'Inception': The Backlash Begins

Vitriol spewed at Nolan's hype-heavy new film

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The Wire already brought you a sample of the hype surrounding Christopher Nolan's new film, Inception. But for every lover of this new eyeful from the Dark Knight director, there's a corresponding hater--and the haters are having a field day. Here are some of the more emphatic rejections of Inception, as well as one attempt to explain and rebut this violent backlash.

  • Not Enough 'At Stake,' decides The Atlantic's Christopher Orr. It's never clear what's at risk if the main character's mission were to fail. In addition, the complexity gets tiresome: "[i]t's one thing to marvel at a master juggler, but rather another to feel as if you are one of the balls."
  • Been There, Done That  "It's a clunky mix-'n'-match of other mind-bending blockbusters like Mission: Impossible, Fantastic Voyage, Dreamscape and The Matrix," decides David Edelstein at NPR, "with some Freud and Philip K. Dick thrown in. It's not terrible--just lumbering and humorless and pretentious, with a drag of a hero." John Derbyshire at National Review agrees: "Boy, what a waste of time!" Sci-fi ideas are "hardly ever" new,  he says, but the point is always "how you build a plot around [the ideas]." In this case, "the makers ... hardly bothered."
  • 'Timely, Not Profound,' declares New York Press's Armond White subtly, trying to explain why Inception isn't quite the film noir viewers think. The film is "conceived to amuse an era hungry for hokum and a geek audience who, after his gross The Dark Knight pulled in $500 million, is primed for more baroque fantasia."
  • 'Critic Proof,' sighs The Wall Street Journal's John Anderson, "simply because no one short of a NASA systems analyst will be able to articulate the plot." The problem with the movie, he decides, is that "[b]y convoluting the various planes of experience, by overlapping and obscuring ostensible realities and ostensible dreams, Mr. Nolan deprives us the opportunity of investing emotionally in any of it."
  • 'Barely Even Remotely Lucid'  The New York Observer's Rex Reed is the most vehement of the bunch, expressing his objection to Nolan's entire oeuvre ("a colossal waste of time, money and I.Q. points") before moving on to shred Inception, specifically, and its breathless frenzy of pseudo-science and special effects:
None of this prattling drivel adds up to one iota of cogent or convincing logic. You never know who anyone is, what their goals are, who they work for or what they're doing. Since there's nothing to act, the cast doesn't even bother. It's the easiest kind of movie to make, because all you have to do is strike poses and change expressions. It all culminates on skis in the middle of a blizzard, as Leo is pursued by machine-gun-equipped snowmobiles, but you don't even know who's driving them. I have no idea what the market is for this jabbering twaddle-probably people who fritter away their time playing video games, which I'm willing to bet pretty much describes Christopher Nolan. He labors over turning out arty horror films and sci-fi action thrillers with pretensions to alternate reality, but he's clueless about how to deal with reality, honest emotions or relevant issues.
  • This Could Have Been Good, laments Robert Cheeks at First Things, wishing the movie had done more with the subplot of the main character and his deceased wife. As it was, he liked it, but "it was way to long, and the film itself seemed intent on providing images of  some college sophomore's perspective of T.S Eliot's 'Waste Land.'"
  • A Thought  "After you get past the heavy-handed plot exposition by characters," writes David Schaengold The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, as well as "the cutesy classical allusions and maybe-nothing-is-real philosophizing, I think the movie is actually meant to be a paean to Le Corbusier.
  • This Backlash Seems Unfair  The tremendous outpouring of hostility, thinks Allan Barra at The Daily Beast, is mainly about three things: "the mass cult status" of The Dark Knight, "the complexity of the script," and "the film's dearth of profundities." But "judging form early reactions," protests Barra, "the audience doesn’t seem to be having much problem understanding [the film]," while he's not sure "Nolan intended for Inception to be profound or even appear profound ... Does anyone truly believe that a movie can explain the unconscious?"
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