Inception: Overrated much?

Mild spoilers ahead

Say you have a really good concept. Say you also have a huge budget so you could build amazing CGI sets, massive action scenes and cast huge stars. You have all the good ingredients. But you fail to make the best out of it. All you get is an average action packed film that takes itself way too seriously. That’s Nolan’s “Inception”.

One of the main problems is the writing. Nolan had a great concept, but he failed to make a good story out of it. So the end result is this CGI & action heavy mess, a pretty shell with no real substance. It tries really hard to be deep and meaningful, but it’s quite banal.

… And predictable

I don’t know if Nolan himself is uneducated, or if he believes his audience is uneducated, but “Inception” was full of so-called Dan Brown or Paulo Coehlo moments. You know what I mean: something should be puzzling and with a deeper meaning, but it’s actually quite simple and obvious to anybody who is at least a bit educated.

Namely, what spoiled the movie for me was Ariadne. I have no idea why Nolan named the character this way, but it was a huge spoiler for any person who is familiar with the Greek myth (and I am sure there are many of us who are). Ariadne is introduced in the movie as the architect – but we know that Ariadne from the myth didn’t build the maze, Daedalus did. Ariadne was there to help the hero escape the maze and the Minotaur.

So basically, the whole Cobb subplot was quite predictable right from the start. The only question left in the first 20 minutes was: who’s Minotaur? But this became obvious pretty fast (my French sucks a big time, but I do understand bits – another Nolan’s mistake in naming a character).

So, I was more interested in Bobby Fisher’s story, but, alas, it was quite uninspiring and banal. I mean, when you think about it, the whole plot of the film is them messing with an innocent person’s mind (and his life) just for the lulz. Nobody ever explained why is, oh, so important and epic to destroy the Fisher company. So it was quite difficult to care about whether the Inception would work or even why is that so important in the first place. Fail.

At the (ambiguous) end, I didn’t bother to care whether it was all a dream or not.

Clumsy storytelling

I blame it all on the messy script. There were just too many things that didn’t work, script wise.

For example, exposition was forced down our throat, over and over again. Some things were obvious the first time we saw them – there was really no need to explain them again and again. It’s obvious right from the start that Cobb’s wife was dead. Or that Fisher wanted his father to care about him. We got it. Now please move on.

The time wasted on this could have been used to explore all those things that were shown, but never got any proper use in the film. Street/space bending, for example, was really interesting, but was never really shown later in the film. Same goes for totems and their importance.

Not to mention the main premise: Robert Fisher’s inception itself. Why was it so important? Why should we care about the mission? We don’t. There was really nothing important at stake: the world was not in danger, no lives were in danger, no epic story was going on, nothing. It was really difficult to invest emotionally or to care about the mission.

The whole movie failed to raise any important questions or issues. Which is fine for an action flick, but this one had an ambition to be much deeper. It wasn’t.

The good things

The corridor fight scene was pretty cool. And this comes from a person who generally hates action scenes. The main concept is pretty interesting (which is the saddest thing about this movie – the concept itself had a huge potential). Also, Tom Hardy was cute.

All in all

Am I saying this was a horrible flick? Not at all. It was watchable. But it’s main problem is the fact it takes itself WAY too seriously, while it’s pretty mediocre. With such a great concept, there were virtually hundreds of possible stories and plots, but they decided to focus on pretty banal ones.

Nolan is far from being a bad director, but he is not really a good writer. He has an imagination, but is not a particularly skillful storyteller.

Also, he tends to get lost in huge budgets, which is never a good thing. If you have all the money for huge explosions, star cast, massive action scenes, limitless CGI, you tend to forget about the basics: the story itself. I think “Inception” would be twice as good with its budget cut in half. It’s once again proven that, indeed, less is more.

Less is more, Nolan. Less is more.

PS- Just like any other massively popular icon, “Inception” has already generated its set of Internet memes. The most popular are the ones of Cobb and Robert Fisher Jr talking at the bar. Some of them are just plain stupid, others are horribly racist and/or sexist/homophobic. But there are some great ones that actually make the best thing about this film.

