A Visceral Reaction

You only have a couple of days left to get HE Book 1 as a personalized artist edition. After that they will move to my Topatoco store and personalized AE’s won’t be available again until the holidays.

If this comic doesn’t make any sense you should probably go see Inception. It’s worth your time.

MOSTLY SPOILER FREE COMMENTARY BELOW:
I do not understand why I am hearing the phrase “mind fuck” tossed around with regards to this movie. Inception actually makes a clear, concerted effort to explain exactly what’s going on during the film. At no point are you questioning what is reality and what is a dream (well, sort of…). My point is that while there ARE dreams within dreams within dreams, the plot spells each “level” and it’s purpose out very clearly. There really isn’t a Fight Club or Sixth Sense moment where you think “this movie has been PLAYING ME ALL ALONG!” Again, that is only my reaction to some of the chatter I am reading about Inception from my perch high atop the Twitmosphere. It is not a judgement on the film, nor am I suggesting the story would have been better served by some sort of twist ending. Far from it, in fact.

Inception is an original story, expertly acted and beautifully shot. If we still only had 5 best film Oscar slots, it would certainly take one of them. Christopher Nolan is a fantastic story teller, though he has almost exclusively been telling other people’s stories. Inception was his baby and it shows. The fact that it took him 8 years to write also shows. The plot is complex without being hard to follow. There is a balance that leaves you thinking long and hard about what you’ve just seen but not questioning it.  I will suggest that you take a bathroom break during the previews because Inception is two and a half hours long and there really isn’t a good time to leave the theater.

Share your thoughts (without revealing specific plot points) in the comments.

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47 Comments

  1. I saw it the Saturday night after it came out, in a totally-packed theatre. My favorite audience-moment (apart from the laughter for, "Kiss…" "They're still staring at us." "Yeah, well, I thought maybe it was worth a shot. We should probably get out of here now….") was the variety of reactions to the blackout after the very last shot. Lots of gasps, several "AAARGH!", a couple "No!", a few "YEEEES," one "SHIT!" and at least a few people laughed out loud. I was silent for a good thirty seconds into the credits, then I turned to my boyfriend and said, "Jesus—FUCK."

    I still find myself thinking about it. A lot. Also, I find myself occasionally wondering what my "totem" would be. Perhaps a pen. A customized pen. Hmmm…

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  2. I also saw it the weekend it came out. Immediately after, I proceeded to have an argument over whether it was a dream or not. I'm on the side that it was a dream and whether the top fell or not didn't really matter; it wasn't Cobb's totem anyway.

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    • Wait, the totem worked fine for the Japanese dude. I think the idea is to intimately know what the totem is supposed to do so that nobody can fake its behavior if somebody else is controlling the dream.

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      • Yeah I assumed he took over her totem and learned its characteristics. We learned its deeper meaning later but I think it would still function for Cob's purposes.

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  3. Not quite – there is a bit of a mindfuck if you consider it all a dream. Which IMHO it was, since the kids haven't aged a day compared to Leo's dream.

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    • Maybe edit your comment with a SPOILER tag if you can.

      In that regard they didnt make it clear how long Cob had been away. I assumed several years but perhaps it was only 6 months or so.

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      • He comes home, where his kids:

        – haven't aged
        – are both home
        – are both in the backyard
        – are both playing together, not seperately
        – are both positioned in the same tableau as his memories

        If it's meant to be real, it's one *hell* of a coincidence. Though you could argue the ending of the movie is actually the beginning, and his memories throughout of his children are actually that moment, hence 'going home'.

        I didn't understand the hype, and was disappointed. If anything, it over-explained simple concepts, to the extent my friend and I both said "Get on with it already!" Given the subject matter, the type of ending was exactly what we expected.

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  4. Regarding the children, look at the cast on the IMDB.

    Claire Geare … Phillipa (3 years)
    Magnus Nolan … James (20 months)

    Taylor Geare … Phillipa (5 years)
    Johnathan Geare … James (3 years)

    It may not have been conveyed clearly, but they were very definitely supposed to be older in the final scene.

