A common complaint from movie critics when summer rolls along are that all the studio movies are either sequels, remakes, or based on video games, comic books, or television shows. So when a big budget movie based on an original screenplay comes out they get a little overzealous in their praise. Even if the movie isn’t all that original.
I saw Inception last week, but I’d already seen it eleven years earlier when it was called The Matrix. I saw it a year before that too when it was called Dark City.
Inception is visually stunning and for the most part has riveting tension which keeps you interested, but it’s neither fun nor thought provoking. It’s a movie filled with rules and complications, but is not what one could call complex. Some reviews have compared it to a Stanley Kubrick flick. From technical aspects of filmmaking perhaps that argument could be made, but on an artistic level that kind of talk is blasphemy.
In most of Kubrick’s work you could leave the theater with a hundred different interpretations and none of them being correct. When you leave Inception the only debates you can have are how many movies Leonardo DiCaprio has portrayed a doomed lover and whether supporting actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Keanuesque performance was a deliberate tip of the hat to The Matrix. (There is also a true or false open ended question before the end of the credits as opposed to the essay questions at the ends of Eyes Wide Shut and 2001).
It’s a shame. When director Christopher Nolan started out he made some really great, original movies in The Following and Memento. Memento took the kind of original idea of telling its story backwards (Seinfeld had already done a backwards episode years earlier and Tarantino had made out of sequence narratives in movies the norm in the nineties), but beyond the gimmick Memento was a movie you could watch endless times and still catch a new detail. Nolan’s more recent movies The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and Inception have all been classy and kind of good, but they lack characters that you grow attached toward, moments that you remember or ideas that blow your mind. They’re as cold and heartless as cheating on your wife with a robot. And not half as fun.