(Click to see the full sized image)

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13 thoughts on “Inception: Overrated much?

  1. Sigg3

    Everybody likes the corridor scene. It was the one lasting impression of the movie that I can still remember :)

    That, and the 007 Golden Eye for Playstation winter fighting..

  2. Mira

    Well, the corridor scene was interesting because it was original. (Unlike most of the action scenes from this movie).

    However, now that I think of it, I am not sure they explained why it was a zero gravity scene. Sure, they are falling in the level above it, but why does that affect the dream? I mean, it’s not like you can’t dream about flying without actually leaving your bed, so I don’t understand why it had to be done in zero gravity.

    Oh, and yes, the winter scene was sooooo 007.

  3. Dr. Vagrant X

    Say you have a really good concept. Say you also have a huge budget so you could build amazing CGI sets, massive action scenes and cast huge stars. You have all the good ingredients. But you fail to make the best out of it. All you get is an average action packed film that takes itself way too seriously.

    And this is exactly why Hollywood, as it currently exists, should burn to the ground. If time and film history have taught us anything it’s one thing: You don’t need a mega-billion dollar budget to make a great movie. In fact, if you’re a director/writer of any real merit, you can make a masterpiece on a shoe string budget.

    Also, I agree, the corridor scene almost made me not regret spending 7.50 (US) dollars on this tripe. And the sad thing is, watching it I realized it had so much potential in terms of both the actors and the concept.

    However, I have to say, and this is pretty shallow praise, at least it wasn’t Avatar. lol. :D

  4. Mira Post author

    However, I have to say, and this is pretty shallow praise, at least it wasn’t Avatar. lol.

    Indeed! Avatar is definitely on the top of the most overrated movies of the decade list, and could easily get into the top 10 most overrated ever.

    Inception was fine. I watched it without a problem. I might even watch it again at some point. (This Tom Hardy… I mean, corridor scene was really interesting). The movie was average, that’s the problem.

    Avatar was utter crap in pretty clothes, while Inception is more of a mediocre flick in pretty clothes.

    So yes, give me Inception any time instead of Avatar. But it still doesn’t mean it’s a great movie or even a good one.

    My Avatar review: http://jefflion.net/archives/311

  5. Sigg3

    The corridor scene draws heavily on 2001, mind you. Not really breaking the barrier..

    I like what you say about motive and that it utterly fails to give a Reason to keep watching.

    I didn’t think about that. That’s probably because I saw it at the movies, and was stuck in the middle of the row. Having paid for BOTH me and the GF I decided not to sleep it out.

    My GF thought it was UTTER CRAP but I didn’t think it was so bad. But hey, if you analyze the- OOOH SHINY!

  6. Mariana

    I liked Inception, it was fun to watch, but in the end I was like… blah! Good but not all of that. But it was watchable indeed.

    The name thing it wasn’t supposed to be a spoiler, I think authors/writers of any kind think that choosing a name that is linked to something else is interesting or intelectual stuff. Our dear J.K. Rowling did that in almost all her characters. Sirius being a big black dog is a classic example.

    About the mission issue, I think that Nolan didn’t focus on the reason why they had to destroy the company. The only thing that matters in that this mission is a way for Cobb to get to his children again. Still, that explains nothing.

    Hollywood is full of great directors that are awful writers. James Cameron is a good exemple. Let’s give the guy his merit, he’s a good director, and his movies would be really, really nice to watch if the dialogs and plots weren’t soooooooooo lame. He has all money to do such nice effects, why in the hell doesn’t he hire a writer???

    The world has more uneducated people than educated ones. And even educated ones like stuff like Avatar and Inception (still, Inception is more likeable) and whenever I start to complain about this, I’m just the person who likes to annoy people around me with “intelectual” stuff. So… whatever.

  7. Mira

    Sigg3,

    The corridor scene draws heavily on 2001, mind you. Not really breaking the barrier..

    True, true. Still, it worked well in the context of the movie. it was a memorable scene and unique enough (in lack of a better word), unlike generic James Bond action.

    I like what you say about motive and that it utterly fails to give a Reason to keep watching.