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    • Weird. I guess since you never see the younger ones faces you dont really notice.

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  5. I felt totally ripped off by the ending, but my wife came up with an alternate ending in which the Michael Caine character (who walks by the totem at the end), stops and tips the totem on its side, thereby concealing the dream state from Cobb, and leaving open the question of *whose* dream the ending really was.

    When I envisioned THAT ending, I got chills. Unlike the *actual* ending, which was like, “so what was the freaking point of the last two hours?”

    (I’d been hoping for a final twist/revelation in which the last dream is a trick by Saito or somebody to avoid having to pay Cobb, or perhaps someone on the team really working for Cobalt Engineering, but her ending had the advantage of needing no changes to the film’s budget or running time, and allows the viewer to project their own conspiracy theories as to the reason for Caine doing the toppling.)

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  6. [spoiling reaction]]
    I too was waiting for the twist ending, but not in a good way. I was dreading it, dreading being told that everything I'd been emotionally investiing in and enjoying was invalid. Any twist during the plot itself, for a story point, would have been horrible.

    The 'twist' we got was perfect. It was set nicely way after the actual resolution of the story. It was ambiguous so it might not be a twist (merely a question to the audience – so, do you really know what';s real, and does it matter). And most importantly, if it is a dream – it matters, but doesn't invalidate things.

    The core of the story was Cobb learning to forgive himself, and allow himself peace. If that happens in the real world, great, he is both at peace and with his children again in the real worl,d his children get their father back.

    If it's in a dream world, then great, he is at peace and whith his children again, and his children always had their mother back.

    Either Saito was a businessman who might have been set to forge an evil empire and perhaps would have been mellowed by the experience, or perhaps he was a dreamer sent by Cobb's wife to bring him back (falling plane for a final kick to the real world) who failed, and Cobb bought himself as much of a happy ending as possible by 'rescuing' Saito to a more acceptable level of the dream.

    Who knows! But the ending only means you look at the story differently, not that the story is sudden'y unimportant.

    That's my take, anyway :)

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    • An interesting note to think about is does Saito still have the same motivations AFTER spending a good 50 years in limbo? Is he the same man that hired Cob to break up Fischers company? Does he even care any more?

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    • I have to say, I really enjoyed reading your response. I agree about the true core of the movie and how Cob is now happy regardless of whatever is the truth. I think that in a way, how you perceive the ending shows what type of person you are. It's sort of a glass have full or empty thing, but with FAR more options! It's definitely fun to think about, and isn't that what story telling should be?

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  7. I just want to know what other peoples totems were and what Leo's character's old totem was.

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    • At a guess, his children.

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  8. [there be spoilers]

    I think the ending was kind of a let down. Not because it left the actual resolution ambivalent, but because it doesn't actually matter that much. If the totem falls, then the movie is about letting go, settling things with your past, "getting over it".

    Then again, if the totem keeps on spinning, the central message of the movie is "Choose your children over your wife", because that's what DiCaprio's character essentially does.

    Movie was a good action flick with some pretty awesome visuals, but it was no Matrix, no si-ree.Then again, I'm not 15 anymore, so I doubt anything can be matrix again.

    [now come some major spoilers of Shutter Island]

    I saw Shutter Island couple of days later, and I can't help but compare the two movies. I mean, Leo is basically playing the same character, with same background and problems!
    That movie had a deeper meaning. In the and the (apparently sane, after all) DiCaprio's character chooses to get lobotomy, because he can't live with his past. That movie says some things in the past can't be forgotten and can't be lived with. The allusion to death camps certainly plays along with that.

    The Inception was a better, more enjoyable and more intriguing movie, though. No complaints there.

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  9. I'd have to agree with you Joel, I loved the movie. I was very happy to see them not try to get overly technical on how the machine worked allowing you to enter someone else's dream. That just leads to people asking questions that aren't about the actual story.

