INCEPTION is the new film by critically acclaimed director Christopher Nolan. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy and a few other excellent actors. Reviewers are prohibited from reviewing films before they are released. Saying too much prior to a film's release is a no-no. If you break the 'embargo', they'll get nasty and not invite you to play anymore. But the buzz is INCEPTION will be the summer's big surprise, and maybe not in the ways you think. There are a fair number of questions circling it and Hollywood.
Starting with Nolan, he is famous for MEMENTO and THE DARK KNIGHT. Both did well critically and financially. As a director, he always brings intelligence and skill to the screen. Now comes INCEPTION. The industry is looking closely at it. The buzz emerging from early screenings revolve around incredible special effects and an intelligent story. Special effects always plays well, but in an industry where no joke is too dumb and plot lines for science fiction films border on the ludicrous, the question is, "Will the all important 16 to 24 year old movie see the film?" Some are already asserting the film is too 'intellectual'. They know, it is easier to lower a collective cinematic IQ rather than raise it. Critics often rail against the stupidity of film and many film fans do the same. INCEPTION and more particularly Nolan, will challenge both.
The other big buzz item coming out of Hollywood has to deal with Leonardo DiCaprio. One must careful with this buzz because too often it is hype generated by a well oiled marketing machines. And hype is rarely honest. This hype is saying DiCaprio is the best he's ever been, that his acting is nuanced and engaging. These same sources claim it will be robbery if he is not given serious end of year 'Best Actor' consideration. Some are even whispering the 'O' word, as in Oscar. DiCaprio is also climbing onto that band wagon. Here is a recent quote: “I really believe that film is an art form, and hopefully if the art is good enough, you’ll want to see it more than once.” Does this mean INCEPTION is an art film suited for your local subtitled house? No, but it does mean INCEPTION is smart. Don't see it expecting another mindless, explosion laden popcorn film.
Then there is Ellen Page. The little cutie from JUNO is in a big budgeted sci-fi action thriller. She does not fit the stereotype. She is not lanky eye candy for boys like Megan Fox nor does she have the graceful gravitas of Zoe Saldana as in AVATAR or even STAR TREK. Page is a petite brunette who was excellent in JUNO. Many will not remember she was also in X-MEN as Shadowcat. So she does have some chops, but in INCEPTION, there will be more focus on her than previously. The question circling her is will she wilt on the big stage? Buzz says: Don't worry. She acquits herself very well, thank you very much."
The final big question is for the studio, Warner Brothers or more accurately for Hollywood in general. The summer of 2010 has been largely a disappointment. The big tent pole films, the sequels and the films with built in audiences have been mediocre. Heading into the summer, the collective race known as box office gross had the studios and exhibitors smiling. Business was good, tickets were selling. Since the start of the summer, a few films managed to break out of the pack, but the grosses have bee slipping. For Warner Brothers and the rest of the industry, the success of 2010 just may rest on an intellectual sci-fi.
So where does that leave us. It leaves us with an observation from a another source, a source who has seen the film and has written about it. INCEPTION is "the coolest, smartest science fiction film since BLADE RUNNER." That's good news and bad news. The good news is BLADE RUNNER is a classic. The bad news BLADE RUNNER tanked at the box office
INCEPTION will fare better, much better.
Garen Daly has been an exhibitor, film consultant and analyst. He can be found on NE Cable News, The Callie Crossley Show on WGBH radio, NH Public Radio and WNTN.