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Summer blockbuster movies: it’s not them, it’s me

inception_still
I happened to catch a preview screening of Christopher Nolan’s Inception last night. Now I’ll admit, I’ve never really been a fan of the action/sci-fi genre. So asking me for a completely unbiased opinion about the film would be like asking a vegetarian for an honest appraisal of a steak dinner. But even making allowance for any prejudices I may have, this film really is an awful pile of horse manure.A lot of reviewers have praised Nolan for pitching such a smart film to a mass audience. By “smart” though, they can only mean by the standards of your average summer blockbusters. So, yeah, if you found Transformers 2 overly challenging and cerebral, then maybe this won’t be the movie for you. But if you got your head around Nightmare on Elm Street, then I’m pretty sure you’ll get your head around this.

That last one is an interesting reference point. Because for all his bluster, the only way in which Nolan significantly develops up on the basic premise of that teen horror flick is in the concept of the layering of dreams. In this film, you can fall asleep within a dream and have another dream. And within that dream you can fall asleep again and have another dream, and so on. Time works differently at different depths and… Ah God, it’s too tedious to begin even to explain.

Ludicrously, preposterously, laughably overcomplicated in every detail? Yes. Difficult to grasp in it’s most basic outline? No.

So the audience is credited with enough intelligence to follow the story. But at the same time, we’re expected to be too dazzled by the never-ending succession of crashes, explosions and special effects that clog up the screen to notice the gaping plot holes, ham-fisted dramatic devices and clunking dialogue that are used to hold the whole thing together.

It’s a strange dichotomy. On the one hand, you’ll more than likely guess the (maybe, maybe not) final plot twist about half way through the film. But on the other hand, you’ll watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt spend the best part of an hour floating around an elevator shaft, while his co-stars launch a machine gun raid on an ice fortress, without either knowing or caring exactly why.

If you’ve seen the ads and it seems like the kind of film you’ll like, then there’s every chance you won’t be disappointed. But as far as I was concerned the whole thing is an epically silly waste of time.

July 15th, 2010.

27 Responses to “Summer blockbuster movies: it’s not them, it’s me”

  1. Paul Says:

    Finally, a review of Inception that rings true. It looked like a bunch of stoner shite from the get-go. I will save my nine quid for something not so likely to actually insult my brain to smithereens.

  2. El Kid Says:

    Yeah but Butler as you admitted yourself so openly at the beginning of the review you were never going to like that film. so thsat kind of renders your opinion of it mute, doesn’t it?

  3. Eoin Says:

    Haha… You don’t know the difference between “moot” and “mute.” I’m afraid, that renders YOUR opinion moot. Sorry.

  4. gueuleton Says:

    Must say I’m in two minds myself about whether or not to believe the hype about this film. Just out of interest Eoin, did you like the Dark Knight?

  5. Steve Says:

    Hey….

    Moot or indeed Mute point aside, a “spoiler alert” would have been nice. I haven’t seen this flick yet and now have a little bit too much info. Before you suggest I need not have continued to read your review, you must realise that you, Mr. Butler, have a habit of writing some very funny things, which means I find myself compelled to read your posts to the end once I have started, and this was no exception. As for your actual opinion on the movie, Sci Fi is not for everyone I agree, but loud explosions, big action set pieces and such are what I go to the local multiscreen for, the spectacle in surround sound(tm). More cerebral and challenging stuff is better enjoyed with some home comforts at hand like a beer and a cold shower if needed. The latter I found necessary after watching “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” the other night. Anyway… copy and paste this into the title the next time you review a movie: **SPOILER ALERT**

  6. Eoin Says:

    @ Steve – There’s no spoiler there. Even if you think there may be one, there really isn’t. Unfortunately, I don’t know that I can clarify any further without venturing into *actual* spoiler territory.

    You’ll just have to take my word for it!

  7. Steve Says:

    @Eoin: your word has been taken.

  8. Eoin Says:

    @ gueuleton – Sorry, I missed your question there. As I’ve said, I don’t normally watch those kind of films at all. I did see the Dark Knight rather recently.

    I thought it was just okay – big on the sort of loud explosions and set piece action sequences that Steve and lots of others enjoy, but I don’t particularly care for.

    To my mind, the definitive Batman was the camp Sixties television series starring Adam West. That series took the whole idea of a caped crusader against crime about as seriously as it ought to be taken.

  9. William Says:

    This is a joke. I’ve seen Inception and it’s one of the best movies ever made. Whatever about not liking action or science fiction movies there’s no way you can tell me it’s not a clever story.

