25 July 2010
Make It Better #2 (Inception)
Even though I'm well-versed in John Q. Public's tendency to heap praise on Hollywood garbage, I have to admit the love for Christopher Nolan's Inception bewilders me. Looking at the other huge, Oscar contending hits from the last three years, I can at least understand the draw. Slumdog Millionaire is perhaps the most predictable film ever made but it's an easy escape into an Otherized spectacle (Bollywood dancing! Music by M.I.A.!). Avatard is likewise harebrained but walking with the blue Evan Turners through the 3-D spores from the tree of life was viscerally cool. Even Nolan's own Dark Knight had that one moment of joy when the Joker stuck is shaggy head out the car window into the magic hour air.
Inception, somehow, has even less to recommend it than all the other dreck (the comparisons to 8 1/2 are my favorite but why stop there--it's the Citizen Kane of the subconscious!!). I'm going to award Mr. O'Hehir at Salon the award for best zinger: "Inception may have been directed by Christopher Nolan, but Nolan's dreams are apparently directed by Michael Bay." It's so irredeemable that, for this edition of "Make It Better," I'm offering proposals to Mr. Nolan that could have helped push the film all the way into the land of farce, where it belongs.
1. Mr. Nolan, sir, could we make the music MORE portentous?
I don't think Hans Zimmer went far enough with the drum and trombone wailing. My eardrums were tested, but did not quite rupture. Given the hundreds of millions that this film is making, could you hire people to whack audience members over the head with frying pans during future screenings? We ought to leave Inception concussed and bleeding from the ears. My theory is that Leo wears that perpetual sweaty grimace because he was forced to listen to the soundtrack while acting.
2. Mr. Nolan, could we make the character names MORE symbolic?
It's been pointed out in many reviews but I still can't get over it. Ellen Page plays an architect of labyrinthine dreams named Ariadne. Fucking ARIADNE from Greek myth. It's not like the team gives her the codename Ariadne because she makes puzzles or because she helps save Cobb from THE MAZE OF HIS SUBCONSCIOUS IN WHICH HIS WIFE IS THE MINOTAUR--it's her actual fucking name. But I don't think it's the best choice. Given her role as the person who must explain everything that happens in the film, in the most transparent, stilted dialogue imaginable (e.g. "Do you think you can just lock her in a prison of memory?!?"), she should be renamed Exposition (Codename: Ariadne). She exists for the purpose of exposition and should be called that outright.
Also: Cobb's wife's name is Mal (BECAUSE SHE IS BAD!) but this is too subtle. I think certain viewers in Indiana might miss the point of a character just called Mal. I propose she be renamed Mal Evilheart, to remove ambiguity.
3. Mr. Nolan, could we make the film MORE humorless?
There is one moment in the film, apropos of nothing in a hotel lobby, where Arthur bends over and kisses Ariadne/Exposition to distract some bad guys--wait, I mean "dreamer's projections!"--and says the gambit was worth a shot (you'll note this line was spoken by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is far too amusing to be in this film). I uttered a short chuckle, which was the only time I laughed with the film all evening. The rest of the time was spent laughing at lines like, "I'm asking you to take a leap of faith!"
4. Mr. Nolan, could we have MORE slow motion shots of the van falling into the water?
I know there are dozens in the film already, but there were times in the last act where, for up to 60 seconds in a stretch, I was unaware of exactly how close that fucking van was to the water line and when the "kick" would rouse the passengers. If only you had tried to ramp up the dramatic tension just a little bit! There's still more juice in that lemon! Maybe in the DVD extras you could include an hour-long, slow motion film of just the van falling with your commentary on exactly where the team is on all the other levels of the dreams within dreams for each frame. (I honestly believe that fans of Inception would watch such a segment.)
5. Mr. Nolan, could we have ONE title card added right at the end of the film?
It should read: OMG GUYZ WILL THE TOP STOP SPINNING?!?!?!?!!?!?!?
Thank you for your kind consideration.
P.S. If, by chance, you want to see a dreamy movie that isn't aggressively stupid, check out Alain Resnais' Wild Grass.