    Oh and I just thought I'd throw this out there, it's not exactly an original story. I've been hearing it get compared to the movie Paprika by some Podcasts I listen to. I've heard if you like Inception you'd like Paprika.

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    • I assumed the machine was a combination of sleep inducing chemicals and electrical systems that shared the brain impulses from each dreamer.

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      • Yeah, I like to think it also has something to do with bio feedback. Getting each certain waves of each persons brain in sync. I use to go to sessions where it was used and I learned to ease the severity of my migraines with it among other things.
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bio_feedback

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      • Someone in an interview basically said the two lines that go into people are both a drip with the chemicals and a line that goes into the nervous system. so spot on.

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  10. My thoughtful, intelligent and not at all shallow and silly two cents:

    Zero-gravity JGL.
    Wouldn't mind dreaming of that.

    No, seriously, Christ Nolan is welcome to fuck my mind anytime.

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    • At first I was CERTAIN that scene was filled on a vomit commet. Now Im not so sure.

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      • They built an entire 100 foot long hallway connected to multiple rings, and they rotated it around, hoping I guess that the actors didn't kill themselves. For the "floating" scenes they just rigged up cables.

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  11. [A bit spoilery]

    The movie really made me think of Vanilla Sky, which is funny because that bombed and this is a major hit. The basic premise is the same, with dreaming and not being sure if you're awake, and the ending is similar, where there's a vague sense of, "Is this awake? Is this still a dream?" I'm really annoyed that none of my friends have seen Sky, because "OH GOD TOM CRUISE I HATE HIM SO MUCH" sort of responses.

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    • I just didn't like Vanilla Sky because once you find out everything after the first 20 minutes has been a dream, the rest of the movie is totally invalidated. None of it mattered.

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  12. [spoilings]

    Couple of things: I thought, at least, the twist was incredibly obvious. But beyond that, I had a couple problems with the logic that really irritated me.

    The totem is clearly a plot device. The top behaves completely differently from all of the other totems, and I feel like the other totem's were introduced in order to justify the top's existence.

    The "kick" mechanic is also poorly done. 2 things: When the van rolls over on the highway, why doesn't that kick Arthur out? Further, why doesn't the first intentional kick wake Arthur up?

    As for the whole movie being a dream, I agree that that was the intention of the film. One of the strongest pieces of evidence for this was that when the wife commits suicide, you neither see nor hear the result, no sound at all except for Leo.

    Also, the wife's suicide was unnecessary from a purely game theory standpoint. There are two options: Suicide(a) and living(b). There are two possible scenarios: reality(1) or dream state(2). The wife chose a. This is the incorrect choice. If a and 2 are true, yes, she is fine. But if a & 1 are true, then she is dead. B is the correct choice because if b&1 are true, obviously you can't wake up again. and if B&2 are true, when you die of old age you wake up anyway. B has much less loss than a.

    Which, as a note, is what cheapened the film for me anyway. Even if Leo is wrong and it all is just a dream, he's going to wake up eventually anyway, and everything is going to be just fine in the long run.

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  13. The ending was obvious, which was disappointing. I think they could've let the top drop and the same questions still would've arisen. It just felt like they had a product and they just didn't know how to close it out.

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  14. Test comment from Joel's Tweet

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  15. Test comment re: twitter request

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  16. Seriously, I don’t understand the people that are like “The ending was predictable!” or ” That was exactly the type of ending I expected.”. I mean sure, anyone with half a brain could probably figure it out, this does not make you special. This makes you look haughty when you post this on message boards, or in comments. How can you enjoy a movie when you’re sitting there predicting the ending? and then giving yourself a self-satisfying pat on the back when you’re right… and saying “well that was easy :D”. Movies are about the ride! If you don’t allow yourself to get swept away in a story as well put together as this one, I don’t know how you could enjoy any movie at all…

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    • To some people, a good movie is about not being able to predict it at all. And that's what makes it enjoyable, the fact that it surprised them and they couldn't figure it out.

