Inception’s dreams are bullshit

Oh, what pretty effects! The room is spinning and the mirrors are shattering the land is bending up and away and turning back towards us and… and, it’s all not real, even in the suspended belief of Christopher Nolan’s new smash hit “Inception.”

Indeed, the main thing I really absorbed from the movie is it’s sense of grandeur. In Inception, dreams are the world people that Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page and the long-haired kid from Third Rock from the Sun (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) spend most of the movie occupying.

You’ve probably seen the movie by now – it’s been a week, the grace period is over – you know the rest of the plot: dreams go into dreams into dreams. Leo’s ex is kind of an asshole, but so it Leo; Ellen Page spends the better part of two hours looking mildly concerned; Gordon-Levitt rocks a three-piece suit like it’s nobody’s business.

But the highlight of this movie isn’t some convoluted, three-things-happening-at-once plot, it’s special effects. The ground reaching up and touching itself. Mirrors shattering and becoming bridges. An elevator rocket scene that’s pretty awesome. It’s the kind of movie that couldn’t be made back in, say, 1980. There’s way too many crazy things happening.

But there isn’t enough, either.

As we’re supposed to understand things, the bulk of the film takes places in dreams. As some kind of architectural wiz-kid, Page is supposed to be creating the landscape of these dreams. After all, her character was brought aboard because she was able to draw a maze in like 30 seconds that left Leo all puzzled and confused and probably kind of cranky.

When she does enter dreams, though, her attempts are for the most part pretty uninspired. After going all crazy and bending reality early on, Page goes off and creates landscapes straight out of contemporary life. One gets the impression that she’s probably cribbing from stuff she studied. Her hotel: kind of ritzy but something anybody could stay in if they want to blow $500 a night. Her New York? Basically the same as New York is now.

Which is kind of good and all… but that’s missing the point: they’re dreams, dammit!

After all, whats the point of hiring somebody who can create crazy dreamscapes if you’re not going to use them? Why show off what you can do when you’re not going to do anything quite like it?

It’s only near the end, in the final two dream-states, that we see anything like what this movie should have been like: the crazy military base that has a battalion defending a guy who dies anyway and a cool city that’s falling apart and is packed with scary buildings and probably wild dogs (filmed in downtown Detroit, as I understand). Now that’s fucking dreamscapes.

Now, all the dream states are kind of cool in their own ways. Gravity cuts out in one and another blows up. One is a fierce rainstorm, since the dreamer has to use the john. One has Hummers that use treads instead of wheels and probably get shitty MPG.

Still, after the wild promise shown early in the movie, little details like that only tease; it’s like getting a great appetizer at a restaurant, then getting served a sloppy joe as the main course.

But, then, maybe that’s the point. Not only are dreams are underwhelming by nature – it’s not the details that standout, it’s the action – but it’s supposed to be lifelike.

The little things I want to see, the window dressing,  is cool to look at – but they’re only cool to look at when we’re supposed to look at them. When the story shifted from “hey look Ellen Page just walked up a right angle” to “which dream is this I can’t remember anymore”, it stopped being important.

The dreams are supposed to be realistic enough to fool the dreamer into thinking they’re still awake. After all, they had to have their little bauble to figure out if it’s a dream or not.

And while that makes sense in the movie, it still reeks of bullshit – why make a movie about dreams if the dreams are as dull as real life?


3 Responses to “Inception’s dreams are bullshit”

  1. 1 Stefan
    August 19, 2010 at 11:19 pm

    I totally agree with you! I was expecting some cool special effects along with a cool inspiring story… MAN i was let down. The story line wasn’t really that amazing and nothing too special. I cant believe it got so much good reviews… its too damn boring!

  2. 2 A
    August 25, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    well the whole premise of inception is planting an idea in Fischer’s head to dissolve his fathers empire, so “crazy dreamscapes” might alert the subject that he is dreaming, and it’s best to keep it subtle. Maybe you forgot the whole purpose of the movie

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