Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Dream Wars, part one: The Phantom (Mal) Menace

Unlike Brandon I *do* have James Bond dreams- where I'm being chased or I'm discovering something or on a mission of some sort- they're really exciting and often a welcome change of pace from my more or less ordinary "real" life. And it's true that my dreams jump around a bit more, but you have to remember that these guys are presumably skilled at manipulating the dream world and using it to their advantage during extractions. So I was on board with the dream world setting right from the start. I also liked the fortress in the snow- it was very different from the other two settings, which I felt effectively kept it visually interesting. The contrast between the relative darkness of the hotel and the brightness of the snow was striking and I enjoyed switching back and forth among all three dream worlds. Again, it was like an amusement park ride. Plus, I love snow action scenes. Snow Job was my first and favorite G.I. Joe figure, after all.

What I consider to be the major flaw in Inception, and what I think opens it up to accusations of not having a heart, is that it tries to play the human interest story card too obviously. And because its heart needs a pacemaker, the assumption is that the whole film is flawed. You both made comparisons to Shutter Island- while I would agree that it was overall a better film, I would perhaps disagree with your reasons. Scorcese is better, as I mentioned, at knowing how much a story can hold; Nolan put too much on his support beams and the whole thing is creaking a little. But the general design is solid. Shutter Island, as I mentioned, had a very straightforward premise- confusion between two realities. It relies heavily on the audience buying "the big reveal" at the end- and because Scorcese is so skillful, we do. But Inception requires the audience to buy the basic premise (a perspective of the very nature of reality itself) throughout the entire film, something that is much more difficult to accomplish. What would Scorcese do with dreams within dreams? With the notion of limbo beneath the deepest levels of consciousness? My guess is that it's not something he cares too much about, given the type of film he's been known for to this point. Conversely, Nolan took some pretty big risks with Inception, and they all didn't pay off. But I have to admire him for taking them. And, unlike Shutter Island, Inception has been giving my imagination a lot to do in the last few days.

I really do wish he had done something different with the dead wife subplot. What it accomplished in adding another level of peril (DiCaprio's character endangering the rest) I liked, but there are a number of different ways Nolan could have done that without having to go the "man who will do anything to get back to his kids including kill his dead wife who's really just a projection of his own consciousness" route. You know, because that's been done before ;).

I had the thought at one point that DiCaprio's character actually had a part of his wife's consciousness trapped in his own mind (I watched Fringe not too long ago, remember)- which would have been an interesting subplot, albeit one that would have confused the film even further.

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