Friday, July 30, 2010

Why Inception Is A Bad Movie

Inception is a bad movie. I'm going to skip over some complaints that aren't a big deal, then I'll address the main problem.

Dreams are completely different in real life and in Inception in basically every way. Someone pointed out that the movie would work much better if they said "subconscious" instead of "dreams", so let's just pretend that's what they did.

The rules throughout the movie are completely inconsistent, and often ludicrous. Falling in your sleeping body is supposed to pull you out of your dream, but later in the movie, they pull a switcheroo and have the dream person fall to wake up the sleeping body. The entire Limbo thing was particularly dumb, if you can just kill yourself in Limbo to wake up, then Limbo isn't a real threat, or it wouldn't be if they were being consistent. The increasing speed at lower levels is an interesting idea, but completely unjustified by the (incorrect) idea that the brain can work hundreds of time faster than it normally does*.

The naming of the characters is particularly silly. Ariadne? Are you serious?

In defense of Inception, it's not actually that confusing or hard to keep track of or understand: Some guys use a magic dream penetrating thingy to insert the idea of breaking up a company into a businessman's psyche.

The idea that there's so much "meaning" and "interpretation" to be analyzed is just piffle. There's no subtext whatsoever, and the only interpretation anyone makes is "was scene X a dream or reality?" A popular interpretation is that the entire film was a dream, which could be said of any movie whatsoever, and is therefore completely inane. There's no logic to think that the "real world" of the movie is real or dream, there's no system to determine what's real or not. The most popular dream question is the final scene, which must be a dream, unless Christopher Nolan would have us forget that children age in the real world. The time that the apartment across the street was the same apartment that Dicaprio was in was an interesting, almost subliminal, visual trick, but it doesn't mean anything.

Now the big stuff, starting with the second largest problem: The "antagonists". Inception is interesting in that it has no character serving the rolê of antagonist, the obstacles they have to work against are psychological. At some point, the people making the movie thought this would be boring, so someone decided that dreams defend themselves with gun wielding characters who attempt to eject foreign dreamers. This makes for a constant video-game-esque gunfight against faceless goons for absolutely no reason. This provides no real narrative pressure or threat, since it's a dream, and we don't care about the protagonists.

That's the largest problem with Inception, we don't care about the protagonists**. There are only two people in the movie who actually have character, and they're both rather obnoxious. The businessman is just a stuck up clichè. Leonardo Dicaprio's character, oddly named Dom Cobb(?), is the person that we're supposed to sympathize with, but he's totally uninteresting. Without an antagonist, and without a sympathetic protagonist, and with action that's almost entirely in someone's subconscious, we're left with a plot about no one in a conflict with no one over nothing in a place that isn't real. No wonder I didn't care about what happened. For such a long movie, I'd like more payoff than "unsympathetic Dom Cobb gets over the guilt of his wife's death".***

I've heard people say that they were hit hard when Cobb actually got to see his children's faces. Maybe I'm just cynical in my old age, but they didn't see that coming from a million miles away? It's so shamelessly manipulative and predictable, I can't believe people accepted that as resolution.

PS. I don't care whether the end was in a dream or not, but the way the top wobbled just a little, then ending with a cut to black, that was genius. It's very rare you hear everyone in a theater groan. Even I had a visceral reaction to that trick.

* We do not use only 10% of our brains, a myth the movie alludes to without actually quoting. There's no way we would evolve the ability to think hundreds of times faster without the potential to do it. Evolution doesn't work that way. Interesting side note: they should hook up geniuses to the dream stuff to have them do centuries of theoretical mathematics over the course of a few months.

** We also don't care about the mission. "Stop an enormous energy company from getting larger!" That's our rallying cry? Really? 

*** Why didn't Dom just tell his wife that he had Incepted the idea that they were in a dream? "Honey, I stuck that idea in your head, that's why you can't get over the idea," is better than your wife killing herself.**** And why are there so many rules about Inception if no one else had ever gotten it to work before?

****Maybe we're just not supposed to notice, but every time it cuts to Dom and his wife waking up from their Limbo dream, they don't have any of the dream sharing equipment.

28 comments:

Danielle Smith said...

I love to see this kind of criticism. I loved your line, " . . .a plot about no one in a conflict with no one over nothing in a place that isn't real." You are a pretty good interpreter of the facts.

Carsonist said...

Thanks for the compliment.

If you want to read film analysis by someone much cleverer than me, try Todd Alcott. I think he reads to much into stuff every once in a while, but he has a lot of good insight into various films.

Pescador_Gama said...

I loved this entry too, I really fund this movie boring since the beginning but was forced to see it until the end so I could really SAY it was not the big deal, I was reading other criticisms about negative opinions but I didn't liked them, they where too offensive and sounded like a raged person writing, yours is more... sincere but calm, and I agree with everything you said including the end of the movie, that to me was the best part, apart from the stolen kiss scene

Frederik Krautwald said...

