I’ve made no secret in the past about my feelings for the movie ‘Inception’. I don’t think it’s bad by any means, but I find it to be not much more than a neat heist flick that’s no deeper than most blockbusters. It’s inconsistent and somewhat silly, but maybe that’s how it’s supposed to be. With a second viewing, I’ve found an interpretation that works for me, and finally makes the movie wholly enjoyable.
I saw ‘Inception‘ for the first time in theaters. I jumped on the hype wagon at first. Based on the actors in the film and the director, I expected something along the lines of a big budget ‘Memento‘. What I got instead was a big disappointment. I found nothing mysterious or special about the film. The only answer I had to the question of “Was the ending real or a dream?” was “I don’t care.” I really didn’t. There was no reason to.
I talked about the movie with my friends and countless people online who let me know how wrong I was, and I thought about it often. How could I not think about it? The world seemed to have fallen to its knees at the feet of the film. I couldn’t go online without hearing about it.
When I watched it the second time – for the purpose of enjoying a Rifftrax – something clicked in my brain. If movies are art, and art is open to interpretation, then I’m able to interpret ‘Inception’ any way I please. ‘Inception’, to me, is a brilliant commentary on the videogame industry. Just go with me on this. I haven’t worked out all the kinks, but I really think this makes sense.
To start, we have a few characters that need to be identified. The first is Leonardo DiCaprio as Cobb. In the movie, he’s a master of dreams who used to be far more adventurous and daring with his exploration of the human mind.
Cobb is the indie game designer gone corporate. Think of him as a revolutionary designer who’s working for a major company. Peter Molyneux comes to mind. So does Tim Schafer. Now imagine that instead of working on passion projects, he’s pushing out sequel after mindless sequel.
Ariadne, played by Ellen Page, is a brand new game developer. She’s the next big thing, like a Jonathan Blow or Jenova Chen. More accurately, she’s like a combination of Minh Le and Jess Cliffe, the minds behind ‘Counterstrike’. She’s a level designer, of course. After all, who else could make a maze in one minute that takes two minutes to solve? She’s brilliant, promising, and eager to get to work on something absolutely amazing.
Cobb hires Ariadne to do just that – to create some of the most exciting and inventive levels ever made. She shows Cobb what she’s capable of, and it’s damn impressive. She makes levels that defy the laws of physics.
Ariadne isn’t the only new member on the team. Cobb recruits the best and the brightest. He gathers up people who are capable of greatness and willing to experiment with something that no one else has done before. It’s a daring goal, but with high risk comes high reward.
The team gets together, but instead of being allowed to work to the best of their abilities, the crew is limited by the subconscious of Cillian Murphy’s Robert Fischer. That subconscious can represent the studio heads, the general public, or both.
Fischer’s subconscious doesn’t like extreme or inventive ideas. It’s instead drawn to things that it’s already familiar with it. Messing with that causes the people in his dream to react violently, just like internet goers when even the slightest change is suggested for a sequel to a game they love, or a new twist is put on a genre they’re already familiar with.
The pressure of pleasing the fans and the studio heads means that none of the amazing and brilliant people brought on to the project can do what they were hired for. Instead of shaping the world to her liking, Ariadne must bend to the whims of the subconscious.
The end result is several levels of dreaming, each representing a videogame. The first starts with an interesting premise – a role-playing game with conversation trees and a deception mechanic. It quickly turns into a dull shooter with vehicle levels.
Game 2 begins like the first, but adds a bit of a stealth combat element. It too breaks down into being a shooter by the end. There’s an interesting gravity mechanic, but that doesn’t change the nature of the game itself.
The third game, and the last level that most of the crew goes to, doesn’t even pretend to be anything other than it is. In fact, if Nolan were deliberately trying to make a movie taking a shot at the videogame, he couldn’t have chosen a better representation.
The whole crew appears on snowmobiles and armed to the teeth. I’ve played almost the exact same mission in several games, including ‘Modern Warfare 2’. It’s not quite as common as the mine cart and lava levels were in 2D platformers, but it’s close.
Despite all of the brilliant people that came together to create the game, the end result is a crappy generic shooter. How often does that happen? Really often – even in games I love like ‘Gears of War 2’. Think about the story and dialogue in that game. Now consider that the writer isn’t just some guy off the street, but Joshua Ortega, who has written an honest-to-goodness novel. Even if it’s a terrible novel, it’s better than the story in ‘Gears of War 2’.
‘Gears of War 3’, not to pick on the series too much, is being penned by Karen Traviss who writes the ‘Republic Commando’ series of ‘Star Wars’ novels. She’s a good writer, but you can bet that the game is going to follow the same path that they usually do. There are aliens, Marcus has to shoot them, and some people die who aren’t Marcus.
The ending I haven’t quite worked out yet. Going to the final level of dream state could be seen as quitting the company, leaving the naysayers behind, and doing your own thing – kind of like what Tim Schafer is doing now with Double Fine.
I can’t explain the whole spinning top thing or what Michael Caine has to do with anything. This is sort of a half-baked idea in the first place, and I’m not watching a two hour and twenty minute movie over and over again until I figure it out.