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  17. In the last 20 minutes, I just had to GO!! So, after about 5 mins. of "storming the castle" I ran to the bathroom. About 3 mins. later, and……………they're still STORMING THE CASTLE!! That was a good time for pee time………….

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  18. I don't think you actually ever see the top fall in the movie when cobb spins it. He always seems to be interupted

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    • You see it fall when he's in the hotel room in Kyoto and I think there's one other time. But once they put him under in Yusuf's basement, you never see it fall again.

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  19. Joel,
    Your comment about how the movie isn't a mind bender, and is laid out completely, is a sign that this movie can be accepted on many levels. To the mass mainstream audience, it is just as you said: everything that happens on screen, and everything the characters say, is true and is actually happening. To others who like to delve deeper, things that "just don't add up" may make you question whether or not something was real. Or, you may just not take things the characters say as "truth" for granted, because, how do they know for sure? [SPOILER] I find the most interesting takes on this movie to be the ones that propose that Cobb's wife was correct when she jumped off the ledge. [/SPOILER]

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  20. We're seeing it this Thursday! Can't wait! The only bad review I've heard is from a friend whose movie taste I don't think my husband and I usually agree with anyhow, so I think I'll probably enjoy it.

    However, about it being an original story: I have it on good authority that Scrooge McDuck did it first:
    http://videogum.com/208132/caught-inception-rippe

    And in pointing this out, all I can think is "SIMPSONS DID IT!"

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  21. It struck me, the whole film was sci-fi, but with an almost complete absence of sci. All the sci is in a compact shiny case, and the rest was simply in your head, more the mechanics of the mind.

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  22. Very interesting comments over here. I finally saw it so I can now play along! I saw a couple people mention that the story is not that original. My first thought after watching the movie is that the dream levels and time implications are very similar to The Gloom, a concept introduced in the Russian Horror series "Watch." (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_Watch_(Lukyane… )

    Still great movie though!

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  23. (POSSIBLE SPOILERS)
    I tend to disagree with people who think that because you find out what you were watching was a dream, it no longer matters. Whatever it is, it's real in that moment and real to the dreamer. The characters still take their memories with them when it's all over.
    Also, I think it's funny when people say the ending was "predictable". I assume they mean it was predictable that there would be something at the end that would keep you guessing whether or not it was a dream. I confess that I too thought the movie would end like that especially when I saw the top totem. But it didn't make me enjoy the movie less, because it was a movie about DREAMS. It's pretty much a given that they'd try to mess with you a little. What I thought was NOT predictable was what Cob (is that his name?) did to his wife; that was the REAL twist in my opinion. Also I agree with Joel's take on the movie.

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    • SPOILERS BELOW!!!!!!!

      But was it a dream? Are you sure? I dont think theres supposed to be a definite answer.

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      • Yeah, I agree that there probably isn't a definite answer. My point mostly was that I enjoyed it regardless.

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  24. [SPOILERS]

    To those of you saying that the entire movie was a dream and that his wife was right all along, explain why the totem falls when we first see him in the hotel room, and (most importantly) why Mal only shows up when he "goes under" into a dream. If she was that rampant in the dreams she would be just as rampant in what is displayed as reality. I honestly don't believe the top was his totem, I think it was a reassurance that he was awake. If you pay attention during the movie, he has a wedding ring on only when he is in a dream and it doesn't look as if he has one on at the end of the movie. I think the ring is the totem and the top was just a way of double checking.

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  25. Why couldn't she use the top? Yes I know it was locked away but in the "real" world it would have been in her pocket. My theory is that his brain knew he was in a dream the whole time and invented the top as a way of saying, "If this was a dream this wouldn't fall".

    It seemed very dream like that after his wife committed obvious suicide, they were in two different hotels no matter what she planted cameras and eyewitnesses would exonerate him quickly, but instead somehow he is suddenly suspected of murder and when he gets home conveniently there is a guy with the government there all ready with tickets to get him away from a situation where he might realize he is awake.

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