Visually, Inception was spectacular. I want to say that straight out. In terms of plot? It is all right — the twist at the end’s predictable if you’re at all into SF, but it’s still a satisfying conclusion, and offers enough brain-teasers and world-building to satisfy my nerdy sweet-tooth. I’ll do my best to limit the number of spoilers, but there might be a couple.
Basically, Inception is set in a future where you can go into other people’s dreams and get their secrets. I liked the explicit link they made to the military and its involvement in technological evolution. Anyways, Dom, a dream extractor with a past, is approached to do something totally impossible: to INCEPT a secret/idea instead of just extracting it. Saito, a business mogul, wants to incept an idea in his competitor’s heir about the fate of that competitor’s company once his competitor dies.
The characters themselves are quirky and fun. Except for… you guessed it… the two female leads, set as polar opposites. Here’s where I have a problem. The first of these two female characters is Molly. She’s called “Mal” for a huge chunk of the movie because in case you didn’t get it, she’s Molly the Malevolent, a personification of Dom’s guilt over what he may have done to his absent wife. The other is Ariadne, who Dom, our main dude and leader of Our Heroes, contracts to the be Architect, the designer of the dream-world in which they’ll place their client. Ariadne is the youngest member of the team and the most eager to explore the sometimes dangerous world of dreams. Her mythological connection to the myth about Theseus and the labyrinth is constantly emphasized as she designs mazes for members of the team to memorize. Dom refuses to memorize these mazes (IE refuses the maiden’s help in the labyrinth) and is ultimately lost.
I don’t know if you’ve noticed how one’s a Virgin and the other’s a Whore, but hey, I’m known for my observational skills. Plus, the ways in which Ariadne is able to “save” Dom — by counseling him, by guiding him, by pulling him away from the evil Mal — are “girl” tactics, ones not related to her analytical skills (I mean seriously, she’s top of her class) or to her puzzle-making. It’s kinda like those old, semi-feminist SF stories where the heroine saves everyone by being hyper-feminine and like, baking the alien ambassador a cake or exchanging slips with his wife, not through her brains or through stuff specific to her personality. It’s plot advancement through Insert-A-Girl. Both Mal and Ariadne are symbols, not real characters, and I think this is reflected in the kinds of lines and characterization each is offered. In a movie where businessmen are dryly humorous, several million dollars are devoted to a man’s daddy-issues, and Dom’s nostalgic love for family is symbolized through a honey-heavy shot of golden light haloing his young moppets’ heads, the wooden-ness and flatness of the lines offered these characters is startlingly noticeable.
Ultimately, I appreciate Inception for what it is — a very pretty film that pretends to be smarter than really was. It’s like that hot Marxist unable to flirt unless he’s telling you you’re so not like other women. You’re crazier. You’re more pure. You know — that guy whose name and face you’ll ultimately forget, because they’re both generic, who you’ll only remember because of his pretensions of intellectual grandeur and his blanket refusal to acknowledge that there’s something fucked up about his views on women. Inception is not the movie you’d go home with if you wanted more than a series of quick explosions followed by a lingering dissatisfaction.