spock: logic is sexy

Inception

Am I the only person on the internet who did not like this movie?

Summary of complaints: over long, lack of central conflict, poor representation of women


I found it...masturbatory. Like Christopher Nolan had this fabulous premise, but he didn't feel obliged to actually do anything with it except show me people wandering around in each other's dreams. For three hours. Perhaps we did not need quite so many shots of people chasing each other in the snow? Or wiring each other up in elevators and having weird zero-g fights in hotels? And instead of those things, we could have chosen a central conflict for the piece to engage the audience and make them feel like the film has a purpose? I could never figure out if the movie was supposed to be about Leonardo DiCaprio deciding whether to live in a dream with Dead Ex forever or if it was about the team successfully completing their heist. Or maybe it was about Corporate Son having his catharsis, and maybe it was also about the ethical implications of causing that catharsis by manipulating his subconscious. All of those things are enough material for a twelve-part HBO miniseries, not a three hour film.

And the women. I try so hard not to turn everything into an excuse to climb atop my personal feminist soapbox. And yet. In a team of five or six people, they could fit in exactly one female. And her job was to help the lead male character understand his feelings. The other female character, Dead Ex, is a classic example of fridging a woman so that the man can have more character development. She is literally a projection of a man's mind. When she appears to have character traits, like when she sabotages missions, it's not because she actually was that way in real life -- it's because she's a projection of her husband's feelings of guilt and self-destruction. Quite literally, she is defined by a man.

When will things like this stop pissing me off? When I see an equal number of action movies whose cast is comprised primarily of women, with just a couple men thrown in for flavor. And when I see female characters whose husbands were killed off to motivate their wives' character development, and those women get to define their men. I'm not talking about little niche films, either. I'm not talking about one or two mainstream blockbusters. I will stop being pissed off when it is a normal, unremarkable occurrence for a film like Inception to be about women.
In the realm of woman-centric action movies, I am maybe way too excited about this one, slated for 2011.

(And Inception is three hours long? I will be waiting for the DVD to come out because I cannot sit in a theater for a three hour movie.)
Sad. My stupid internet connection is not getting a long with YouTube today. What's the movie called?

And yeah, I'd wait for the DVD. I have a hard time focusing on movies in a theater anyway. Three hours was kind of torturous.
Suckerpunch! All female leads and also a dragon. It looks like it'll be actiony explosiony fluff with gorgeous ladies (and a dragon), and if there's plot to go along with it I will also be happy with that.
Sorry to cut in here, but I saw an interview from Comic-Con about this movie, and I can't wait. While Zach Snyder movies worry me a little after Watchmen, a kickass all-girl action movie gives me hope.
Ha! I was totally about to link the preview for Suckerpunch too! So so happy about this movie.
I haven't actually seen it yet, and don't plan to. The entire premise (and the casting; sadly, I am utterly allergic to Leonardo DiCaprio) just repelled me; it seemed like an excuse for CGI-enabled Spectacle, and subsequent reviews (like yours) have yet to prove me wrong.

If I'm going to be imbibing Spectacle, I need at least equal parts glee or heartwarmingness or at the very least a high-speed action plot mixed in. =)
Yeah, I can't say I love Leonardo DiCaprio either. I actually think he's a good actor, but ever since Titanic, I've had this visceral reaction of disgust every time I see him.
I LOVED Inception. And this is why. I no longer go to blockbuster films expecting anything other than 1)pretty white boys being pretty and 2)fight scenes. I leave my feminist goggles at home and turn myself off emotionally* (this is a special skill I've developed) because otherwise I will choke on the force of my own rage. Too much time spent over at The Hathor Legacy has made me give up my hope. And yet--they let Ken Watanabe live until the end!! Woo bonus points. I kept cringing every time he or Ariadne got near a ledge, because I thought they were going to get offed in pursuit of Dom's Noble White Boy Cause. Inception gave me what I expected to get, and I will go read the fic whenever I get a yearning for some pretty white boy fantasies. Then I'll feel guilty, and re-watch Whip It.

(I do have to say that Joseph Gordon Levitt can float down a hallway for me any time he wants, for as long as he wants.)

*eta: this is not to say that anyone should need/want/have to do that, it's just the way I am best able to live in the world.


