Since Shooting Wall did not update the blog all summer, we were unable to comment on the summer movie season. Therefore, I would like to use this post to discuss Christopher Nolan’s Inception.
Inception was one of the biggest films of summer 2010 and received, largely, glowing reviews. It has a 74 score on Metacritic with 100s from eleven of the top American film critics including the Chicago Sun-Times, Los Angeles Times, Time, Variety and the San Francisco Chronicle to name a few. The film even made the cover of the July/August edition of film comment, which featured a lengthy interview with Christopher Nolan (this last one I find particularly obnoxious). And what was all of this acclaim and attention for? A so-called “intelligent” action film? What exactly does not even mean?
Christopher Nolan is regularly considered the new Hollywood wonderkid, revitalizing the action genre as more serious, thoughtful and intellectual. Many saw Inception as another Nolan success. I can admit that compared to the other trash released this (or any other summer for that matter) Inception was tolerable and, in comparison to a Michael Bay film, intelligent. But that really isn’t saying much at all. Inception is a mediocre film at best.
Inception does have ideas and Nolan does have the capacity for intelligent filmmaking, but Inception completely blows it in almost every way. The ideas, quite frankly, have been done and have been done better. Dreams have been explored more interestingly not very long ago in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, for example, and in numerous films since the invention of cinema. Dreams and cinema have always been closely related and film offers a unique perspective for those interested in the idea of dreams, unless of course you are really only interested in making an action film, which is what Christopher Nolan has decided to do with Inception.
And this is the real problem with the film: it is first and foremost an action film. 90% of Inception is about plot and about action. The ideas have so little time to be fully developed in any meaningful way. The myriad of chases, gun fights and car crashes has little to no bearing on any of the so-called ideas explored in the film. This film is superficial in almost every possible way. It is so loud and obnoxious that it becomes distracting and not in a good way. Even when the characters are simply speaking to each other, music was constantly playing. Almost every bit of dialogue is used for explanation or to further the plot. Nolan was a not able to fully integrate his ideas with the plot. He shows in almost every instance that he is more interested in the plot and the action than in the ideas. If Nolan is really making a so-called “intelligent” film, then why does he insist on hiding all his ideas under constant music, special effects and overblown, overlong action sequences? Why does Nolan insist on appealing to the lowest common denominator? Where is the innovation? I don’t see it
Why is Nolan constantly receiving praise? What is exactly is an “intelligent” action film? And, more importantly, why should we care about “intelligent” action films? Is it necessary? It is truly discouraging to see someone like Nolan receiving so much praise not just from audiences, but from critics as well, for films that are only good in comparison with bad action movies. The praise is especially unfortunate when someone like Steven Soderbergh, who is also working in the Hollywood system and actually making legitimately bold, interesting and intelligent films continues to get mixed to bad reviews from critics and is ignored more and more by audiences.. As Nolan’s stock continues to rise with each more and more mainstream and idiotic film, Soderbergh’s continues to fall as he makes less accessible, yet truly intelligent films.
Has mainstream cinema become so devoid of intelligence that Inception could be mistaken for some kind of an art film? Yes.