24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

« Previous | 24 Frames Home | Next »

Will Christopher Nolan's 'Inception' become a phenomenon?

July 19, 2010 | 12:34 pm

"Inception's" stellar opening weekend is reassuring news for Warner Bros. and ardent Christopher Nolan fans. But it's not, given the film's pre-release interest, a huge surprise.

The bigger question, both financially and culturally, will be how the Leonardo DiCaprio movie holds up in the coming weeks. Getting Americans excited about seeing the puzzle-heavy acton movie was one hurdle, and the studio jumped over it nicely (with the help of many of the online pundits to whom the studio showed the film early and who went gaga for it). Maintaining strong word-of-mouth, however, will be trickier, especially since many of the opening-weekend impressions were mixed.

Critics, for instance, were lukewarm, as many in the mainstream print media piled on the movie as a triumph of the technical and conceptual over the narrative and emotional. (More on the two waves of interest -- the flattering early hosannas and the decidedly cool critical reaction, one of the sharpest swings we've seen in a long time, in our article "The Rise and Reassessment of 'Inception.' ")

And the overall reaction from filmgoers wasn't effusive; the movie's CinemaScore, a kind of exit poll of opening-weekend audiences, came in at B+, solid but hardly the stuff of which long-running phenomena are made. In fact, older filmgoers — the demographic that usually carries a movie beyond its opening weekend — were noticeably chillier to the film, grading it a B-, compared with the A given to it by filmgoers younger than 25. (That, incidentally, is a mystery in its own right, since the early talk about the film's complexity had it that "Inception" may play better to audience members in their 30s and 40s than to, say, teenagers.)

What all of this adds up to is still, well, a puzzle. The threshold for a big-budget summer movie to be considered a domestic hit is probably a gross between $150 million and $200 million, a figure that’s within reach for “Inception,” even if it may take some stretching to get to the higher end of that range.

But that's only part of the question. Several of Nolan's previous films, including "Memento" and "The Dark Knight," became full-blown cultural phenomena, with op-eds about the topics they engaged with, buzz about awards and a life that extended far beyond their run in the theaters. "Inception" had a nice weekend, and it's certainly a hit with the young and the fanboy, but there's little evidence at the moment to think it will become more than that.

— Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Poster for "Inception." Credit: Warner Bros.


The rise and reassessment of 'Inception'

'Inception' tops box office

The season of 'Inception' begins, but where will it end?

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Comments () | Archives (9)

The comments to this entry are closed.

I was "Inception" yesterday. I was mesmorized, amazed with the whole movies. I had no idea what it was. I never cared for Leonard di Caprio. Guess what: he has become a great actor (probably from M.Scorcese's guidance). My demographic is diffferent from what the critic wrote. The audience varied and there was not a sound during the whole picture. The movie is intriguing... and in my school where I am a teacher I told everyone how much I liked the movie, from the score to the special effects, to the actors/actress.. LONG TIME NO SEE GREAT AMERICAN MOVIES.... It is a PLUS. I recommend ...it..

It's a bit misleading to write that "critics...were lukewarm." While some were, most (including print journalists) were effusive in their praise. (See Rottentomatoes.com)

Better than lukewarm, not quite effusive.

On MC, 70's, below this year's Ghost Writer & in the middle of Nolan's filmography.
On RT, in the middle of his filmography again; with top critics, in the 70's for both % & avg rating.

Yes, it's extraordinarily misleading to say that "critics were lukewarm." The majority of critics couldn't say enough good things about this film. A couple of nay-sayers got media attention for going against the tide of critical acclaim for this film. That hardly lowers the temperature from hot to lukewarm.

Interestingly, it seems that Mr. Zeitchik is one of those who cites his own material for "factual support" of an erroneous factual assertion; i.e., quoting his own earlier article about the supposed "backlash" against "Inception" by critics. Perhaps it is only Mr. Zeitchik who has a problem with the film.

"Luke Warm Reviews"? What reviews have you been reading exactly? I think you clicked on the "Sorcerer's Apprentice" RT page by mistake. I'm no Nolan fan boy, but that description is the exact opposite of what critics are saying. Reviews are overwhelmingly positive and in many cases "effusive" to use your word.

Word of mouth with the younger demographic (15-35ish) is very strong. Just take a look at Twitter and search for Inception. It has held up very well this week and is likely headed for a domestic total in the $275 million area, which is incredible for this type of film.

Is it a cultural phenomemon? I moderate a film club with around 100 active members ranging from 18 - 58 y/o and we haven't stopped discussing this phenomominal film. Perhaps Mr. Zeitchik should "take a leap of faith" and withhold his negative commentary for a few more weeks.

The movie by itself is not a phenomena. But it's architectural concept could be.

In my opinion the main role in the movie is played by... Architecture (sorry Leo), and it played damn well. Amazing metaphorical depth of architectonics is wa-a-a-y above the action-packed plot.


Recommended on Facebook


In Case You Missed It...




Get Alerts on Your Mobile Phone

Sign me up for the following lists: