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August 5th, 2010


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01:59 am - Inception
Avoiding spoilers, I thought Inception was well made and interesting, but remarkably undaring. The details of Cobb having performed a previous inception was obvious when a bit of his backstory became clear, and overall the film was surprisingly unsurprising. Similarly, the last bit at the end was both highly effective, but also cheating, which isn't a bad metaphor for the entire film. Also as a side-comment, if it's possible to radically reshape dream reality, you'd think the team would have done so at several points where it would have been exceptionally useful. I suspect that this was avoided because doing so would both remove some of the tension and risk making the film more complex.

I'm paradoxically reminded of what I wrote when I saw the time travel film Primer several years ago. Primer was a complex film that was almost entirely devoid of explanation. After seeing it, you would either need to rewatch it several more times, likely while taking notes, or at minimum read the excellent Wikipedia entry about it to make sense of what you had seen. Christopher Nolan's first major Hollywood film Memento clearly baffled many reviewers almost as much, I found it clear after a single viewing, but it required a fair amount of thought to figure out. Inception was like neither of these films. Becca mentioned that she heard a few people walking out of the film sounding confused, but I'm rather puzzled as to why.

From my PoV, Nolan overly sacrificed complexity and depth in order to make a film that was inherently complex considerably simpler than it needed to be. It's a good film and worth seeing, but don't expect any surprises, one you get the initial premise, everything follows very obviously and directly from it. Solid acting, more thought than you almost ever see in anything actiony or SF-like (a feat that is sadly very easy indeed), but I would have enjoyed more depth. On another level, with the weird dream tech, the globe-trotting, and the fact that the film started in Japan, it had a very strongly 80s cyberpunk feel, which now feels oddly retro. It's amusing that in many ways cyberpunk of that sort has become as much of a retro-future as 1960s space opera.
Current Mood: tiredtired

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[User Picture]
From:kadath
Date:August 5th, 2010 02:06 pm (UTC)
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I didn't get much of a cyberpunk feel at all. About the only thing that was close was the "working for a huge corporation" bit. Inception was much more from the tradition of heist films.
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From:edwarddain
Date:August 5th, 2010 04:54 pm (UTC)
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I get where he is coming from - it's the specifically Japanese corp, the dreaming tech looks remarkably like what netrunning tech was often described like, the idea of private corporate armies and the power of the corp to erase crimes, etc.

Very 1980's, and pretty cyberpunk.

To address Heron61's post - I think that reason it is so successful is because it is much more accessible that it appears on the surface. It looks and feels more complex than it is - so people feel smarter than they are...

And, I think that was rather brilliant in some ways.
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From:kadath
Date:August 5th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
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It's...really really ethno-centric to make the mere presence of a Japanese corporation an indicator of how cyberpunk something is, especially given that the dream-tech was a MacGuffin that barely featured. 80s I'll give you, but the keiretsu (zaibatsu proper haven't really existed since WWII) are still immensely powerful in Japan. Japan's economy is tech-centered, it's huge, and its corporations have a great deal of interdependence with and influence on the Japanese government. The idea of the government backing an energy corporation isn't far-fetched in the slightest.

tl;dr admitting the rest of the world exists doesn't make something cyberpunk.

Also, Inception doesn't grapple with any of the ideas of cyberpunk--there was a dude-deals-with-his-issues plot, and a caper plot, and nothing about the relationship of society to technology, or any -punk elements at all.
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From:edwarddain
Date:August 5th, 2010 06:01 pm (UTC)
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Ok, I have to admit that I laughed when I read your response and I really can't decide how I want to respond.

So I peeked at you LJ and am going to be not only ethnocentristic but ageist as well and suggest that you simply don't get it because you didn't live through the 80's at an age old enough to soak up the cultural zeitgeist in the same way that I or Heron61 did (as well as Christoper Nolan) and that combines with the Cyberpunk media from that time that you have experienced as a cultural artifact outside of the original milieu.

I think the argument is out as to if the movie is or is not representative of Cyberpunk (that would make a great college paper if I was writing one). I certainly don't think it was "intended" as a part the cyperpunk genre, but there are enough (accidental?) individual elements of 80's Cyberpunk that I can recognize what Heron61 is saying and agree. If you want to pick on one item that I mentioned, knock yourself out, but I didn't say that a Japanese corp was the only reason I also could get the retro 80s Cyberpunk vibe as well.
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From:kadath
Date:August 5th, 2010 06:06 pm (UTC)
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This came across as extremely condescending. If that's not your intention, we can keep talking. If it was, sod off.
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From:edwarddain
Date:August 5th, 2010 06:26 pm (UTC)

Edited for bad HTML.

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You can take it however you like. I wasn't trying to be condescending, but I will also be honest that I'm struggling to come with more polite way to say, "you don't get it because you're not old enough to."

And not because we're tracking age as some sort of indicator of intellectual capability but because without the lived experience of the 80's you are just not going to get it.

