Culture & Conversation

If It Only Had A Heart

Ok, Hollywood, you have truly conquered us: you have already captured the surreal with “time-slicing” and “bullet-time” (The Matrix); you have rendered epic fantasy mercilessly to celluloid (Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean); you have mastered over us with computer-generated actors (Avatar.) And with Inception, your latest blockbuster success “story,” you have done the unimaginable: you have taken the very highest form of imaginative states – that of dreams – and stuck it up on screen for all of us to experience.

Congratulations. Well done. Kudos. Mazel tov. Way to go. Right on.

Holy fuck, that was COOL.

Now how shall we rate Inception? It seems we’ve gone beyond the star system or Tomatometer or standard decimal rating. None of these seem worthy enough. But we mere mortals only have so much at our disposal, so we’ll venture a try with the old, starry classic.

How about 160 stars out of five?

At a budget of 160 million that seems about right. But the film will generate much, much more dollar revenue than that. Perhaps we’ll reserve our star rating until after Inception has come out on Blu-Ray. Whatever the final sales are, make that our rating – out of five, of course. Whatever out of five.

Not good enough? Well, Christopher Nolan, if you find our rating system a little too complex to fathom, perhaps that’s just what you deserve. Because anyone who says they understand what is going on in this film is delusional. After all, the whole film itself is a dream… or not (insert spooky synth riff here.)

Lost? Then perhaps a flimsy attempt at a plot summary is in order.

DiCaprio, Juno and a bunch of other guys are a part of this team who, individually, can get into your dreams and mess around with them. It’s called “Extraction.” They can also get into your dreams and plant an idea there. It’s called “Inception.” To do this, they bring the whole team into the target’s dream then bring the target into their dreams, and so forth.

Why? Because it’s the only way to plant an idea, apparently. So they try to do this because otherwise their target will become an Energy Superpower (or something). Only when they do, DiCaprio accidentally brings with him the evil dream memory of his dead wife, Édith Piaf.

Still lost? It doesn’t matter. At the very least this means that you, the viewer, get to watch dreams happen right in front of you on the big screen! Watch Paris fold over itself! See snowy, mountain fortresses get assaulted! Witness cities crumbling before you! And, all the while (ALL the while) Hans Zimmer hammers out haunting, suspenseful music!

Why, that’s almost as good as dreaming for real!!!

Of course, your own dreams are much more vivid and compelling than that. Even without all the explosions and the special effects and the incessant soundtrack, your dreams are better because they involve you on a personal, emotional level. Your dreams FEEL real, rather than simply look and sound real. Your dreams get your heart involved.

Inception is the cutting edge of what you can do, Hollywood, though you’ll certainly surpass this with even greater acts of computer “creativity” before too long. You will do your job, which is to bring in the billions while entertaining the millions. That is your job, isn’t it?

Well, there are a few of us – perhaps only a very few of us – who are almost completely unmoved by Inception, and we’re not afraid to say so. In fact, if you’re going to bully us into liking this categorically unfeeling film, we will throw it right back at you, Hollywood.

Go on, Hollywood. Make us cry. Do it. Tell us a story we can actually follow, rather than one we can all pretend to follow. Can’t you fight your own battles? Or are you going to get your CGIs to fight them all for you? Do you have the guts?

You’ve already got my lunch money, Hollywood.

Now do an “Inception” on my heart.

  • 3 Responses to “If It Only Had A Heart”

    1. freshwatermermaid

      Pretend to follow? There were only 4 levels, David Lynch would have this film for lunch. First, the ending wasn't a suspense; the two children blondie kept remembering for months were still the same age, and in fact doing exactly the same thing, meaning that apparently, small children don't age and live on grass for months/years at a time.

      Further, the saddening addition of Ellen Paige as the 'one person the guy could confide in' is only the latest in a string of sausage party flicks by Nolan where the women are furniture at best, at worst (in this case) non-existent.

      The eye-candy was great and the music was fine. But Nolan is fast becoming the next Shyamalan: he had one good idea – memento, also a dude flick, but well-executed – and then let off a string of good-enough's instead of actually crafting a narrative.

      Perhaps I'm less forgiving of Inception than the Dark Knight or The Prestige, but that's only fair. Inception failed to include either David Bowie or Christian Bale, making this hollow storyline a nightmare.

    2. Gayle Irwin

      The movie certainly sacrificed 'story' for abstract 'idea' and 'CG startle'. For me, it's not an outrage but a shame since the idea was worth exploring more carefully precisely *because* it could have been psychologically and emotional disturbing.

      When I left the theatre I kept thinking, "This movie would have made a better game."

      If it were a game, we'd play the dreams with an avatar, have a hand in constructing them, and feel them disolving around us. Wouldn't that be more akin to the dream experience we were supposed to empathize with… but didn't? The game-space, itself, would add depth to the architecture and time issues the movie attempts to explore, as well as the questions about identity and agency, and the various technologies we use to simulate and, well, screw around with our dreams.

      (At the very least the movie needed to be a novel, or a full season television series in order to get us emotionally involved in the characters, by providing more complex and compelling back stories and personal plot lines).

      They chose the wrong medium.

    3. Coralie Duchesne

      My coments come way after the event but I just read Adam Kelly's excellent and incisive review of this.:If It Only Had A Heart' . Precisely.I had felt mazed by the well known reviews that were out there. I agree ,too, with Gayle Irwin that perhaps the concept needed more complex back stories. I thought i'd scream if there was another car crash during the excessively long drawn out theme. Also I question why every time the wife appeared she was ushered in by musical background of Edith Piaf singing. Neither the husband nor wife belonged age-wise to Piaf fans generation . Could it simply be a Director's choice becasue Marianne Coutillard played Piaf in a moving and popular bio -pic. earlier? Shamefully easy way to tug at the heartstrings! Yes, a shame Nolan let high tech overeach a more emotionaly complex plot and some some good actors.


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