Reviewers have every right to their opinion, every right to express it. They’ve paid (or not) to see a movie, read a book, watch a TV show. Even if they haven’t paid, they’ve consumed the product and are entitled to express their feelings. The creators (and being one, I get this) have to suck it up and deal. But when reviewers 1) don’t pay attention, or 2) pay attention and don’t understand, the validity of their reviews suffer.
Case in point: David Edelstein’s review of INCEPTION in New York Magazine.
But let me back up. Walt reads all reviews, all spoilers, before he ever sees a movie. I read nothing. I don’t want to know anything. He likes to tease me, and I often slap him. This time, though, he told me to NOT read anything about what was happening, and to especially not read the NYMag review. So I didn’t. Until this morning when he gave me permission. ;)
When talking about Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s role as Arthur, Edelstein says in his review:
Gordon-Levitt doesn’t have much livelier material, but he does fight a bad guy in a zero-gravity corridor and tie together a group of sleeping people with cords, then float the human assemblage into an elevator. (I had no clue what he was doing, but it’s one of the few wittily irrational images.)
The problem with this is, Arthur SAID what he was doing right before he did it!
The rest of this post will contain spoilers, so don’t read on if you don’t want to be spoiled.
While the rest of DiCaprio’s team has moved to the dream within a dream within a dream (the 3rd level), Arthur is in the second level (the dream within a dream). His job there is to “kick” the others awake. The kicks are a big deal. It’s shown in the first scene of the movie that the dreamers need a kick to wake up.
In the first level, the original dream, the whole team is in a van that is falling off a bridge. The van is suspended, and the dreamers inside (who are at the second level; the driver is still dreaming at the first) are suspended during the fall. Because of that, Arthur needs gravity to “kick” them awake. And he says something like, “How to manufacture a kick without gravity,” just before he ties the level three dreamers together and floats them to the elevator as Edelstein mentions above. (Arthur is not affected by the van falling because he’s wearing headphones and listening to music that allows him to keep his equilibrium.)
The elevator provides the kick. Arthur puts his stack of dreamers inside, then floats up and sets charges on the cables, rigging it to fall. Kicks have to involve falling and the jolt at the end of the fall, whether it’s into a tub of water, off a hotel balcony, over a bridge in a van – or in a free-falling elevator. It’s really so simple that I can’t believe the reviewer would admit that he had no idea what was happening.
I will agree with this bit of the review . . .
Nolan, who wrote the script, thinks like a mechanical engineer, and even when you can’t follow what’s happening, you can admire in theory the multiple, synchronized narrative arcs and cute little rules for jumping around among different flights of consciousness.
. . . except, again, there wasn’t a minute where I couldn’t follow what was happening once the premise was explained. The opening is crazy fast and complicated, but it makes perfect sense in hindsight.