The Top Fell! Let's Fight About Inception
How are your brains? By now you should have all seen Inception for the SparkNotes Movie Club. If you haven’t, stop reading, because we’re about to get into some heavy-duty spoilers. In fact, if you’ve never seen Inception, you probably shouldn’t have read that headline. So try to forget that, OK? Perhaps you can erase the memory by drinking a Slurpee really fast. That’s how Grandma forgot my 6th birthday, according to my dad.
Thanks to everyone who joined in the Facebook chat. Of all the movies we’ve watched, this was the most difficult to live-blog, because I kept getting caught up in the story, desperately looking for the elusive wedding ring and other hints that would help decipher the twisty plot. But it was a lot of fun, and your comments were as hilarious as they were helpful. (A special thanks to everyone who explained limbo, even if you’re all very, very, very wrong.)
Now on to the discussion questions. As usual, my answers appear below each question. That doesn’t mean my answers are correct. This movie lends itself to multiple interpretations. So please comment below and offer up your own theories and analysis. And cookie recipes.
1. What the hell happened?
The movie isn’t as complex as it appears. Simply put, Cobb and his gang of Dream Warriors successfully incepted an idea into Fischer’s head. Upon completion of the mission, Cobb was allowed to return to the United States and reunite with his kids. He is not dreaming at the end, despite the spinning top (which was totally about to fall). Besides, the point isn’t the top, but that Cobb doesn’t care about the top anymore, and instead focuses on his kids. That’s it.
2. But what about the theory that Cobb is still dreaming at the end?
That’s a stupid theory. Only stupid people believe that. He’s not wearing the wedding ring at the airport. The wedding ring is his real totem.
3. Nuh-uh! His totem is the top. Right?
No, it isn’t. That was Mal’s totem. He just held on to it. Cobb never explains his totem, but watching his wedding ring appear in the dream world and disappear in the real world makes me believe his totem is his wedding ring. I think.
4. But what about the theory that the whole point of Saito’s mission was to incept Cobb with the idea to return to America and move on with his life? Saito never existed!
That’s an interesting hypothesis, but Cobb never needed that idea incepted in his brain. He always wanted to return to America, but couldn’t for legal reasons. This would be like incepting me with the thought: trampolines are fun. I already know that. You don’t need to sneak into my brain to tell me.
5. But what about the theory that Ariadne is really Mal in disguise?
This would explain why Ariadne acts so strange inside Cobb’s dream, and why she’s always snooping around and asking personal questions. Still, that theory seems too complex and goofy, as if Inception fans are trying to make the plot more hip and tricky. Some people are never happy with a straight answer.
6. Can you explain limbo in a single sentence?
Festive people attempt to travel beneath a pole in an awkward manner. As for the limbo mentioned in the movie, it’s a place where you go that’s really deep in your brain. You can leave limbo if you die in limbo. But you don’t know you’re in limbo, unless you’re Ellen Page and it’s near the end of the movie. I have no idea why Cobb and his wife needed to be killed in an over-dramatic fashion to come out of limbo. (Head crushed by a train? Haven't they heard of a noose, or ear poison?) I also don't know why Cobb never told his team members the trick to get out of limbo. It may have been useless, since in limbo your brain is mush, but still...not cool, Cobb. Not cool.
7. How did Cobb find Saito at the end?
A pair of magic slacks, presumably.
8. Explain kicks and how they work.
If you’re in the second level of a dream, and someone kicks you from the first level, you would wake up from the second level. You have no control over kicks. If the kicker kicks you, you wake up. I think we can all agree on this.
So, how did Arthur remain sleeping in the van (and floating around the hotel) if his kick was the van hitting the wall and the sensation of falling? Everyone in the dream starts screaming, “We missed the kick!” How can you miss a kick? A kick is something you cannot avoid. That’s why it’s a kick and not a nudge. This is Plot Hole #1.
9. Why are there no bulletproof vests?
This is Plot Hole #2. These dream warriors can march into a dream armed with guns and freaking grenade launchers, but no one thought to “dream up” bulletproof vests? They give themselves white machine guns! And skis! And cool leather jackets! And nice haircuts! But bulletproof vests aren’t allowed? OK. Fine. But who’s going to explain this to Saito? “Sorry, Saito. You’ve been shot. You’re going to go into limbo, a place from which you may never return, to live out the rest of your consciousness trapped in a nightmare of your own making all because we are a bunch of silly people who have no concept of safety. Bye-bye.”
This bugged me. Greatly.
10. Who is the hero?
It’s not Cobb.
Why should we care about Cobb? The guy was willing to abandon his children for a few hours (or days) and live a lifetime with his wife in an isolated dream world. He and his wife must have really hated their kids. I know parents like to get away from their children every once and while, but to spend 50 dream years without them seems like bad parenting, if you ask me. So I don’t really care about Cobb, or his selfish wife.
I also don’t care about Saito. He’s a rich man who got richer. Wow. Forgive me for not standing up and cheering during the credits. A better movie would have been made if the story focused on the likable characters (Arthur, Eames, the Chemist) and if the mission didn’t involve helping a corporation make more money, but was instead about stopping a war or helping me think up a crazy-rad idea for edible socks. Wait…hold on! Cotton…cotton candy…cotton candy in sewing machine…argh! The idea is right there. I just can’t grasp it. Help me, dream warriors!
11. Is Inception the best movie of the year?
Nope. It’s like a 100-piece jigsaw puzzle of a honeybee hive. At first you look at it and say, “Wow. There are so many bees, and they’re all the same color. We’ll never solve this jigsaw puzzle. We are worthless.” Then you realize there aren’t that many pieces, and all the pieces fit easily. Now you’re left with a picture of bees, and that’s pretty boring. Sure, some of the pieces might fit in a different order if you cram the cardboard nubs together, but is it really worth your time to do that? That said, the music is pretty cool, and the anti-gravity fight is worth the price of admission. It’s not a bad movie, but it’s not as complex as it pretends to be.
So...on a scale of 7,000, how wrong am I? And if you can explain the lack of bulletproof vests, how Cobb found Saito, or how Arthur didn't wake up from his kick, you will win an invisible, imaginary bike.
Related post: SparkNotes Movie Club: Inception