A new poster for Christopher Nolan’s upcoming brain-twist thriller Inception has appeared. Besides the fact that it looks totally awesome and insane, it still tells us nothing about this blockbuster mystery film. We’ve got a great cast, dressed in spiffy clothes and toting spiffy guns. In the background the cityscape tilts upwards, Halo-style. According to the tagline, “Your mind is the scene of the crime.” Also, Tom Berenger is in this movie. Where am I?
Coming two years after Nolan’s The Dark Knight, Inception is the latest movie in a curious Hollywood subgenre: the film a director makes immediately after they make a megahit blockbuster. These films tend to be deeply personal for the filmmaker. They’re also very uncommercial projects that Hollywood wouldn’t normally touch with a ten-foot pole. But thanks to the directors’ blockbuster cache, they come equipped with massive budgets.
The results are mixed, but always intriguing. Think Peter Jackson making a three-hour King Kong after The Lord of the Rings, or the Wachowski Brothers moving on from The Matrix by turning the goofy original Speed Racer into a zero-gravity neo-fetish mess. Steven Spielberg’s made a career out of this: Close Encounters of the Third Kind followed Jaws, Schindler’s List followed Jurassic Park, Munich followed War of the Worlds. The granddaddy is probably Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, which followed on the heels of his successful The Deer Hunter and became a terrible example of auterist overreach combined with a bottomless budget. (You could also throw in Apocalypse Now, and maybe even Intolerance.)
Personally, I’ll follow Christopher Nolan anywhere he goes. He’s had a terrific run of thrilling, incisive movies (he’s arguably the only current director who’s never made a bad film.) But there’s no denying that, based on what little we’ve seen, Inception is going to be a majorly strange movie. My question is: can you think of any movie this strange that gets a nine-figure budget and a cast of superstars? I mean, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was weird, but that wasn’t intentional, was it?