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Chris Nolan's 'Inception' gets its first critical sucker punch

Chris_nolan I wrote a post last week headlined "Will There Be an 'Inception' Backlash Before the Movie Even Opens?" And the answer, of course, is... yes. New York magazine's David Edelstein, normally a man of considerable sanity (not to mention wealth and taste), not only took a few roundhouse swings at Chris Nolan's upcoming thriller, but also managed to take some swipes at his critical peers, not to mention Nolan fans themselves, in a barbed review that was instantly flamed by tons of Nolan acolytes.

Here's how Edelstein led off his review:

"With its dreams, dreams within dreams, and dreams within dreams within dreams, Christopher Nolan’s Inception manages to be clunky and confusing on four separate levels of reality—while out here, in this even more perplexing dream we call 'life,' it’s being hailed as a masterpiece on the order of '2001: A Space Odyssey.' Slap! Wake up, people! Shalalala! Slap!"

It only went downhill from there, with Edelstein mocking Nolan's lofty ambitions ("So it's, like, 'Mission Impossible' in the 'Dreamscape-Matrix!' ") while dissing the director as being "too literal-minded, too caught up in ticktock logistics, to make a great, untethered dream movie." And as for the people, like his fellow critics, who've been over the moon about the film? Edelstein thinks they're cracked, or as he put it: "It's as if someone went into their heads while they were sleeping and planted the idea that 'Inception' is a visionary masterpiece and--hold on... Whoa! I think I get it. The movie is a metaphor for the power of delusional hype--a metaphor for itself."

I give Edelstein points for lively writing, but in an era where critics have enough credibility issues as it is, the last thing we need is a critic thrashing a film because, in part, he's chagrined to see it get so much open adulation. If you want to write that after the movie has opened, fair enough. But it's the wrong stance to take before people have even had a chance to make up their own minds.

As it happens, Edelstein's own readers gave him quite a spanking, calling him a charlatan, a schoolyard bully and, well, even worse. As one reader put it: "You know, it's fine to dislike a movie that many other people like. But to call them all delusional because they have a differing opinion is terribly arrogant of you. Shame on you, sir! Go back to watching 'Avatar' and its easy-to-understand eye-candy." According to another reader, Edelstein's condescending dismissal of the movie's supporters "makes you even worse than [fabled contrarian film critic] Armond White," which in critical circles is faint praise indeed.

So far, all Edelstein has accomplished is lowering "Inception's" initial Rotten Tomatoes score from 100 to 97. But now that the backlash has officially begun, I suspect it will go lower still. Apparently, there is no greater sin than for a filmmaker to make a movie that some people just like too much. 


Photo: "Inception" director Chris Nolan, right, with his writer brother, Jonah Nolan. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (22)

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That Nolan's last movie made $1 billion was gonna ensure that some half-witted critics root for failure, as well.

Based on the film's uninspiring trailers, this kind of bantor only helps.

Yes, how dare Edelstein have his own individual opinion. Oh, the nerve of him!

But really, why shouldn't he give his fellow critics a spanking - who usually behave like lemmings - if he actually believes they deserve it in this instance?

Critics are pathetic. Their job is a joke. They get paid for crushing creative people who put their vision and their entire being into their art. I'll like and dislike whatever I want for my own reasons, thank you. Also, ever notice how the "great" critics are all geriatrics who are so out-of-touch with modern trends and lifestyles that they wouldn't know popular opinion if it jumped up and bit the seat out of their Depends?

David is a true critic. He calls it like he sees'em. He isn't angling for access or future baubles. He watches a film and tries to judge for himself whether it can stand on its own legs.

His chagrin with the other critics isn't that they disagree with him, but that they can't explain why this slapdash effort by Nolan is worthy of the superlatives they give it. Just because Nolan is able to package an original idea and bring it to screen in this day and age, doesn't protect him from critical judgment. Avatar, Juno and Nolan's Batman were all enjoyable efforts, but in no sense were they anything but commercial fluff that won't stand the test of time. In the case of Juno, it is virtually unwatchable now since other movies have tried to ape its least deserving attributes.

He gave The Dark Knight a bad review but liked Iron Man2. Read his Precious review. Enough said.

"Also, ever notice how the "great" critics are all geriatrics who are so out-of-touch with modern trends and lifestyles that they wouldn't know popular opinion if it jumped up and bit the seat out of their Depends?

Posted by: Reason"

I wonder if Mr Reason would be comfortable if 'geriatric' was replaced with 'black', 'Jew' or 'women'?

Ignorant stereotyping is wrong and should be called out in all instances.

His review was just a knee-jerk reaction to other reviewers. Lame.

If you think a film has no merit but others do, you make your arguments and history decides. If everything is just based on opinion and there's no objective aesthetic criteria, there's no need for critics at all.

I don't like Edelstein, his writing lacks restraint and precision, it's very talky and precious, but that's true of too many writers these days. But the man made an argument, and the fans didn't respond, they whined like children.

You didn't even his negative review a chance before negatively reviewing his negative review!

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