Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Inception Misconception

Today I finally saw Inception. Loved it. Perhaps the fresh-from-the-theater buzz has clouded my judgment, but I walked home feeling like I’d enjoyed one of the better cinematic experiences of my life — and easily one of the best movies I’ve watched in years. But I must say that a certain chain of events affected today’s viewing — whether for better or for worse remains uncertain, but I should probably see it again regardless.

Here’s the deal. Every potential movie buddy I knew of had already watched Inception and I had a free afternoon, so I decided to suck it up and go solo. (A ME-DATE with MYSELF, because I’M WORTH IT!) So I left the house with only the company of a jacket, because this particular theater has a tendency toward the uncomfortably cold. I sat down and placed the jacket on the seat next to me. Not going to lie — part of me wanted the other movie-goers to think I was expecting someone else. In any case, I was totally caught up in the film when, despite every effort to void my soybean-sized bladder beforehand, I found myself fighting a strong urge to use the bathroom. So during a slow part I dashed out, did the necessary and then raced back, hoping all the while that I hadn’t missed any important exposition in what had already proved to be a thinker of a film.

When I got back, the movie seemed to be replaying a scene from earlier. I didn’t think twice about it. Most people who had recommended Inception to me said that I’d like it because I enjoyed mind-benders like Mulholland Drive, Donnie Darko and Memento, so the fact that Inception too was apparently folding back on itself and making a loop seemed appropriate — even foreshadowed by the shout-out to the Penrose stairs optical illusion.

Now, if you’ve already seen Inception, you know that its dreamworlds follow two rules: First, inside the dreams live “extras,” so to speak — anonymous subconscious projections that populate the background and don’t do much of importance until they realize that people such as DiCaprio’s character have burgled into the dreamer’s mind. Once these extras get wise to interlopers, they stare intently. Being manifestations of the dreamer’s mind, they want to protect the dreamer and will eventually move beyond staring attack, “killing” the interloper in the dream and thrusting them into reality by causing them to awaken. Second, a good way to rile these extras is to futz with the fabric of the dream world, as Page’s character does. Screw around too much with the logic of the dream and Marion Cotillard will pop up stab you. (A rule to live by.)

So I suddenly realized that the screen seemed much closer than it was previously. I doublechecked that I’d taken the right seat. I had — four from the back, one over from the aisle. But two seats further over: Was there a little kid sitting there before? Also: Are people staring at me?! And isn’t the movie spending a little too much time replaying the same scenes without any variation? THE HELL?!

Wrong theater.

In my haste to get back to my seat, I accidentally had entered the other, later screening of Inception, hence the plot déjà vu. People were staring at me, but not because they were hostile dream extras — they were wondering why some crazy person ran into the theater midway through the movie, plopped down and then started fidgeting nervously like a junkie in withdrawals. “This is why I shouldn’t go to movies by myself,” I say to myself. But then I figured I might as well just relax and enjoy the film, perhaps even catching bits that may have slipped by me when I first viewed these scenes.

Then I remembered: My jacket — its pockets stuffed with my keys, wallet and phone — is in the first theater.

And so I get up again and return to the first theater, ultimately having lost only a few minutes of movie but still feeling like I should see the whole thing through once again, this time perhaps not alone and not after I drink two cups of coffee. But, yes, for a moment I worried I was being incepted. (Inceived?)

Some random notes:
  • Overall a subtle infusion of video game elements into a dream story, no?
  • Weird to see Leonardo DiCaprio being haunted by a malicious dead wife after previously seeing it in Shutter Island, and interesting as well to see Marion Cotillard in a film than centrally features Edith Piaf after La Vie en Rose.
  • And little Ellen Page! How you’ve grown up! But her character being named Ariadne was just a little too on-the-nose for me. The name of Cotillard’s character, however, works: It’s not Moll but Mal — as in “bad.”
  • Has anyone else been able to make anything of DiCaprio’s character’s name, Dom Cobb? It sounds like an anagram. And it had better be, otherwise it’s a boring name.
  • Did anyone else feeling like Christopher Nolan stocking the cast with Leo, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy and Lukas Haas was just talent scouting for the next Batman movie?
  • Did anyone else know that Ken Watanabe was in Tampopo?


  1. From IMDB: "The name of Leonardo DiCaprio's character is the same as that of one of the main characters in Christopher Nolan's first feature film, Following (1998). Further, both the characters have the same profession - they supposedly play thieves."

  2. Ah. How interesting.

    But now I'm wondering where he might have gotten the name for Following. Something about it seems odd to me, in the way that a technically grammatical but oddly worded sentence will sometimes scream "I'm an anagram! Decode me!"