pretty much everyone i know has seen inception at this point. and pretty much everyone i know not only loved it, but loved it enough that they had to start talking about it with everyone else they knew. and pretty much everyone i know, and the people they knew, all immediately took to the internets after seeing it to see what other people were saying about it. i am pretty much like pretty much everyone i know in this regard. here is what i found:
there are lots of people trying to figure out just wtf happened in that movie. on one hand, that sort of reduces the movie to a puzzle, but on the other, it also seems like a valid first step in an attempt to divine just what kind of story chris nolan is trying to tell us. among the more interesting parsers and theory-spinners are the folks at terrible minds and cinematical—and when i say “folks” i absolutely mean to include both the original blogger and all the people who commented on the post. slate also has a couple posts that are good in this vein. inquiring minds at work all around. needless to say, these are all individuals who were enthralled by the movie, enough so to devote consider time to arguing about it online.
i’ll come right out and admit that i am predisposed to love nolan’s movies because i’ve enjoyed so many of the other things he’s created, and, yes, i, too, was mesmerized by inception. but i wasn’t 100% convinced that it was anything more than a highly, highly enjoyable heist film with a high-concept structure. so i tried to find a review, anywhere on the internet, from someone who (a) disliked the film and cited valid critiques, and (b) was a writer whose opinion i could trust. and you know what? i couldn’t really find one.
the vast majority of criticism i came across faulted nolan not for the movie he made, but for the movie the particular critic wished he would have made instead (the meme apparently being that he was “too literal” in his portrayal of dreams). there was also a smattering of reviews from people who i think you would recognize, probably from high school; they’re the ones who will hate for the sake of hating (i.e., you’re not even sure they actually believe the shit they’re writing because they seem more preoccupied with offering an outsider/contrarian perspective).
a good example of the former kind of review is a.o. scott’s at the times, who seems disappointed that nolan’s dream movie wasn’t nonsensical enough. okay, fine—but it seems pretty clear to me that nolan wasn’t interested in making that kind of movie. the architect characters seem to exist in inception precisely for the reason of giving the other characters a reasonably stable world in which to interact with each other. so about all i got out of those reviews was that inception wasn’t like any dream the reviewer ever had. great. that’s so incredibly helpful to me, who’s never actually, literally, been inside their heads while they slept.
the epitome of the latter review comes courtesy of the rumpus, whose piece drips with such disdain and sarcasm from line one, only to offer little more than unsubstantiated barbs and unfair broadsides—so much so that i stopped reading when the author called the dark knight “painfully, infuriatingly, ludicrously overrated,” but then completely neglected to defend that opinion. in short, that rumpus review is the reason why i think we’ll rue the day when bloggers have finally replaced professional critics of the arts. which makes me seem like a cranky old man, but hey—i’m just following the lead of these online writers who seem to still be smarting from the time the free urban weekly paper they used to work for went under. alas, you smart-ass arbiters of all that is cool and ironic, there will always be a place for you on the internet.
in the meantime, if anyone’s found a review of inception that manages to thoughtfully criticize the movie without the unnecessary venom, you can share it with me right after we go see it a second time.