'Inception': Only good if you're young?
Image Credit: Melissa MoseleyPatrick Goldstein at the Los Angeles Times has an interesting piece today about Inception‘s reception. (It’s just his perception, and preconceptions lead to misconceptions and self-deception.) “If you were a young moviegoer, you loved the visually arresting puzzle-box thriller,” he writes. “But the older you got, according to polling data, the more likely you were to detest its run ‘n’ gun, dream-within-a-dream complexity. ” He compares the film to earlier generation-separating movies like Breathless and Bonnie and Clyde. Multimedia scholar Henry Jenkins argues that familiarity with video games makes Inception easier to understand. That last point is quite interesting: is Inception the first great video game movie? Not based on one specific game, but rather, on the whole stylistic structure of video game storytelling?
Jenkins points out how much of Inception rests on the notion of different “levels,” and of worlds within worlds. (More than a few people have pointed out the similarity between Inception‘s “Snow” dream and an early level in Modern Warfare 2.) And it’s certainly true that the very best video games practice a modern version of the “Show, Don’t Tell” storytelling style. Games as dissimilar as Shadow of the Colossus, Gears of War, and Braid just throw you into the action, with the bare minimum of plot exposition. (Heck, even Super Mario Bros. doesn’t tell you much more than “Save the Princess.”)
Still, I’m not so sure that I’m convinced by the “Inception as Video Game” argument. Once you get by the meta-reality vocabulary, Inception‘s plotline feels pretty straightforward. There are a lot of dreams on top of dreams, but this ain’t Fellini Satyricon: The dreams all look like Michael Mann movies, and the mini-plots in each dream level are pretty direct. Inception is confusing, but The Big Sleep is pretty darned confusing, too. (Heck, I think it’d be harder to make an infographic like this out of The Big Sleep.)
What do you think, PopWatchers? Does Inception skew young? Is it really the most complex movie ever? Or is it just the most complex-ish film to make $200 million? We can all agree on one thing: The Matrix looks pretty simple by comparison.