I probably get what Heron61's talking about because not only did I live through the 80's but because I was a fan of Cyperpunk at the time and and have remained so since then. I wager to say that a 40-year-old who was not familiar with cyberpunk might likely have a better sense of where Heron61 and I were coming from, but that certainly for myself, given my own interest in the genre from it's *cough* inception, I can see the same sort of retro 80s Cyberpunk vibe.

I don't expect myself do get the same level of references to the 70s let alone the 60s, 50s, or 40s - at a certain point my frame of reference is simply off no matter how much research I've done or how much media I've accessed or how much I enjoy or love a genre from those eras.

No shame, no harm, no foul - you want to get your knickers in a twist then sod off yourself. My apologies to Heron61 for descending to the level of insults - but I also wasn't willing to let the double accusations (ethnocentrism and then being intentionally insulting) stand.

I'm bowing out now, not gracefully, but also not slinging more mud in somebody elses LJ.

Edited at 2010-08-05 06:27 pm (UTC)
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From:heron61
Date:August 5th, 2010 11:19 pm (UTC)
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Also, Inception doesn't grapple with any of the ideas of cyberpunk

It did in one way - I saw the living in meat reality vs. living in virtual reality conflict in some late 80s early 90s cyberpunk, and this felt similar. Beyond that, even back in the day, most cyberpunk (and almost no movies or TV) dealt with the ideas of cyberpunk, most cyberpunk novels and almost all cyberpunk movies were all about a certain style and image, which this film also shared.
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From:xuenay
Date:August 6th, 2010 10:41 am (UTC)
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Japan's economy is tech-centered, it's huge, and its corporations have a great deal of interdependence with and influence on the Japanese government.

(Without having seen the movie) To be fair, this is a thing with cyberpunk in general: things that could have been classified cyberpunk in the past aren't, because a lot of the things that used to be cyberpunk tropes (big corporations having almost more power than governments, omnipresent Internet, etc.) have become reality.
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From:heron61
Date:August 5th, 2010 07:27 pm (UTC)
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I see what you mean, and I'm not saying it was cyberpunk, merely that it had a very elements. A vastly powerful (Saito dismisses Cobb's rather serious legal problems with a single phone call) Japanese corporation (making it as ethnocentric as at least 80% of all cyberpunk), netrunning-like tech being used for dangerous data manipulation which can kill or otherwise seriously mess up the "netrunners", being on the run from another major corporation with agents all over the globe. It definitely seemed like it used elements of cyberpunk to create the mood.
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From:teaotter
Date:August 5th, 2010 05:42 pm (UTC)
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I don't want to jump in on the cyberpunk comments above -- that wasn't really my reading of it -- but I actually found the *film* to be ethnocentric (US-ian) in a retro kind of way. Although the movie takes us to several different continents, at no point do we interact with the people there *as* people. In fact, it largely doesn't matter where we are at any point, other than 'not the US.' Even the characters are almost entirely white and anglo-centric, with the notable exception of Sato.
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From:kadath
Date:August 5th, 2010 06:03 pm (UTC)
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The chemist is Indian!

Sad that I was like "whoa, two PoC?!" huh? And they were both from cultures that are stereotypically smart and "civilized."

Only two women, too. One of whom is literally a manifestation of the male main character's guilt, and the other who serves primarily as his conscience. I was...unimpressed, to say the least.
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From:teaotter
Date:August 5th, 2010 06:17 pm (UTC)
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You're right; I forgot the chemist. Yusuf.
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From:kadath
Date:August 5th, 2010 06:20 pm (UTC)
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Oh, that would make him Arabic, then. I misread his ethnicity (and missed his name, obviously, but that's fine, because I missed practically everyone's name.)
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From:heron61
Date:August 5th, 2010 07:33 pm (UTC)
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It's a mainstream US film. There is definitely some US TV that's doing OK wrt sexism (most of which is currently on the USA network). The number of US films that manage this feat are far fewer in number. It didn't seem worse than most other movies wrt sexism, but was also definitely no better.

OTOH, in defense of the film, the only characters who are not plot devices and who we get to know at all are Cobb, Ariadne, Saito, and Mal. We know almost nothing about the rest of the characters.
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From:eggshellhammer
Date:August 6th, 2010 01:27 am (UTC)
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Unless, of course, they're just figments...
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From:heron61
Date:August 6th, 2010 01:32 am (UTC)
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I don't buy that. At the end, we are left not knowing if Cobb is still lost in a dream or not, but it looked pretty clear to me that Mal wasn't correct about what Cobb thought was the waking world still being a dream.
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From:edwarddain
Date:August 5th, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
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Agreed - the film was "blandly" ethnocentristic with this sort of hegemonistic experience of the "non-USA" as a reflection of US dominance and expectations.

(*cough* ...another feature of a great deal of '80's US cyberpunk... *cough*)

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