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Hey, big thank you to MovieWise for letting me write this guestpost. As one can maybe tell from the article, our views on Inception differ quite a bit.

I agree with many of the points made, the movie featured a lot of action sequences not central to the story, the character of Ariadne felt merely like an exposition tool and her being in charge of managing the actual Inception felt indeed very unnatural.

I think the original sin of the movie was its budget. This budget is the cause of many points of criticism mentioned - the star power/ the over the top action sequences/ the meaningless eye candy locations. These attributes are not there simply because the movie had a big budget, but rather because the movie needed even bigger sales to justify the budget and be a financial success. To achieve this number of sales, it needed many viewers. And the best way to ensure many viewers is to make a movie appealing to the masses, so to speak, which is most often easier with an action flick. Flashy trailers and adrenaline filled shots do convince a lot of people to watch a movie - and to recommend it to their friends. Perhaps keeping the story confusing, to motivate a second viewing, was also part of a sales maximising strategy - though that is pure speculation.

But that is the point that also redeems the movie for me. By wrapping the ideas of dreams and the subconsciousness in a exhilarating and fast paced story, the movie becomes much more accessible. Rather than appeal purely based of its concepts to a small group of people, it draws in a large variety of viewers, who otherwise would have never seen it. Those viewers then too get exposed to the ideas put forth and the questions raised by the movie. At first they might be superficial, like what is going on, did the totem fall, did Cobb meet his kids? But soon afterwards they turn deeper, the viewer is induced to question themes like dreams, (sub)consciousness and reality. The success of Inception is that the movie accomplishes this introspection in many different viewers, rather than in those naturally inclined to do so.

The first time I consciously came across Inception was as a poster in my then teenage cousins bedroom, and I seriously question if that would have been there, was it not at the surface an action movie. And that, for me, is the greatness of the movie.

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I can appreciate what you are describing and I agree that action movies get large audiences into movie theaters, which is of primary importance. I don't begrudge them that. The visuals matter, and can even be enjoyed for their own sake. But what I liked about your discussion is the connections you made between the movie "Inception" and the drive that some people in sales departments, in marketing and advertising, etc. have to persuade people indirectly. This is the kind of insight about life that this site, "moviewise," tries to unearth. I'm glad that you found that and shared it with us, and I agree that if it weren't for the action-movie angle, fewer people would have seen a movie with the same themes as "Inception," and hence would have missed this point of entry into deeper ideas about the subconscious. Thanks again for writing so thoughtfully about it!

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Nov 8, 2022·edited Nov 8, 2022Liked by moviewise 🎟

The Nolan brothers smoke an awful lot of weed. Tenet is a case in point, a point already made by Inception, a nonsensical pile o' style that doesn't hold up on the second viewing. Yes, Leo and Tom are handsome, and yes the synth-enhanced visual effects were stunning on the big screen, but there's no story here, no characters, no tension at all. All the gunplay and car stunts layer into a numbing chaos that forces me to tune out, and once I do there's nothing there.

I felt the same way about The Matrix. It was part of a spate of movies that posited all humanity was merely a simulation (The Truman Show was another) and that we were cogs in the machine. The whole "Chosen One" trope is weak storytelling, even in a masterpiece such as Dune, and in the Matrix it's positively dreadful. "I know kung fu" is the low point of some fairly odious dialog, and there's a ton of that.

No, the movie to watch is Alex Proyas's Dark City, which came out a year before The Matrix but died at the box office. Same general premise, and also with stunning special effects, but at its center are real characters struggling to find out what the hell is going on. It's creepy, it's weird, and it says interesting things about memory and free will. I consider it as far superior to either movie discussed in this post.

Watch it yourself and see if you agree. Personally, I think it's a 90s masterpiece.

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I remember Dark City! I need to re-watch it.

The only movie of the Matrix series, including the newest one, worth seeing is the first one. The Wachowskis love to use a mallet over our heads to beat us with their ideas so that we will then say “my God! How brilliant they are!” Almost every movie they make does this. Annoying.

I wish directors and writers would stop talking down to audiences. It’s unnecessary. If you are doing your job properly you do not need to do this, you should trust your audience will figure things out, and if they can’t it’s because you didn’t do your job as a storyteller correctly. No need to lecture, no need to spell it out, no need to toot your “brilliance” to your fanboys/girls.

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I 100% agree that of the Matrix series, the only great one is the original, "The Matrix." I also agree with you that the Wachowskis definitely talk down to the audience in the sequels, but I don't think they did much of that in "The Matrix," which I still contend is a really good movie that's definitely worth watching. And agree that if filmmakers feel the need to spell things out for the audience the way Nolan did in "Inception," then something is very wrong and a script re-write is needed ASAP.

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Yeah I agree. One of the things I love about Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, David Simon, Denis Villaneuve, and Donald Glover is their assumption of audience intelligence. We've been watching the excellent French spy series The Bureau and have been consistently impressed with the sophistication and finesse with which they tell a compelling story. Dark City has some clunky moments, but from the moment Murdoch wakes up in the bathtub the audience is hooked. It's not a pleasant ride, but it's a fulfilling one.

