New on DVD and Blu-Ray: ‘Inception’ and ‘Shrek’

Inception

(Spoiler Alert)

Inception opens with a framing device of Cobb being washed up on a beach and taken by Saito’s men. Suddenly we are taken back in time in what is clearly the same location. What I find interesting is that this framing device is seemingly not for any plot purpose. Instead it is intended to throw off the viewer and help them to connect the visually identical scenario of two separate dreams. This is essentially how I feel about the entire film. It is not really about the story it is telling, nor is it about any sort of moral. It is a jigsaw puzzle that is more about the audience watching the movie than it is about the movie itself. That, in and of itself, is not the films flaw or virtue, but it causes some of the flaws of this near-amazing film.

I assume by now that most of you have seen the film and therefore I will not refrain from any spoilers. Inception is, on the surface level, a film about breaking into a man’s dream and planting the idea of having him break his father’s company up. Cobb is the master at this new form of thievery. With him are Arthur, Ariadne, Eames, Saito, and Yusuf. Each character is allowed their job, and one, basic characteristic to define themselves by. Their depth could be compared to character in the game Clue. And that is all they need to be, since the movie is basically a jigsaw puzzle.

There is no real character development other than the two characters who have Inception performed on them (yes, I believe that Ariadne performs Inception on Cobb). And even that isn’t really character development; it is more like instantaneous change. But this two, is unnecessary to the film’s purpose.

Its purpose, in my opinion is to take the viewer on a ride. The movie feels a bit like a video game to me, but I don’t mean that as an insult or a complaint about the action sequences. I mean that it is like a video game because the movie is an experience. The viewer gets brought into the little world that Nolan has created and then submerges with the characters on their collective goal. Bear in mind that the actual idea being incepted (is that a word?) is, like the characters, primitive and vague.

But the simplicity is all part of the effect. If the concepts or characters or ideas were any more complex, the film would isolate its viewers and become merely a clever action movie. Instead, it is an experience, and this is both a blessing and a curse for the film. Because it is an experience, I found myself caught up and impressed at the midnight showing. It is a very good film, even if it is heavy in expositional dialogue and narratively flawed (the concept of time in dream as Cobb’s excuse to go deeper makes no sense and does anybody actually understand limbo? I don’t think so), it still is a good movie. But once you have experienced something, it is never as good or potent again. The movie still amuses me, but it does not hold up to its original viewing. And even after that first viewing, I knew it was no Dark Knight.

But it’s pretty solid and I probably will rent it every so often to visit Nolan’s world. The DVD is not just a plug-in-and-play deal as one might expect from such a blockbuster. In fact it has a plethora of featurettes and Nolan’s wonderful commentary. It is one of the best I’ve heard all year.

Shrek Forever After/Shrek Complete Series

I love Shrek. I think he is recognizably a classic protagonist of wonderful fairy tales. I even see the value of the original becoming a franchise. The setup of the characters, the locations and the adventure-esque nature of the narrative are perfect for repeat ventures. But the sequels didn’t really work.

Let’s start with Shrek 2 shall we? I enjoy Shrek 2 as much as the next person, I think it was a very good film. And probably one of the funniest films of the past ten years (I dare you to try to sit through it without laughing), but it isn’t anything like the original. The first was a great throwback to a classic Disney adventure. The second is a hodgepodge of clever pop-culture references. While the references are very amusing, they prevent the film from having the romantic, emotional, or adventurous feel of the original.

Shrek 3 and 4 can be combined into one, simple rant about the generic degradation of the comedy genre. Stupidity is taking over. These two films are nothing but capitalization on the few moments of hilarity that became pop-culture references from the first two films. Most notably, Puss in Boots. The amount of attention from that character alone is (supposedly) producing a spin-off just on his character. I also think he is one of the biggest reasons Shrek 3 happened. Well, that and over four-hundred million at the box-office.

It’s just capitalization. That’s all the last two films are. If you happened to like the third outing, you will probably enjoy the fourth, but that is not for me. All I will say about it specifically is that it is more of the same. The repetition reminds me very much of the Meet the Parents phenomenon. The original was great, the rest are just bullshit. But mildly entertaining bullshit. This week you can buy them all, in a fancy set if your heart desires.

On the Art of DVDs:

Inception is a bad title for the film. I can’t imagine trying to run an ad campaign for the film either, particularly in poster format. How can you capture an experience in an individual photograph? I guess that’s the question advertisers have been asking themselves since the inception of their industry (aren’t I so witty).

Here is a sampling of the Inception ad campaign. I guess it was supposed to help keep the plotline of the film a total mystery, not that any of that could be conveyed in a single image. The main poster and DVD cover is them standing in the street, an actual shot of the film. But I always liked the walking on walls one better. And Joseph-Gordon Levett’s close-up is pretty badass.

I don’t care about more Shrek posters.

Other Ventures:

Cronos and Videodrome go criterion. That is a very odd set that doesn’t quite ring Criterion to me. Oh well, both films are pretty good early career stuff for auteurs Guillermo Del Toro and David Cronenberg. Lost in Translation goes Blu-ray and there is some kind of Fox 75th anniversary thing. It looks pretty cool, but I could never afford it. I guess that’s the week!

FilmMisery Recommends:

Lock yourself in a room with a Blu-ray player and watch Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s gravity-fight scene over and over…

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  • Eric M

    Oh Davin… the man who, post-midnight showing, dismissed my idea that inception was performed on Cobb as conspiracy theory…

    Five months removed from the release, I still have a hard time praising Nolan for the movie. Unlike Memento, he was unable/unwilling to make a movie that had enough of a conclusion to make debating worth while. It seems like fans are bringing a lot more into the movie than what Nolan had intended with the released cut. Sorry, but that’s not the mark of a great film.

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