complaints about Inception is that it’s not even a really awesome action movie: the snowmobile fighting is so difficult to follow, and thus so boring, this may as well have been G.I. Joe.)
-“All of this involves a bunch of big-ass guys shooting at each other with automatic weapons, which has to be the most arid and depressing depiction of the dream state I’ve ever encountered. There are no surreal images or nonsense dialogue, no illogical shifts of scene from the first-grade classroom to Mom’s kitchen to a whorehouse.” I was almost embarrassed to air this criticism after seeing the movie—my feeling was that Nolan must have considered a more “dreamy” dream state, but nixed that idea in favor of having the entire film be more coherent; I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to juggle so much plot, and such a complicated (I really want to say “convoluted,” actually) plot, while also working in the kinds of random shifts and wrinkles O’Hehir suggests. But, in a word, yes. I felt Nolan went far enough in nodding to certain dream aspects—you never remember how you got to a certain place in a dream, for example—that the dream states in the movie come off as uncomfortably neither-here-nor-there.
That’s probably the last I’ll say about Inception because, though it’s one of those deals where I want to keep venting about my disappointment, as if I’d been personally aggrieved, it must be said that it was a pretty solid, entertaining movie and I don’t regret having seen it. Apparently there are other movies out there, though, on DVD as well as in theaters, so I will probably turn my attention to those now.