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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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I dunno. I haven't seen the darn thing yet!

I must agree however that he should have realized the enormous responsibility he owned the review aggregating community before publishing those harmful words... I fear those percentage points on some website will never recovered

What's happening here in the words of Francis Coppola is that "films have become like sports" - the reporting of the box-office numbers combined with the mob-mentality of film comment sites has lead to people rooting for films to succeed or fail; with said support or non-support completely divorced from the qualities of the film itself -

This summer THE LAST AIRBENDER was the film people were told to hate and INCEPTION is the film you must love - a sample review quote:

"It’s inventive and creative to a degree that I’ve never before seen in film."

This is absurd - as is the comparison to Kubrick; INCEPTION is a thinking-person's blockbuster - but at the end of the day it's completely commercial, full of drawn out action sequences and gun battles that go on forever - it's nowhere near as good as the 'my god are standards are low now" reviews would have it.

It's ok to review a movie poorly, but why must he resort to personal attacks and nastiness? To me, this discredits his review completely. It just shows he is motivated by the fact that the film is getting positive buzz which he does not agree with. So, the movie is over-rated to him. But, why the need for all the vitirol? He certainly has a motive which doesn't have that much bearing on the actual film itself (i.e. he's biased and unreliable).

The truth is, Inception isn't quite the masterpiece everyone - bar our boy Edelstein - wants it to be. Like Bond directed by M.C. Escher, it's somewhere between the first Matrix outing, and those unforgivably long and boring Matrix sequels. And once you've seen the trailer, there's no money-shot that takes you out of your seat. Having said that, hooray for ambition in a summer when the sequel and the spin-off is king...

"It's obvious that Nolan either can't articulate or doesn't believe in a distinction between living feelings and dreams -- and his barren Inception doesn't capture much of either." --The Village Voice

The above is the second major review to knock INCEPTION. Its rating on Rotten Tomatoes has slipped to 90%. It can only go lower as more top critic reviews come in and the blog critics fade into the woodwork.

I'll wait and see if it is worth going to the walk-in or waiting for the DVD that will undoubtedly have a second disc with everything you might want to know about the film.

My question is how does this film compares to the recent one DiCaprio did for Scorsese?

Here's where we're headed: eventually mischievous and clever folks will throw together some nauseatingly fast clips of outtakes from a bunch of films and ladle them with inventive description. Critics desperate to pump out the first reviews will review the forthcoming "film" based on the clip compilation and rave about it. Others will damn the pre-release hype. Rotten Tomatoes will list 56 reviews of a film that actually doesn't exist.

Folks will start arguing over the predicted opening weekend b.o. If this buzz is positive, some studio will greenlight the project, and a film will get made based on pre-reviews of a film prior to there being anything to actually review.

I call it DECEPTION.

I never leave comments on this site, but I must.

If Mr Critic's aim was to lower the film's Tomato meter score simply to be the one who ruins it, it won't change me and people who want to see this movie's opinion. Critics are on the toilet anyway, akin to newspapers being extinct.

Your entire profession has been marred by the sports mentality, simply sticking to writing about movies is not enough, the public is the one who votes with their pocket and most of us don't care about your precious writing.

New York and the L.A. Times blog has credibility issues as writing about this makes you part of that team to begin with. No it is not ok for a "critic" to publish a review in a major outlet before said film is released, more traffic will go to his site because he set out to do that and that is suspect enough.

While out the subject, Inception even if it delivers half of what it promises will be a breath of fresh air in a Summer as depressing as this one. It positions itself as a thinking man's blockbuster and his track record proves he can deliver amazing films while retaining the bottom line: money.

Doom the haters I'm going to see this film no matter what is said.

Why do you assume anyone who doesn't love the movie is part of a backlash? Maybe the movie isn't very good. Typical LA Times in the pocket of Hollywood.

So we should only believe the positive reviews? You're a Hollywood marketer's dream... within a dream.

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