"September 1", "Inception", and Movies

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
Lest we should see where we are, 
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.
- September 1, 1939. W.H. Auden

I think I see this trend in movies.  I just watched Inception last night and, I have to say, I was disappointed.  This movie 'successfully' replaces plot with confusion, character with fast paced action, and story development/pacing with a droning, explosion punctuated, base line that almost never stops.  

Don't get me wrong though, it was entertaining.  It just wasn't meaningful.  All the while, I am watching blogs, especially Christian ones, try to make this movie profound.  It is not. 

What questions does it really ask?  What part of reality does it confront the viewer with in a way that forces one to at least avert one's eyes, if not deal with it? Oh yes, it looks deep: 4 levels of dreaming, with an infinite limbo at the bottom.  Oh yes, it looks like it faces reality: the grief of a man over causing his wife's death and being unable to return to his children, the bursting subconscious suppressed guilt which attends such things.  However, these themes are nowhere actually developed or explored.  Instead, they form the backdrop of a movie which succeeds in every respect except the most important: there is no challenge, no stand, no taking a position, no affirmation, no grasp at truth.  

What does this movie say about grief? family? suicide? separation?  Nothing.  And what does it say about dreaming, ideas, and confusing the lines between reality and unreality? Nothing.  These are poignant themes, to be sure, and it seems that the viewer is led just shallow enough to feel thoughtful and intelligent without actually being challenged.  

Visually stunning, audibly droning (at one point the chairs in our theater actually shook from the bass... come now, startle me with story, plot twists, characters, not just with loud noises and sudden scene changes), and completely pointless.  I know that this is going contrary to what many people are saying, but don't waste your time with this movie. 

Meanwhile, I can't help but see a trend in movies.  More and more, we are being carried along by effects; spectacle wins the day (3D = perfect example). Gone is substance and art, because we have come to think that the art of a movie lies in its visual rendering rather than its exploration of truth and beauty, and that substance is best portrayed by a mass profusion of unexplored, confusing, themes instead of focusing in on one, or maybe two, serious points/questions/issues.  


Thomas said...

I saw Despicable Me last night. We were thinking about Inception but my mom was with us and we decided on Despicable Me. It has an interested mixed message - a bad guy who becomes good through love of three little girls. BUT the condoned violence among the little men and the attitudes espoused by the characters undercut the main moral message.

The movie was also geared towards 3D but we saw it in 2D. This was fine but it was obvious in many scenes where they threw stuff at the audience that they were relying on 3D effects to make the film. The writing was pretty good with lots of adult meaning thrown in for us and the parents. The couple in front of us howled with laughter many times.

Kelsey said...

I agree to a point with you. This movie is not something to go see if you are searching for something that will cause you to think. The film was created purely for entertainment. It was designed to be visually pleasing and to transport viewers into a different reality. In that regard it is an excellent film.
I personally do not think that movies need to stimulate us visually, emotionally and mentally in order to be a good film. Although I do think that if they are going to spend so much money on something, they could take the time to incorporate everything.
I think that there was a lot of material to cover and they just didn't have the time to go in-depth, as the movie is almost three hours in length as it is.

adriel said...

I haven't seen Inception yet so I read half of your post. Not at the same caliber as "The Usual Suspects" huh?

eddiefong said...

Interesting post, guess nothing beats good ol' Shakespeare. i.e. Hamlet, Othello, etc.

Andrew said...

I agree that a movie does not need to succeed on all levels in order to be enjoyable and entertaining. I enjoyed this movie and found it entertaining. I just have high standards for "good."

Part of the problem was that I had high expectations for this movie. I was led to believe that it was thought-provoking and deep.

A second part of the problem is that I follow a bunch of other blogs, and many of them have raved about how profound this movie is... and this frustrated me.

There are good movies though, sprinkled throughout the decades. I just feel like there hasn't been a new one in a long, long time.