The name 'Ariadne' gives meaning to the story as she, in Greek mythology, aided Theseus in overcoming the Minotaur by giving him a ball of red fleece thread that she was spinning, so that he could find his way out of the Minotaur's labyrinth. The name is also a reference to Hugo von Hofmannsthal's setting of the myth for Richard Strauss's opera Ariadne auf Naxos (1988). The opera is a play within a play, just as the movie is a dream within a dream.

Anonymous said...

'The entire Limbo thing was particularly dumb, if you can just kill yourself in Limbo to wake up, then Limbo isn't a real threat'

It depends what sedative they've used. for example what saito and group used... they used a strong sedative which means it needs to wear off before they can kill themselves. basically if you kill yourself in limbo w/o sedative wearing off... If you die in limbo you go back to limbo.

Max B said...

There was dream sharing equipment when they woke up from limbo. The suitcase thing was right above their heads.

Edward said...

In a way the brain does work faster when you are asleep. When your asleep the brain doesn't have to process a lot of information (such as sight, hearing etc). The deeper the sleep the greater the processing power the brain has available. So the increasing speed at lower levels makes complete sense.

fronzyx said...

This was the best review of Inception I saw so far.

I completely agree with everything you said, this movie is incredibly hollow and boring.

The only thing baffling about this movie is how people pretend that it is good just because it uses a dream gimmick.

Anonymous said...

You are wrong because evolution doesn't exist and God created everything and he loves us all and sent his son to die for us.....

Carsonist said...

I'm back!

1. I know Ariadne is from Greek myth, that's why it's particularly dumb

2. Brains aren't like computers, you can't use your touch center of the brain to simulate a dream version of New York. Re-mapping parts of your brain is a long and difficult process.

3. Evolution does exist; there are people who think it doesn't contrast with religion, but I'll leave that question to them.

4. To those of you who have given compliments, thanks for the kind words.

5. I can't believe I wrote "to" instead of "too" in my previous comment. Blearg.

JorgeU said...

You are completely wrong. If you didn't like the movie, it's all right by me, but you can't say that there is no meaning or interpretation to be taken out of Inception. The film is ripe with them. If you didn't like it or if you didn't understand it, then that's one thing. But it's a completely different thing to say there is no substance or significance in it. If you don't believe me, watch the interviews of Christopher Nolan. He might light you up.

lemonstale said...

I made a comment!

From Holland said...

Finally, people with the same opinion as me.

I really get irritated when people pretend this is a smart movie,

En then tell you that you probably don't ''get'' the movie because you didn't like it.

Meaning your not smart ore perhaps philosophical enough.

The flaws that are in the article reflect my opinion. Its just in a way a lazy rip of of the movie The Matrix.

Only the story of the Matrix has a framework where you can say; okay that makes sense because humans life in a digital prison created by robots. Now you can do all sorts of weird shit in the movie. (only liked the first movie)

But Inception just expects you to accept that you can enter a dream with a ''magical'' suitcase, and then they distract you with a lot of visual bullshit and ''rules'' to make it seem complicated. Manipulating you to say the movie is good because you dont want to seem dumb. Kinda like the story of ''The Emperor's New Clothes''

Its a bad bad bad movie...

Anonymous said...

I also thought that this film was boring. I totally agree with your part about the characters, and how they are boring, hollow and unimaginative. I also get told that I don't get it, and people refuse the possibility that I think, and that it is, a really bad film.

NxN said...

I don't agree with much of what you have typed here, but we are all entitled to our own opinions. I enjoyed the movie because it was visually stunning and put together well.

Some of you should get off your high horses and respect people's opinions. If they found they movie smart and classic and you didn't , guess what? Neither of you are wrong. Take a step back and realize there is more to life than sitting down and analyzing a movie you seem fit to label not even worth the 2 hours it took for you to watch it.

Carsonist said...

You seem to be under the impression that I spend a lot of time complaining about Inception. I wrote this ages ago, and walked away. Occasionally people leave a comment, and I respond.

This may be the first time I've been accused of being on a high horse, so that's cool.

NxN said...

I wasn't talking about you when I wrote that. I was mostly talking about the people that look down on people who enjoyed this movie. I respect your opinions and I thought this was well written.

Carsonist said...

Fair enough.

Brahmamurti said...

I've been accused so often of not understanding the movie when I say it's boring. So I would say that those who thought it was a great movie are the ones who look down on those who think it was boring.

Plot: implant idea in somebody else's mind so a business man can have more success. They use layers of dreaming to implant this idea.

I get the plot. People say I missed something but I haven't met anybody who is able to explain what I missed or why the movie is so great. Guess what! I can't respect that. If I realize there is something I can't properly explain then I have to give in and say so.

Maybe I found the movie boring because the concept of dream vs reality is not new to me. I have seen it in star trek ages ago. Guess what! Back then it blew my mind. I am guessing the people who think Inception is great have a similar reaction to the concept.

Strip the movie of this "thrill" and it really is quite boring.