  10. Eoin Says:

    It’s an elaborate story. I’m not sure that makes it a clever story. It’s blitzkrieg filmmaking. The plot constantly gallops forward at breakneck speed, largely because if it paused for even a second the entire edifice would crumble.

    For every far-fetched concept the audience has to get its head around, there are at least ten precepts of basic common sense it has to ignore.

    To take just one mundane example, the Slumberland A-Team don’t wake up wake up when their people carrier is careering through densely packed city streets and being riddled with bullets. But drop one of them backwards into a bath and – BAM! – they’re reporting for duty.

    Not that I’m a stick in the mud or anything. I don’t mind suspending disbelief for a film like Die Hard, that doesn’t take itself remotely seriously to begin with. But Inception’s credentials as a serious film are trumpeted so loudly, it should be able to stand up to a little scrutiny.

  11. Conal Says:

    there you have it, art should always stand up to serious scrutiny, and i for one agree.

    now can we hear more from nazi lady

  12. Eoin Says:

    Yeeaaah… vindication!

    Re: Deirdre. I’m not sure if she can be enticed out now you’ve all been so mean to her.

  13. gueuleton Says:

    My information is that the Nazi lady is just finalising a peace treaty with the Russians. Then she’ll be back in full effect.

  14. Conal Says:

    @gueuleton: nnnh! icksnay on operation barbarossay

  15. Scrubber Says:

    Long time lurker, first time contributor.
    Firstly, let me say that a vegetarian would be extremely unlikely to offer to review a steak dinner(even if they received it free of charge) ,and if they did they would not be listened to.

    Secondly, I find the subject matter of this film compelling. I have been a lucid dreamer for several years and the freedom and opportunities it affords oneself transcend language.
    The film may be contrived and fail in what it set out to achieve but if it brings awareness of wakeless lucidity to even a few people then its a force for good. I have not seen Inception yet so cannot comment on its quality but I could comment on the quality of my dream tonight!

  16. Eoin Says:

    Welcome Scrubber and thanks for finally breaking your comment silence. That’s a fair point. At the same time, I love soccer but that doesn’t make Escape to Victory a compelling film… does it??

  17. ExiledinLondon Says:

    Another first time commenter. Had to break my silence. Escape to Victory not compelling?! They escape from Nazi clutches by playing football, seriously! Although it did irk that they had to break the Irish goalie’s arm to let Stallone play in goal. Not cool.

  18. Eoin Says:

    Worse still, if I recall correctly, the Irish goalie wasn’t even a goalie. He was an outfield player the film makers stuck in goal.

    Okay, take it back: Escape to Victory is a compelling film and Pele is one of the greatest actors of his generation.

  19. Acey Says:

    http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/inception/ I happen to think that Leonardo Di Caprio and Ellen Page are fine actors who have developed greatly so I’m looking forward to it.

  20. Colin Says:

    Escape to Victory is fun. So many unintentionally funny moments. You can’t but laugh at the classic moment when at half-time on the verge of escaping, they stop, look at each other and one guy yelps “We can win this!”…

    May still go see Inception, was going to use it as retaliation for gf using her Cinema Veto to make me see Twilight 3: Brooding Close-ups. Terrible, terrible, terrible movie.

  21. Eoin Says:

    @ Acey – Ellen Page’s character isn’t really a character, more a device for explaining the plot to the audience. But sure listen, this is only my opinion. It’s not the end of the world if we disagree.

    @ Colin – I actually think you’d enjoy Inception. Right up your street.

    Re: Escape to Victory. When North Korea lost 7-0 to Portugal in the World Cup, I was kinda hoping the crowd would invade the pitch and smuggle the North Korean players out of the stadium in disguise, a la Escape to Victory.

  22. Eoin Says:

    P.S. Steve, if you’re still reading, that’s a massive Escape to Victory **SPOILER** right there!

  23. Deirdre Says:

    Eoin, it’s okay. You’re very kind. Thank you.

  24. gueuleton Says:

    I saw Inception last night and thought it was brilliant. Where are all these plot holes you’re talking about???

  25. Rob Says:

    Thanks Eoin! The gf wanted to drag me to this one, I think trying to get me back for all the football I made her watch in the last month! But then I told her to read this…sorted!

  26. Eoin Says:

    @ Rob – I should stress Rob that I’m just not a fan of that type of film, didn’t like Dark Knight either. My flatmate went to Inception last night with his girlfriend and they both loved it, so there you go.

    @ gueuelton – I’ve got an answer to that question but I’m going to put it in a different blog post because it contains massive spoilers.

  27. The single biggest ‘Inception’ plot hole as I see it… | Tripping Along The Ledge Says:

    [...] previously mentioned here, I saw Christopher Nolan’s Inception during the week (in a professional capacity) and [...]

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