I went to see Inception with two of my roommates. None of us thought it was very good as a movie. It seems like it would be a particularly next-level video game, and I imagine the people that would most enjoy it are people that are really into currently popular video games. This is the sort of nerd who would be very excited by the prospect of a follow-up to a Batman movie being a science-fiction movie, like I was, but then the truth of it is it's not really science-fiction at all, at least not in any way that involves ideas.
There is, however, a lot of exposition in it, laying out rules as if they were ideas; although the rules later change, and always seem arbitrary. It doesn't make a lot of sense, but not in a surrealist dream-logic way, or any cool kind of way, nor is it even hard to follow. It's speaking a language, unaware that its using the words its choosing incorrectly, the way that Scientologists or the kids in the movie Dogtooth are brought up.
It is not based on what dreaming is like, at all- which is odd considering that sleep and dreams are a profoundly human thing experienced by almost all of us. When the movie uses phrases like "dreams within dreams" I instinctively think of false awakenings because that's a real phenomena, but in this movie it just means some bullshit. The whole structure, which gives the movie its ostensible reason to exist, is not based on anything correlating to human experience, or is any kind of metaphor for anything. Basically, "That's not what dreams are like. That's not what the unconscious is like."
In terms of the language of genre, also, on a meta level, the movie says, about itself, "this is a science-fiction thriller" but then there's no consistency in terms of what those words should mean. It's not really thrilling, because it can't make you care about it, at all, and the rules change arbitrarily. The villains are personality-less dudes with guns, projections that don't make logical sense to be there at a certain point, and the thing that sets the story into action is this corporate espionage story which feels incredibly arbitrary.
Essentially, it ends up being an action movie with a conceit that allows for the fact that action is staged really badly because a lot of directors can't establish a sense of place, by creating nonsensical places. This works sometimes, with Escher-inspired "impossible architecture" but also allows for a runaway train to come out of nowhere.
There came a point where I was thinking "Maybe the ending will sell this to me" but oh my god did it ever not do that. It felt like a twist of the M. Night Shyamalan school, of trying to be a good ending but not really being satisfying.
Sometimes a movie is mediocre and people still say "it's worth seeing." This really didn't feel like it was worth seeing. It's not about any of the things it seems like it would be about. It's not really about anything. There's "cool visuals" but I think I would like the ones in The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus more. I can't say for sure because I didn't get around to seeing it- because it's really hard to interest people in seeing movies that are "cool visuals" in that sort of style. What's funny is that it's fine. It's better than mediocre. But it's pretty emphatically not good. I haven't seen the new Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie yet, Micmacs, but what people are saying about that movie: That it's emotionally hollow and you walk out feeling empty, even though it's pretty- applies to this movie, which isn't really that fun to look at if you have a sense of aesthetics that prefers hand-made warmth to computer-generated sheen.
One of my roommates, in comparing it to other Christopher Nolan movies, made a list of all the ones that were better than this. Basically, the ones that didn't make the list were Insomnia and Following. This might be a better movie than Insomnia, in that it's more ambitious, but it's also more frustrating, and the performances aren't as good.
Apparently it's a lot like the other Leonardo DiCaprio movie this year, Shutter Island, which I haven't seen, and now have no interest in.