Edited at 2010-07-30 07:39 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think we all have our personal levels of tolerance, and I can't say why the Star Trek film bothered me very little while Inception bothered me so much (with regard to gender issues, I mean). Maybe Uhura was just enough for me? Or maybe I'm more sympathetic because I know they were stuck with source material from the sixties? But, yeah, I do have a hard time turning my feminist goggles off. I know it annoys other people around me, but I can't stop.
Keep them on! We need more people who keep their goggles on all the time! If I'm completely honest, I've always been a wee bit more sensitive to PoC casting. By the mid 90s when we'd had Kate and Allie/Murphy Brown/Ellen in addition to other less cool lady roles, I still remember counting the number of brown people on TV everyday and sometimes, it was zero. I became excited about Inception because it had two (two!!!) brown people in the main cast, one of them playing a character from a third world country, neither of them evil, both with resources critical to the plot and who used Dom to achieve their own goals, and both lived to the end. And when I figured out that Ken Watanabe was playing this sneaky megabillionaire and not a ninja samurai, I was so geeked out. For example Watanabe, despite being a badass, has been picked up for about 4 films in the last ten years, same for Dileep Rao. Ellen Page and Marion Cotillard have maybe 40-50 credits between them in the same span of time. So I saw this movie and thought, "awesome! maybe these guys can get more roles now ." And of course, in a perfect world I want both awesome PoC roles *and* awesome lady roles, but at least for this go round, and for me, the amount of systemic fail was slightly outdone by what I felt were slight wins from an industry perspective. I felt the same way about Trek (yay Uhura/Sulu, boo Winona/Amanda/Gaila), and the opposite way about Cameron's Avatar, which had a number of pretty awesome female roles but failed so hard in every other way possible that I can't forgive it.

Edited at 2010-07-31 02:28 am (UTC)
My main problem with the movie was the pacing (slow, slow, slow, fast, faster, slow, fastest, slow, slow...). It seemed like everytime Dead Ex showed up, a passably good caper movie ground to a halt. I think I would have liked it much better if Nolan had abandoned the emotional aspect and just focused on the visual (which would have been awesome in 3D, btw). Maybe it wouldn't have been a cinematic masterpiece but it could have been an awesome summer movie.
Yeah, I think he needed to choose one or the other. Either it was a suspense film with a speculative fiction premise, or it was a psychological drama. In trying to do both, he short changed them both.
Hello, first time commenting here. Found this place through danahid's wonderful influence. Anyway.

I agree with what you said.

In all honesty, I think of Christopher Nolan as Mr. Ramsay. He did something quite interesting and brilliant when he was young (Memento). But he's stuck at Q, and will never be able to go on to R. It's not a bad thing. Very few people in Hollywood ever get to Q. It's quite an accomplishment. But he really doesn't have the vision to get to R. I haven't seen that many Nolan films, but what I have seen: recycled themes where he says absolutely nothing new. The Dark Knight was brilliant because of Heath Ledger-- other than that, nothing could have saved the movie. Why did Rachel Dawes have to die (the only female character in the entire freaking franchise. Except maybe Bruce's mother)? Because that's the tipping point for Harvey and it makes Bruce's struggle that much Manlier. I was actually looking forward to having Maggie Gyllenhaal in future movies, I really like her. But no. There are other Nolan movies (The Prestige, I think?) where women are just character development for men.

Nolan isn't Mr. Ramsay just for his treatment of women. The ideas he considers and the conclusions he comes to are just lame. There's nothing compelling about them. That ending-- what was the point? I found that I didn't care whether Dom was stuck in a dream world or not. It didn't complicate the meaning of the film, didn't add any kind of ambiguity, didn't throw my perceptions of the ideas presented. It was just an ending to be an ending, to be clever and say, "well, that was that." I mean, if I'm puzzled about anything, it's that. What was the point? And for that matter, what the hell was the point of Dom? Why is he the best? He screwed up the job with Seito, he didn't cover his first Architect's back, he made his wife go crazy (it's always the man who wants to go back to reality, isn't it. It's always the man who has a grip on things and never loses himself in delusion, no. The man gave her the idea and he, by virtue of stronger mind and better grasp of reality, can tell the woman what's real. He gets to dictate her reality. Literally. And it's the pretty young naive thing who tells him truths he already knows but can't bear to face because even Manly Men have their Heroic breaking points)... got a little carried away there. What was I saying? Oh yeah. What was the point of a character like Dom Cobb? Am I supposed to question my perception of reality because of this film? Because other movies already did that, and they did it better. Am I supposed to think about what ideas define me? How ideas form? What true inspiration is about? If that's the case, why was catharsis so fucking easy to reach for the Corporate Son, and why was the answer so obvious for Cobb? Or am I asking the wrong questions? Am I not supposed to think about this movie at all? Just sit back and watch the convoluted plot fold in on itself?

This movie had so much potential to be amazing. The ideas about labyrinths, architecture, levels, time-- could have been amazing. Fuck, the visuals could have been amazing in ways that do not include me watching a truck fall for an hour. But Mr. Nolan, just could not reaching fucking R.
Eee! Virginia Woolf references!

And a big yes to everything you said about the woman being the weak one who just can't grasp reality. And the idea that made her crazy? Not even hers. It's a really, really interesting idea, the sort of thing that an intelligent and open-minded person could get hung up on. But of course she didn't have enough agency to even make herself crazy. Everything about her had to come from her husband.

