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On Inception: A Visually Stunning Post.

July 27, 2010

Leo DiLeoface’s new film, Inception, has been called “visually stunning” by some and … “visually stunning” by others. Others. Others.

I saw the film over the weekend and I respond to these assertions with an extremely high-pitched, “Really??!!” Critics invoke the visual stunning-ness of the film as the saving grace of a movie that would otherwise fall incredibly flat. Although this phrase is, no doubt, a piece of canonical jargon the film critique world uses profusely it ought to be used to describe things that actually stun. Inception does not, in my opinion, fit this description.

On the contrary, Inception trots out one tired reference after another, failing to stun as promised. I mean, I have been stunned before and…

Okay, enough. Here’s the evidence (and snarkiness).

Set from 'Inception' - the snowy, blowy end level. Look familiar?

Oh, yeah! It's totally 'Goldeneye' for N64. I get to be Natalya!

Paris is...folding!!??

NL Architects -- roll-up city. 'Kay, I'm a little excited they pulled this one for a reference.

Nothing screams "ASIAN BUSINESSMAN!" better than...

...lanterns. Lanterns! LANTERNS!!! (By the by, follow this link and you'll find that these lanterns are also visually stunning).

Listen, I know that Leo and his crew are corporate espionage guys and that the dreams in which they conduct business are supposed to be as convincing as possible so as to fooly fool their targets into giving up info or having great new ideas. But the thing is — all the targeted espionagees (?) WAKE UP after their encounters with Leo & posse. That is, at some point, if they are even aware of what they’ve given up or give thought to a ‘new and original’ (read: implanted) idea they will know that this event originated in a dream. And when we’re dreaming, we rarely question the reality of the dream we’re in – no matter how many toilets full of bacon, talking animals and flying goes on. (Jeez, I hadn’t even thought of that – WTF? How can you make a dream movie without flying?)

It seems to me that the film makers could have and should have gone further with their chosen dream imagery. They could have actually stunned audiences, instead of beating us in our faces with ham-fisted symbolism, repetitive dialogue and endless plot recaps. Honestly, this shizz makes me wistful for the visual stunning-ness of movies the likes of this….

I will admit that I am perhaps a tad defensive because these environments are supposed to be the brain children of extraordinarily talented architects. So don’t even get me started on the fact that Leo chose his precocious little architect sex-bomb from a real or pseudo Ecole des Beaux (F)Arts…

Why the long face, oh wizened Architecture Professor Caine? You bored to tears with all the stone corbels and classical domes you have to yammer about all day long? Don't worry - I am, too.

And, scene.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. prof susurro permalink
    July 27, 2010 11:38 am

    I did think the “Paris is folding” shot and the sequences with Mal in the depths of his mind which recalled certain French cinema quite stunning. If it’s cliche to find something beautifully laid out or conceived and say so, so be it. That said, I don’t think the content of my review, ie that much of the film is retread of other ideas, images, and stereotypes, is worthy of such dismissal b/c I used an appropriate phrase to describe my reaction to scenery, especially since it doesn’t seem that much different than your own opinion of the film.

    • July 27, 2010 12:05 pm

      By no means do I intend to dismiss your review. I think that we share many thoughts on the film, too. I couldn’t have written a more succinct concluding statement than you:

      While Nolan offers a film that is inoffensive on almost all levels, he also offers us a movie that is entirely too long and too dependent on worlds, techniques, and plots we have all seen before. His actors all do a stellar job but from the cameo by Haas to the starring role by DiCaprio, most of his actors are underutilized.

      My bone is with the “visually stunning” moniker, particularly from an architectural design perspective. This film didn’t visually derail, demarcate or demand anything from its audience; the likes of which are necessary for one to be truly stunned. Also, the architectural references were alternately superficial and out-of-touch with the contemporary discipline. I think that a film that declares architecture to be of crucial importance to the plot has a responsibility to represent it in a more accurate, well-researched and thoughtful way.

      Lots of beautifully laid out and attractive things fall short of what I would consider “stunning”. There are moments in film (not this one) that stun me. There are moments in life that visually stun me. That is, moments at which I am honestly derailed from my typical mode of thinking. Moments that make you gasp, weep (see, I’m not afraid of cliches)…

      The “visually stunning” aspect of Inception is misleading and an excuse to sort of like this film enough to go see on the big screen. The reality of the movie is particularly disappointing to me because the premise is so good and because the potential for visual acrobatics within this type of narrative seems so boundless.

  2. Desmond permalink
    August 2, 2010 4:09 pm

    Completely agree on the “N64” reference. The first thing I thought when that scene came up was the Goldeneye theme music. Ahhhh….nostalgia.

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