    Well, it certainly failed to make me care about the mission or to see what’s a big deal about the whole thing.

    Mariana,

    I liked Inception, it was fun to watch, but in the end I was like… blah! Good but not all of that. But it was watchable indeed.

    It wasn’t the utter crap. But it’s not as nearly as great as filmmakers intended. It was a fun action flick with an interesting concept. Which is fine, but the concept itself had so much potential, and it was never used.

    The name thing it wasn’t supposed to be a spoiler, I think authors/writers of any kind think that choosing a name that is linked to something else is interesting or intelectual stuff.

    Maybe, but it revealed way too much about the plot way too early in the movie. And given the fact Cobb’s story was, apparently, the most important and the focus of the film, knowing what’s going to happen 1.5 hours early is not the best thing. Especially with all that heavy and unnecessary exposition. We get it, she’s dead!- we got it in her first scene. There’s no need to force that down our throat.

    Our dear J.K. Rowling did that in almost all her characters. Sirius being a big black dog is a classic example.

    True, Sirius Black was quite obvious. But I didn’t guess that Sirius was, in fact, a good guy in the third chapter of Prisoner of Askaban. (Which would be analogy to guessing Inception plot in the first 20 minutes).

    About the mission issue, I think that Nolan didn’t focus on the reason why they had to destroy the company.

    I know he never focused on it. That was a major fail. If you want people to care about the Inception, you need to give them some good reason for it. Something bigger than “let’s do it for the lulz”. It was impossible for me to invest emotionally into the whole thing if I didn’t see the mission as important, interesting or to have any reason behind it. And Nolan wanted us to see it as epic. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

    Hollywood is full of great directors that are awful writers. James Cameron is a good exemple.

    Indeed. His scripts are cringe worthy. Nolan is a little better.

    The world has more uneducated people than educated ones. And even educated ones like stuff like Avatar and Inception (still, Inception is more likeable) and whenever I start to complain about this, I’m just the person who likes to annoy people around me with “intelectual” stuff. So… whatever.

    It’s not so much about annoying people with intellectual stuff. But if something is Dan Browned or Paulo Coehloed, it means the author is doing way too much simplification.

  8. zekjevets

    Maybe this makes me a clumsy American, but… I LOVED INCEPTION!!!!11!1!1!!1!!1!111!

    But seriously, lulz aside, it was a great film that elevated the American film industry by association.

    I caught the Ariadne reference, but I wasn’t sure how she would “help” the hero (since a common trope with women who love men is that they often eff things up because they think it’s a good idea), and I was curious to find this out. Also, the minotaur became obvious as Cotillard in the first dream-scene. The whole subtle Greek reference is one of the reasons I loved this movie, because Greek mythology is a not-so-secret folklore crush of mine.

    I didn’t need to know WHY the Inception needed to happen, because it was already explained when Mr. Saito said they were a rival to his company, but also because the real reason for the Inception (to me) was the need for Cobb to confront his projections of his wife, and deal with the guilt.

    The movie seemed multi-layered and complex to me, with lots of stuff to look at and wonder about. Some were dead-ends (like a maze) and some led to different endings.

    Speaking of endings, I still believe the top was going to fall. He wasn’t dreaming anymore.

    Anyhoo, I’ll stop geeking out. For now ; )

  9. Mira Post author

    Zek,

    Maybe this makes me a clumsy American, but… I LOVED INCEPTION!!!!11!1!1!!1!!1!111!

    Well, at least you admit it. (joke, joke!)

    But seriously, lulz aside, it was a great film that elevated the American film industry by association.

    Really? It was a fun film and definitely not the crappiest one out there, but I am not sure if it was truly good. I don’t mind blockbuster movies, but I think I prefer indie American movies. (Once again, there are many crappy ones, but there’s something about low budget that helps people make great movies… The opposite is true: big budgets often make you get carried away).

    I caught the Ariadne reference, but I wasn’t sure how she would “help” the hero (since a common trope with women who love men is that they often eff things up because they think it’s a good idea), and I was curious to find this out.

    Could you explain the bold part?

