Just how complicated is Inception?
Film // Jim // 2nd August 2010
In terms of critical comment, I would definitely suggest that you get yourself to see Inception asap, it isn't going to change your life, but it is brilliantly made, absorbing and thought provoking, could have had a few more jokes in there though.
More interesting to me though is that a key theme in both the hype for and the reviews of Inception seems to be about how totally confusing and difficult the plot is. You would think that the whole thing was some sort of MENSA approved scheme to oppress the slow witted by developing some new form of entertainment that only brainy people can enjoy.
Is it some hyper-clever, gnostic tract, or just a good, solid sci-fi heist film with lots of clever references? Well, probably a bit of both.
The reality is, that although Inception does have a twisty, plot and multiple layers of story going on, the whole thing is explained and edited together so well that you always have a handle on what is happening and how each layer is connected.
The central conceit (is any of it real?) is up for grabs from fairly early on - the final scene and indeed the final image are not really a surprise. What is more interesting are the arguments for and against that you will have afterwards. Personally I think there are a few clues in there to support the idea that it is all an illusion - but I'm going to see it again to make sure.
Anyhow, the whole "You have to be a total genius to understand Inception"bandwagon got me thinking about the relative difficulty of different films, that led to me making a list and then that led to me drawing a diagram. After hours of analysis I was left with four distinct conclusions:
1) The hardest film to understand (ever) is Primer
2) The Easiest film to understand (ever) is Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo
3) Inception isn't really all that hard to understand.
4) I need to get out more
The list of films I used is below and the diagram, which shows that Inception is snuggled fairly near the middle of the paper-jam film difficulty continuum.
Films that are harder than Inception
Even the deeply clever Tom Stoppard, who was one of the screenwriters, does not claim to understand exactly what Brazil is about. He is not alone.
After about ten viewings you start to suss out exactly what is going on here, then you go online, read some essays and realise that you were probably wrong. Great thing is, it doesn't really matter.
The Stunt Man
Film as reality and reality as film in this philosophically saturated masterpiece from 1980. Keeps you off balance all the way through, has amazing stunts, a barking mad score, batshit crazy acting and Peter O'Toole at his absolute finest as a film director with a hint of the satanic about him.
The Dawn of man section is easy enough to follow, while the scientific/voyage section is tough to follow, probably because you tend to fall asleep while watching it. Anyone who claims to know what is going on during the whole "entering the stargate" bit is both missing the point and a no-good, dirty, low-down liar.
Impossible to comprehend on three distinct levels: 1: What the fuck is this about? 2: What the fuck were they thinking? 3: How the fuck did they persuade anyone to pay for this? A film that still for some reason provokes discussion elsewhere on this site, in a dark alternate universe where sarcasm seems not to exist.
A film so complicated that a big diagram which was constructed to explain what was going on is in itself almost impossible to get your head around. Impressively, for such a complex story, there is virtually no explicit exposition at all. A point I laboured for, what I felt at the time, was humorous effect a few years back.
Films that are easier than Inception
Admittedly half the time you will be thinking a)What on earth is going on here, plus b)If Walt Disney had been Japanese the world would have been a very different place. However the overall plot kind of makes sense, like those dreams you have after drinking too much sambuca and reading too much Philip K Dick.
A masterpiece of future noir styling, originally an ambiguous tale with philosophical overtones of what it means to be human. The suits didn't like that though so they forced Harrison Ford to do the shocking "They don't advertise for killers in the paper..." voice-over to make the whole thing much easier to follow.
The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy
A brilliant example of taking a really complicated, long series of novels - involving all manner of impenetrable bollocks about elves in a made up language - and turning than into a series of really long films that are fairly easy to follow and involve a lot of crying.
Great use of characters who are there to pretty much explain everything that has happened, why it has happened and what is probably going to happen next.
Just in case you aren't sure exactly what is going on there are songs to explain everything in painstaking detail and tell you how you are supposed to feel - which may be why it is statistically the most popular film with women of all ages.
Breakdance 2: Electric Boogaloo
A film that you can entirely understand, just by reading the title, Although if you still need more info the superb trailer covers the whole thing in exhausting detail and rap-based clarity in a couple of minutes.