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We are definitely in agreement with "Inception," but I watched "The Matrix" relatively recently and somewhere in the middle of it I was struck with the thought of what a great, fun movie it is.

I will watch "Dark City" next. Thanks for mentioning it. An exploration fo free will and memory is intriguing.

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Hey I'm a filmmaker and have to chime in because Inception is one of my top 10 films. For me the film gets better with every viewing. The thing I have to stress to anyone who doesn't appreciate Inception is that to truly appreciate what the movie is saying you need to know and understand film. The movie is commentary on the process of film and the affects on someone watching a movie.

First, every character has a role on the inception team, that correlates to a crew member on a film. You have the director, the producer, the assistant director, the set designer, the actor, and the editor.

Secondly, going into film theory, the experience of watching a film is compared to dreaming. In fact, they have done studies where they hook up people's brains to a brain scanner and the evidence shows that people's brain activities while dreaming is the very similar as when watching a movie.

Now considering the whole plot about placing an idea of putting an idea into someone's head and understanding that dreaming = movie watching, then what the movie is really about is how movies implant ideas into your mind.

I think this is such an important thing to understand, and I would think that from what I've gathered so far of reading Moviewise that this actually aligns significantly with the focus on life lessons revealed in movies. Inception is basically about how movies teach life lessons.

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I love you for commenting! Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed explanation of a novel and more nuanced way to look at “Inception." Wouldn’t life be even better if we could at least *like* what others love? It’s amazing how our perceptions diverge so much, and it’s a bit of a shame that for whatever reason, we just can’t always grasp what other people love. It shouldn’t be that way since we have similar minds, but here we are. Even if I can see what you are saying about the clever metaphors of “Inception,” the acting was really wooden from two of the main leads, and much of the scenery seemed disconnected and unnecessary to the story. In the end, it wasn’t as exciting, or as meaningful, as “The Matrix,” for me. But I appreciate that I may not have that something that you have which allows you to enjoy it more than me. But don’t pity me too much, because I do adore some other films. 🤗

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Thanks for the article. I never saw this film and after reading the commentary it doesn't look like I'll be seeing it. The premise is interesting; to persuade someone by leading them to think that your intent is actually theirs.

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Given your expertise in finance, I wonder what your opinion is on the "Keep It Simple Stupid" method of investment per this Warren Buffet quote, "if you look at the prices of stocks as buying pieces of businesses, you will be able to recognize when the market is very wrong."

From:

https://moviewise.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/warren-buffett/

KISS For Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Cats, Coca-Cola, And Documentary Movies That Show “Simple” Is A Force Of Good

https://moviewise.substack.com/p/kiss-for-health-wealth-and-happiness

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The Warren Buffet method has been validated as useful and long term reliable time and again over the last 100+ years. His idea of buying stocks as business is a literal read of what stocks are, namely shares of businesses, and not really an original idea by Buffet, who was influenced by his mentor Harry Markowitz. The Buffet method is not exciting, and requires patience, a thing a lot of us don't have.

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Dang! Way to tell it like it is!

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I always go in ready to love a movie, and then get really disappointed when the chemistry isn't there. Perhaps it'd be better if I stayed guarded, then the lament wouldn't be so heavy, LOL!

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Agree with Curious Business's idea about how to sell an idea, for sure, and with your review of _Inception_ that left me wondering: What was that? The narrative thread and the essential conflict are both confusing.

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Yes, I think CuriousBusiness's insight about how some advertisements sell a dream lifestyle is enlightening. It's an indirect and effective way to persuade someone, particularly for aspirational goals that make people want to model/mimic/copy others.

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I feel the same about Inception. It feels as if Nolan is trying to make a film so confusing that you simply must go back and spend more money at theater to watch it again in an attempt to figure it out. I saw it when it first came out at a theater which served a full meal during the show. It was a good popcorn-and-air-conditioning movie, nothing more. And CuriousBusiness' take, that "the best way to convince others of your idea is to convince them that it is theirs," reminds me of that scene in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" where Maria gets Gus to believe that it was his idea to send Toula to college.

Nolan has certainly established himself with a signature style of being confusing; a previous commenter mentioned "Tenet" and yes, it is just the same kind of mixed-up. He is coming out with a film about Robert Oppenhiemer that I am excited for, but I fear it will have the same "what is even going on here?" vibe. Your readers might want to read my thoughts on "Tenet": https://www.ruins.blog/p/tenet-christopher-nolan-2020

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I agree with you that it seems as if the confusion is intentionally created by Nolan, but the way I see it, this isn't interesting, rather it seems weak and lacking in conviction. One example is the ending of "Inception" where it's not clear if Cobb is dreaming or not because the scene cuts before the top falls, but his kids are wearing the exact same clothes and are the same age, doing the same things as in his memory, so obviously there is no need to try to play tricks on the audience because the scene can't be real, but it being a dream doesn't make sense either because it's not meaningfully connected to another scene that would make it possible. I think it's just nonsensical and incomplete, which is not the same as mysterious and thoughtful. It looks like I shouldn't bother with "Tenet" either! Thanks for the link!

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