Kyle’s Inception Review

July 20th, 2010 by Kyle

It seems that my role is very often to be the official Geek Tragedy contrarian, and so I shall be today. In contrast to my cohost Dave, NPC Comics Editor-In-Chiel Jaimel Hemphill, and virtually the rest of the geeky world, I wasn’t that impressed with Inception.

First of all, I want it understood that I’m not saying that Inception does have some good points. It’s a very well-crafted film, filled with superb performances. But what bothers me most about the reactions to Inception is the idea that it’s a very innovative or groundbreaking movie. This, it most certainly isn’t. Virtually every concept, whether plotwise or visually, is something I’ve seen done before, and often better. Allow me to go through a list of some of Inception‘s concepts, and show you what I mean.

Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams
Where I Saw It Before: Paprika

Released four years before Inception, Satoshi Kon’s movie (based on a Japanese novel from 1993) involves a psychologist who uses a device called the DC Mini to enter other people’s dreams in a plot that involves a lot of corporate intrigue. Sound familiar? I know that a lot of western directors lift concepts from anime, but this was pretty blatant.

Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams
Where I Also Saw It Before: The Cell

But hey, maybe that’s not where Nolan got the idea from. Maybe he got it from this ten-year-old J-Lo movie that everybody seems to have forgotten about.

Inception Concept: Using a high-tech device to enter someone else’s dreams and plant ideas there
Where I Additionally Saw It Before: Dreamscape

Or maybe Nolan got the idea here! Hat tip to Appman on the Rifftrax forums for reminding me of this semi-obscure 1984 Dennis Quaid movie that also covered this ground.

Inception Concept: Lucid dreaming; a long time in the dream = a short time in real life.
Where I Also Saw It Before: Waking Life

Richard Linklater’s been there, done that, more creatively, ten years ago.

Inception Concept: People trapped in a world that may or may not be a dream.
Where I Saw It Before: Urusei Yatsura Movie #2: Beautiful Dreamer

This was an early film from Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell, The Sky Crawlers), based on a manga and anime series written by Rumiko Takahashi (InuYasha, Ranma 1/2). The film was released in 1984, and was actually the first full-length anime film I ever saw. It’s a fantastic film – beautiful, spooky, carefully paced… one of my favorite anime films of all time. If you haven’t seen it, you should. Without going into great detail, the characters are all trapped in what they eventually realize is an increasingly bizarre dream, and none of them can be sure which of them is actually the dreamer. So not only did it do one of the big concepts behind Inception, it did it better, and 25 years earlier.

Inception Concept: Hacking someone’s consciousness to artificially plant ideas there
Where I Saw It Before: Ghost In The Shell

While we’re on the subject of Mamoru Oshii, this is basically what we saw in the form of “ghost hacking” in GiTS. Yes, it was done by different methods, but the basic idea is the same.

Inception Concept: Someone trapped in a dream they might only be able to escape by death.
Where I Saw It Before: Life On Mars

(SPOILER ALERT for the original BBC series) This was, essentially, Sam Tyler’s dilemma: He was mostly, but not completely, sure that he was trapped in some kind of world that was a dream or hallucination. By the end of the series, he came to believe that the real world was the dream, and decided to go back to the world of 1973 by jumping off a building. In other words, he did exactly what we see Cobb’s wife do in Inception.

Inception Concept: Dead folks from a character’s the past that manifest and torment them in a state of altered consciousness.
Where I Saw It Before: Flatliners

This 1990 thriller with Kiefer Sutherland, Julia Roberts, and Kevin Bacon put its characters through the same drama that we saw with Cobb and the wife that haunted his dreams.

Inception Concept: “Which story is real, and which is the dream/fantasy/hallucination?”
Where I Saw It Before: Total Recall

Cobb’s dilemma at the end of the movie is basically the same one faced by Quaid/Hauser on Mars. And, as with Inception, the movie ends with us not really totally sure what the truth is.

Inception Concept: Japanese megacorporation employs brilliant but disgraced hacker to steal industrial secrets with unusual, daring plan
Where I Saw It Before: About half the novels William Gibson ever wrote

Yeah, pretty much…

Inception Concept: “Just one more job, for a good cause, and then I’m out”
Where I Saw It Before: The Killer

This is actually a fairly common trope, but John Woo’s HK action masterwork is a particularly good example, albeit one with an ending less happy than Inception‘s.

Inception Concept: A story layout that structures time in unusual ways and plays tricks with memory
Where I Saw It Before: Memento

I know that the John Fogerty court case established the idea that you can’t really plagiarize yourself, but I’m just saying’…

Inception Concept: A battle taking place simultaneously on multiple levels of reality
Where I Saw It Before: The Matrix

Especially the Matrix sequels. Oh, and the girl is… “The Architect”? Really, Nolan? You thought we wouldn’t notice that?

Inception Concept: Cutting back and forth between multiple battles taking place simultaneously, all leading to one climax
Where I Saw It Before: Return Of The Jedi

And technically The Phantom Menace too, but accusing Nolan of copying Phantom Menace would just be too cold-blooded.

But that’s not all I felt was wrong with Inception. The other big thing that bothered me about Inception is the fact that it more or less simply wasted the opportunities given to it by its structure. The characters end up in a dream world, but instead of facing grotesque or bizarre monsters from the Id (as, for example, was done in both Paprika and The Cell), Nolan simply represented the dreamers’ defenses as guys with guns. By doing this, he threw away the chance to craft some really interesting concepts and images, opting for some well-shot, but standard-issue and more or less forgettable action sequences instead. This was a big disappointment for me – I was expecting something more interesting, both visually and conceptually.

In the end, Inception isn’t a horrible movie – but it’s nowhere near the masterpiece it’s being made out to be. A little looking around will reveal films that have done the same things before, and often done them better. I know it’s a minority opinion, but I give Inception a big fat “Meh”.

Tags: , , , , ,
Categories: Movies

Episode #45: Birdemic!

June 4th, 2010 by Kyle


Dave is joined by the Geekettes – Browncoat Lisa, Smartbunny, and Fancy Fembot to review  what is quite possibly The Worst Film Ever Made… Yes, it’s so bad, we capitalized that. Tune in to in to hear about the movie that was so bad, so awful, it actually left Kyle speechless!

Tags: , , , ,
Categories: Episodes

Episode #37: Kyle is Out, Dave is In!

March 16th, 2010 by Kyle


The Captain America casting rumors fly fast and furious as Dave and Kyle recap the week’s geek news and reviews, plus a new editon of Saturday Morning Rewind!

Tags: , , , ,
Categories: Episodes

Episode #34: Make Room for Wiseau!

February 23rd, 2010 by Kyle


Geek Tragedy welcomes the 21st Century cult film legend, Tommy Wiseau! Hang out for the 5 minute review of The Wolf Man and Stuff You Should Know About, and then stick around for the greatest GT interview… Of. All. Time!

Tags: , , , , , ,
Categories: Episodes