Thank you for understanding!
LOVED IT! (with a few facepalms)

Right On with the genderfail. Mal and Ariadne existed to further Leo's quest. And so did the POC. This was a disappointment.

But I personally loved that the movie was about a bunch of different things. I think I've come to realize that I want it all in a movie -- drama, angst, humor, fantasy, sex and action. I loved Leo's twisted story, got all kinds of crazy ideas about Mal when she was alive, loved Ariadne as the newcomer to this entire world of the dream (and really, I think she was more than just a facilitator; she was a narrator), loveloveloveLOVED Joseph Gordon-Levitt in all his understatedness (not gonna lie, loved his waist-coats, too), loved the syncing up of the dreams, and above all, I loved the group dynamic of a good heist. A good ensemble cast is a beautiful thing, even if they are facilitating White Boy's quest. Because, for me, the movie wasn't all about Leo.

So yeah, some frustratingly obvious problems, but I still dug it.

As for fandom, lol, it is so TYPICAL. (READ: arghblargh, I must write Arthur/Ariadne the way it's SUPPOSED to be.)
Yeah, I think we all have our personal levels of tolerance. Probably if I had enjoyed the overall storyline and pacing more, the gender fail would have bothered me less. I mean, I practically live in Star Trek, but its treatment of sex/gender is not exactly pristine. Just the world we live in, I guess.
I try so hard not to turn everything into an excuse to climb atop my personal feminist soapbox.

If a work of fiction forces you to deny your own sentient-being-hood in order to enjoy it, that's the fault of its creators, not your fault.

I am deeply disappointed and very grateful to read this review. Disappointed in the movie and grateful to you.

[edited to actually make sense]

Edited at 2010-07-30 06:50 pm (UTC)
I think I try to hold back sometimes because I know it annoys people in IRL. Like, I with held the fact that I counted the race and sex of the leads in all the movies in the previews, and the only one that was about a woman was about a nanny in the countryside. I'm sure it's no shock that none of them were about people of color, or even seemed to contain people of color. Sigh.

Thank you for understanding.
I think that says more about geography and happenstance than whether or not you're right, but then I agree with you on this practice. I've been noticing these things all my life.

*encourages*
I don't even know how I found this but, I really disagree. I thought this was probably the strongest blockbuster for female characters I've seen in a while. Ellen Page's character especially is so uncommonly found in these movies. First of all, we SEE her using her skills and intellect for most of the movie. Second, never in the entire movie did she have to wear a skimpy outfit or take off her clothes. I mean, how many action movies allow a girl to be part of the action team without putting her in the sluttiest outfit imaginable or having her being constantly hit on by one of the guys? I can't think of any. Finally, she isn't the stereotypical over-emotional token female. She's important to Dom's journey but only because she was headstrong enough to poke around in his secrets and when she realized that he was putting everyone in danger by not telling them about Mal, she insisted on being there in the dream to check on him. She's also the only supporting team member that moves on to all four levels of the dream with Dom, which shows how important she is to the overall success.

I think this movie did a hell of a lot better than recent blockbusters like Star Trek and Avatar in that respect. I've seen people criticize Ellen Page for being too boy-ish but I found that to be a refreshing change. It reminds me of the Jodie Foster days when a strong woman could be seen as smart and awesome first, not just a hot piece of ass.

Especially for Chris Nolan, whose interest has never been to write great female characters, Inception did extremely with the female characters. Not to mention, Mal was probably also a dream researcher along with her husband before she died so it's not like she was some airhead who went crazy.
Another ditto on rubynye's comment about works of fiction that force you to deny your sentient-being-hood.

I haven't seen this movie, but I feel bereft of female characters that in any way represent me-- a woman. They're more like men writing what they think women might be like, in their fantasies.

What brought this on was a wholly independent stimulus. I saw "Measure for Measure" this weekend. And here was a female character in a main role who refused to sell her scruples and stood up to the Man-- to all the Men. And I was thinking, even as I watched it, How come we don't get that kind of drama today? When was the last time I watched a movie and some woman's character/choice dictated the way the thing turned out?

Shakespeare, like Star Trek, might be considered a bit dated. But when I was watching it, and I was struck by how few times I see _any_ woman portrayed as a character with a crucial plot-affecting choice (that has nothing to do with falling in love, I should say)-- it made me feel that something is missing from our current times. It's like the Machine has been working so hard to put down the feminine in all of us, we don't even know what it looks like any more. Or forget feminine; we don't even know what Human looks like any more (although we've got lots of Superheros and monsters and what-not). And I love Superheros and monsters, but if it doesn't Ring True, I end up feeling very disappointed.

Nice post!