Williams Cossette Thibodeau said...

personaly this film is one of my favorite, I liked the history, I didn't stop to what I didn't like, sure your review made me think of it but I can't say I don't like it.

I'm gooing to study in film making, and this movie is also very helpfull because of the film techniques and the quality...

Anonymous said...

Yeah I totally did not even want to try to figure out this thing the way you did.I just was so uninvolved with it, I ended up casually seeing bits and pieces of it cause there was nothing else on tv.This has got to be one of the most boring movies of all time.

GoldMogul said...

Look at you, should do a review of Cloud Atlas and Looper next XD

Carsonist said...

Man, I didn't see either of those. Is it bad that I only go to movies I'm pretty sure I'm going to like?

Anonymous said...

I'd disagree. I really cared about the protagonist, and I saw the entire movie as visual essay on catharsis with the people you've lost. It was the overarching theme of the plot and the subplots. It's the protagonist's motive for his decisions, his tragic flaw is his guilt and inability to have catharsis and move on with his dead wife. Fischer's subplot is all about catharsis with his neglectful father.`The recurring motif of the apartment, Mal, and his children were all there to reinforce his nostalgia and inability to move on. All of these things make this movie less about dreams and more about making a really focused story about regret and moving on mentally. Really, the film isn't about Fisher's inception, but rather Cob's Inception. As someone who has experienced such a need for closure, I loved this movie.

Akseli said...

Dear Carsonist,

Firstly, I would like to state that I disagree with you on almost every single statement you made in this post.

It is amusing to see how seriously can a person compare a science fiction movie to the logic of real life. All the whining about the concept of dream being very different from our reality is stupid. It is a movie, it should not be compered to our reality. The plot happens in the movies own reality that is created for it. As the concept of dream works in certain way through out the movie, following the reality of the movie, there should be nothing to complain.

What comes to the Limbo, it rather clearly explained why it in this case is dangerous to die in. Don't you think so?

Antagonist does not necessarily have to be a specific character. Antagonist is something that gives the protagonist hard time to get what the protagonist wants. In countless movies the antagonist is something else than simply a character, example the protagonist him(/her)self or a feature of him/her. In the case of Inception, as I see it, antagonist of the movie is clearly the subconscious of the protagonist or to be clear the psychological problems he have regarding his wife.

What comes then to your statements of the brain capacity or usage of our brane capacity, I would return to my first column and remind that in the reality of the movie, it is perfectly acceptable to allow this. The movie is not based on true story, you know. But your views of the usage of our brain are rather dumb and narrow minded even in our _actual_ reality. I encourage you to take a proper bong hit of salvia and see.

Why did not DiCaprio tell her wife that he planted the idea? Well, I see that this matter is explained in the movie well enough. It was not believed to be possible, DiCap probably did not understand the matter until later, with more experience in the field. But more importantly, isn't that the whole idea of the planting? It is a thought that is planted to the core of your mind. There for more powerful than anything, as a mental illness. I am aware that such a concept does not exist in our reality, but in the movies reality it does. End of story.

You also were talking about this "magic suitcase". It is well enough explained in the movie, that it is a technology originally created by us military in purpose of using it in training. Why not? Explained, possible in the movies reality, end of story.

Lastly, I bet Nolan actually did want the audience to see the suitcase in the "waking up from limbo" -scenes, since it is there.

Well, these are just my thoughts. Why to take a movie so seriously that it ruins the experience? Inception was the most notable achievement in filmmaking in 2010. Make a pot of green tea and give it an other try.

Anonymous said...

Riddle me this: How does 'be your own man don't try to be like your father' translate into 'break up the company and sell' so you don't end up with a monopoly position. Wasn't that the whole point of the 'heist'?

Anonymous said...

The funny thing is, for me if I had to write the longest interpretation for a movie I would pick Inception. The fact that it lacks an antagonist or any other element of basic plot writing does not make it a boring movie, or one with nothing to take out of it. A whole movie could be written on how the mind works, where it is solely about a person closing its eyes and imagining stuff and it could be absolutely full of details to analyze. For God's sake haven't you spent whole minutes connecting back to your own dream experiences and realized the amount of research that Nolan has made before stating certain aspects of dreaming? To be honest I have no clue why I'm bothering that much, I just wanted to post that if you do not like a movie don't write a subjective article full of nonsense critisizing it just to justify your taste. I mean, just by reading your distaste even for the choice of a character's name...

Carsonist said...

I shouldn't criticize a movie I don't like? Or is it because you disagree with me, my opinion is therefore nonsense and I shouldn't write it?

I think the lazy choice of Arachne's name is indicative of the general pattern of poor decisions in the writing of Inception.

It's like Dr. Octopus being named Otto Octavius, except in Spider man it's a joke. In Inception, they do it with the same somber disregard for human character as the rest of the movie. The writers think that terrible name was profound, apparently.

I think Inception's complete seriousness is the worst part, come to think of it.