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“Inception” Doesn’t Measure Up to “The Matrix”

by Borderstan.com — August 17, 2010 at 10:13 pm 0

Mary Burgan Borderstan Movie Fan

Mary Burgan is the Borderstan Movie Fan.

Mary the Borderstan Movie Fan’s column on movies runs every two weeks. Mary Burgan is a retired professor of English and association executive. Her previous reviews are listed at the end of this post.

I usually write about “little” movies, but this time I thought I should sample a summer blockbuster to broaden my perspective. I decided to try out Inception, even though sci-fi is not my usual cup of tea.

I was told that Inception was different, a mind-bender rather than the usual invasion of, or by, creatures from another planet. I had seen The Matrix 10 years ago and liked it–against all my expectations–so this most recent example seemed a good thing to view 10 years later.

Inception has not replaced The Matrix in my affections. It not only left me confused, but it put me to sleep.

True, it opened with an image of the ocean which had washed up our hero, Leonardo DiCaprio, on the beach, and that might have been a bit soporific. But soon there was a major gun battle, with all kinds of weapons going off, and I dozed off despite the noise.

I kept lapsing back partly because, despite all the action, Inception is very, very talky. It takes a lot of DiCaprio’s mellow and melancholy words to explain about how you can break into somebody’s dreams with a corps of co-conspirators, steal ideas and then try to put new ideas in.

The initial dry-run dream fights spend a lot of bullets and blood without serious damage because when people wake up, they’re okay. But then the ultimate dream heist to help a Japanese magnate (Ken Watanabe) keep a business rival’s heir (Cillian Murphy) from competing too well with him takes lots and lots more exposition. Actually the scheme involves going deep, deep into Cillian’s sub consciousness–the lair, as we all know, of Oedipus Complexes–so that Cillian can reconcile with his father and in the peace of that reconciliation remember the combination to his father’s safe and find the lost will.

But meanwhile, Leo’s memories of his lost wife and their children keep disrupting his shared dreaming with his colleagues and threaten to leave them all in, yes, limbo, whence they cannot return. Are you following me? Did I follow the film?

I was awake for recurrent chases through foreign lands, intermittent shots of an SUV being chased and shot at, and an effort to ski up and down a very snowy mountain to get to a mazy temple/castle at the top, but I can’t guarantee that I got the inner plot(s) into my head enough to figure out what the hell was going on.

Now The Matrix was another matter altogether. I actually like Keanu Reeves (Neo) as an actor, who’s pleasant to look at and who doesn’t try too hard.

And I found the physical resemblance between Reeves and his cyber girlfriend, Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity), just subtle enough to make me to think I was smart finally to recognize it. And although the metaphysics were cheesy in The Matrix, the special effects just blew all their problems out of my mind.

Inception has a lot of big special effects, and it can’t resist displaying them. It wants to show city buildings folding in upon themselves or blowing up or disintegrating into the ocean.

Inception has a gravity-defying fight in a hallway that reminded me of Fred Astaire dancing up the walls and on the ceiling in The Royal Wedding (1951).

Then there is the SUV with sleeping occupants that takes a long time to fall from a bridge into the river, while an elevator is making a gravity-defying trip to an explosion, and while, also, the temple/castle on the snowy mountain has to stop the action for a long while to stage a re-run of Cillian’s father’s death-bed scene. These things, we are told, happen in an instant, but they take two and a half hours on the screen.

In the course of putting together their overly complicated film, the producers of Inception must have thought of Hamlet’s musing about dying, sleeping, and dreaming. They seem to have had ambitions to explore these features of human existence deeply in their film. But they didn’t have Shakespeare’s language or the relative simplicity of his plots to do so And by now, special effects are so common that the ones in Inception don’t seem so special any more.

But then I might have been lost in my own dreamless nap and missed something.

Other Reviews by The Borderstan Movie Fan

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