July 30, 2010

July 27, 2010


I saw this on opening day and have been mulling over my response to it. I've read a large variety of reactions to the movie. Some think it's the best movie ever and several internet-crazy fandoms (are there any other kind?) dedicated to this movie and its characters have sprung up over night. Some feel an overwhelming desire to notify everyone to the movie's mediocrity and document, in detail, their profound personal disappointment. I have difficulty figuring out my own opinion in the face of such conflicting impassioned opinions.

It's an excellent summer action movie, but even that doesn't quite describe it. Either (1) action movies have become so crappy and lame that when we get a genuinely good action movie, it feels like the best movie ever; or (2) it isn't accurate to describe this as an "action" movie, it's really more of a "thriller." (See, according to my arbitrary movie classification rules, thrillers can be and often are much better than action movies. Action movies = chick flick. Thriller = serious drama.) I'm leaning towards option 1. I think the backlash to the film was that it was advertised as a mind-bending thriller, when really it's a well-made movie with excellent action sequences, an original plot and good acting. Nothing was particularly mind-bending, and very little was emotionally involving.

This conclusion doesn't mean I didn't like it. I liked it a lot, actually. And I can recognize that it has that mysterious element that makes a movie, book, or comic book so much more susceptible to fan hysteria. Twilight has it. Harry Potter has it. The Matrix has it. Maybe it's the fantasy element? Thinking about it now, maybe it's the promise an alternate reality existing right in our backyard. All we have to do is fall asleep (or wake up, or get an owl-delivered letter, or make eye-contact with the hot vampire in the cafeteria), and endless possibilities are open to us.

I feel like I'm rambling aimlessly, so here's a list of things I particularly liked, and a few things I didn't. (Warning: Spoilers ahead!)

  • The movie elicits audience participation, it leaves a little room for debate. The ending with top just starting to wobble was great.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt and that entire no-gravity fight sequence.
  • I liked the time difference between dream levels.
  • Tom Hardy. Who is he and why has he not been in more movies?
  • This movie is not a remake, prequel, adaptation, or sequel. It's actually a unique story, and an interesting one.
  • The movie expects you to pay attention. It doesn't recap or dumb down. If they've said it once, they're done and moving on.
  • The movie was complex, but not too twisty. No sudden shockers that make you re-evaluate everything you've seen already. I like twists, but in a movie this complex, I appreciated that it was fairly straight-forward. (Though I did spend the entire movie trying to predict how the rug was going to be pulled out from under me. Was Cobb the one really being inceptioned? Was the entire heist an elaborate hoax to steal something from Cobb's mind?)

Didn't like:
  • The snow action scene. Skiing and guns? Meh.
  • The reason for the inception felt kind of weak. I get why Leonardo DiCaprio went through with it, but all of those other people? To prevent an energy monopoly? Lame.
  • The characters were all pretty flat. Even Leo. This is the second movie in a row that he's been grieving a dead wife. Speaking of which, out of the five Chris Nolan movies I've seen, four have the main character grieving over a dead love interest. Memento, The Prestige, The Dark Knight, and now Inception. (Five out of five if you count Bruce Wayne grieving over the loss of his parents, in Batman Begins.) If I were Chris Nolan's wife, I'd be slightly concerned.
  • There were a few logic fails that I haven't been able to reconcile. In dream level 1 (the city in the rain), the fall into the water is enough of a kick, but the van flipping over isn't? Shouldn't Joseph Gordon-Levitt at least wake up at that point? If no gravity in dream level 1 means no gravity in dream level 2 (hotel), then how is there gravity in all the deeper levels? It's not as if there really was no gravity; they were in the airplane the entire time and were just dreaming that there was no gravity. None of these were really enough to take me out of the story, but when I'm discussing it afterward (as this movie demands that you do), I prefer a movie where everything makes sense, no matter how complicated the story.

I always underestimate how incredibly fun a great action movie can be. I really enjoyed watching this movie. I felt the same way leaving the theater after watching the most recent James Bond movies. It was an exhilarating ride that was immensely entertaining. I look forward to seeing it again.

July 9, 2010

Movie Review Catch-up

Toy Story 3 - The Incredibles is my most favorite pixar movie, but The Toy Story Saga (shut up, Twilight, you don't own that word) is a very close second. Mr. Tortilla Head was hilarious and creepy. (What is the essence of a person, really? Is he just a collection of parts? Would he exist if just one detachable body part remained? Can Mr. Potato Head really be Mr. Potato Head without the potato?) This movie is just as good as the other two.

Twilight: Eclipse - So hey, I actually kinda liked this one. Where has Jasper been all this time? He needs his own movie. And no Edward flashback? Boo. About that engagement ring: Jill knew a woman that was Stephenie Meyer's cousin's wife (or something) who made wedding rings that she claimed Stephenie Meyer approved as the "official" Bella engagement ring. It looked nothing like that giant sparkly egg. The woman Jill knew had to stop making them, by order of Stephenie's lawyers. Producing and selling that ring were her and her husband's primary source of income. Seeing an ad for Bella's "official" engagement ring made me wonder how awkward those family reunions must be. Would that woman's customers all demand refunds? Has she gone bankrupt? It made me wonder what it really does to a family to have someone become extremely famous. How many extended relatives expect to leach off of your success? What is your obligation to a distant relative who makes a living off of your work?

Back to the movie, it was entertaining and not nearly as cringe-inducing as I anticipated. It was also much better than Last Airbender.

The Last Airbender - This movie got beat up pretty bad by critics, but it's not as bad as they say it is. It's not good, but I was entertained and somewhat intrigued. The acting was Star Wars: Episode 1-3 level bad, but the story is interesting. I hadn't watched the cartoon before, so I could easily get distracted by plot. And I don't know why the critics are calling the movie "ugly"... I thought it was very pretty. But then they probably had to watch it in 3D and this was yet another movie that outsourced their 3D after the movie was finished. Quit doing that Hollywood! No one wants to pay MORE money for an uglier movie. If you see this, definitely see it in 2D.