A dream is a wish your distributor makes
Itâ€™s a damn shame Congress has killed the concept of betting on box-office performance. Because oddsmakers could be having a field day right now with the most burning cinematic question of the moment: whether Christopher Nolan will go down in a history as one of the most important filmmakers of his generation, or just a guy who was in the right place at the right time.
Apparently, a roughly $40 million weekend for his Inception will mark Nolan as the mere benefactor of a joy ride on Batmanâ€™s shoulders, while something in the realm of $60 million â€“ which is said to be just as much of a possibility â€“ will cement him as a brand of and unto himself. Not since Heidi Montag went under the knife has $20 million had the potential to change so much.
Actually, that dramatic scenario notwithstanding, it probably wonâ€™t be until the third weekend that we can take the full and complete measure of Inceptionâ€™s success, since its audience for next weekend already seems assured: everybody who has to go back to figure out what the hell happens in the thing. But if the movieâ€™s ticket-counter take has bled out within a month, the â€śexpertâ€ť post mortems will begin: The film was too brainy. Too long. Too cold and clinical for summer, especially during a recessionary economy that calls for lighthearted escapism.
Or maybe the culprit will have been that itâ€™s â€“ gulp â€“ just not all that great.
Honestly, this is one of only two Nolan films I donâ€™t feel like recommending enthusiastically. And not because, as a few other critics have charged, its emotional center is somehow lacking. Actually, the plot thread concerning dream thief Dom Cobbâ€™s (mild spoiler alert) tortured past as a husband and father struck me as far more authentic and affecting than the similar one star Leonardo DiCaprio navigated in the mostly dismissible Shutter Island.
My problems are that: a) Inception — like The Prestige, still my least favorite of Nolanâ€™s films — is simply too twisty for its own good (You donâ€™t just process these movies; you diagram them on the inside of your forehead); and b) as he did in the otherwise sterling Batman Begins, Nolan proves that he simply cannot write believable dialogue. Philosophical ruminations, sure; exposition, till the cows come home. But when those predilections intersect â€“ particularly whenever Ellen Page, as the most preternaturally wise college intern on Earth, opens her mouth –Â the effect is uncomfortably akin to listening to the characters in The Lady in the Water explain the endless arcana of the Scrunt race. And when a Nolan flick even remotely reminds me of the latter-day M. Night ShamWow â€¦ well, give me the kick and wake me up from this bad dream. This guy really needs his brother to write all of his final drafts.
Itâ€™s not a bad film, certainly; those interminable rule-setting ruminations are forgivable once you realize they exist merely to facilitate the increasingly Boschian brainscapes team Nolan has whipped up. There are images in the film that are so giddily inventive that they seem destined to end up in an Oscar clip reel of the landmark visuals in cinema history.
Then again, I once said the same thing about Minority Report, and when was the last time you even thought about that picture? Iâ€™ll revisit Inception at some point down the road, and I sincerely hope my initial â€śmehâ€ť will melt away, yielding to a dawning awareness that metaphysical nirvana was right there all the time. But at this point, to take a cue from Pageâ€™s Cisco commercials, Iâ€™m just not ready to bet the â€¦ the farm.