    I didn’t guess the exact plot, but I knew right from the start she was there to help Cobb, and not the main mission. Which was quite revealing at that point in the film.

    Also, the minotaur became obvious as Cotillard in the first dream-scene.

    I don’t remember which scene that was, but the character’s name was also quite revealing.

    The whole subtle Greek reference is one of the reasons I loved this movie, because Greek mythology is a not-so-secret folklore crush of mine.

    I hear you, but to me, it wasn’t subtle at all. (But then again, maybe it’s just me).

    I didn’t need to know WHY the Inception needed to happen, because it was already explained when Mr. Saito said they were a rival to his company,

    True, but I just didn’t see that as particularly interesting or important. There’s nothing epic or challenging about it.

    At the end of the day, the most important point of the whole movie was the fact they messed with an innocent person’s mind… And who knows what’s going to happen with the guy in the future. (We all know what Inception did to Cobb’s wife).

    This was an interesting point and I wouldn’t mind seeing something about it, but they never touched this issue (or the moral aspects of it). And I found it more interesting than the whole Leo DiCap story. (After all, the meme is right.)

    The movie seemed multi-layered and complex to me, with lots of stuff to look at and wonder about. Some were dead-ends (like a maze) and some led to different endings.

    It was complex, alright, but at the end of the day, it just seemed way too banal (but complicated just for the sake of it).

    Look, I didn’t hate the movie. I think it had an amazing concept. I really wanted to like this film. I just think he wasted this precious concept on a banal story. There could be so many better stories to tell about this universe. I am not into fan fiction, but I bet some people will come up with really imaginative stories set in the world of Inception.

    Speaking of endings, I still believe the top was going to fall. He wasn’t dreaming anymore.

    Oh, the top is definitely going to fall, at least according to Michael Caine. Apparently, his character appears only in reality and he confirmed in an interview that the top falls.

    Anyhoo, I’ll stop geeking out. For now ; )

    There’s nothing wrong with geeking out. Keep up the good work! :)

  10. zekjevets

    @mira:

    The bold part is referring to the common theme of a woman loving a man who has a goal that is against her wishes for them, so when she tries to help him, her own goals contradict his and thus bring ruin.

    Take for example The Princes Bride. Westley wants to stay with Buttercup and live happily ever after, but Buttercup just wants Westley to survive so she can die knowing she saved her true love who didn’t actually die like she thought. The problem is is that this messed up Westley’s plan to save the goddamn day! (These kinds of things happen in movies all the time.)

    As for why Caine’s character never brought the kids to France, I assumed it was some sort of “honor” thing, like when other heroic characters refuse to let their families see them in prison, etc.

    Iunno, on the whole I can tell the movie disappointed you because it didn’t capture what you expected from something like this, but for me I think the parts that bug you are easily digested for me.

    However, I love the memes that the movie inspired ; )

  11. Melina

    I can’t believe you didn’t like the movie!!! not even a little?

    While I agree with your comments, I must say I enjoyed the movie (I’ve seen it several times and it just gets better and better. Maybe you should try again?)

    I don’t know that much about mythology, but I didn’t see any name hints as a bad thing… Maybe you could have guessed the Ariadne analogy, but it just kept you interested to see the WAY they’re going to portray it, right?

    Apart from this, the movie is visually stunning… And it has Cillian Murphy in it (who looked amazing- agree?) Enough of a reason to like this film.

    Tom Hardy was just … too chubby and gay looking for my taste here (nothing wrong with gays, but I am not attracted to them).

  12. Mariana

    I know he never focused on it. That was a major fail. If you want people to care about the Inception, you need to give them some good reason for it. Something bigger than “let’s do it for the lulz”. It was impossible for me to invest emotionally into the whole thing if I didn’t see the mission as important, interesting or to have any reason behind it. And Nolan wanted us to see it as epic. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

    He gave a reason why the mission is important: it’s the only way Cobb can get near his children again.

    We’re not emotionally involved in why a company must be destroyed but people get involved when destroying a company is the only way for a man to get in touch with his children again. Get it?

    That’s not a good explanation for your question (Why is this mission important?) but it’s the only that we can see in the movie.

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