July 23, 2010

Inception... is it sci-fi?

I got to see Inception today, which was totally worth it!  I rarely think it's worth the time to go see a movie in theaters, just because the silver screen can be rather expensive.  However, this is a movie that you need to see with friends so afterwards you can look at each other and say "What the hell did I just see?"

Part of the reason I'm writing about it now is because at the beginning of the movie I started to wonder... is this a science fiction movie "disguised" as a cerebral drama?  I use the quotes because most sci-fi concepts are cerebral.  But the sci-fi part of this movie were not emphasized.

The main plot is that Cobb, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, is a man extremely good at extracting information from people through dreams. He finally gets a job that could allow him to go back to his family (he's accused of a crime and constantly on the run) and makes a team to do something that many think impossible: Inception.  They're given the task of planting an idea through a dream.  Only one person claims to have done it before, which is our hero Cobb.   Everyone else knows it's risky, and it will take a lot more delving into the mind than any of them have done.  Using a bunch of "science", they figure out a way to plant an idea that is crucial to preventing a global company becoming an international energy monopoly.  Everyone is used to getting ideas, but can they give one that is convincing?

What makes this movie a sci-fi?  Or any movie for that matter?  Well, it tends to show an image of a future, close or distant, with a technology that people find somewhat believable, and using that to explore an idea about humanity.  And I would like to argue that Inception almost does that.

Image of the Future:  It could be now, but everyone who watches the movie knows that the technology to infiltrate dreams, which seems more like a skill than a technology, is not something that exists right now.  The way it's presented, this isn't an alternate universe.  This is either now or in the near future.  It's future enough.

Believable Technology: This is where it starts to get tricky.  Sharing dreams with other people hasn't been a technology proven yet.  Using an IV in your arm to share a dream with up to 5 people where everyone is aware and somewhat in control... that's where realistically I can't 100% buy in.  Now you may think I'm hyper critical here, that space ships really can't be in space like they are in the movies and aliens aren't realistic either.  And you're partially right.  But this is something that is partially true.  We've done space travel, and there are planets that could possibly have life.  Robots do exist.  I know of nothing that recently investigates a shared dream state.  You readers are definitely allowed to prove me wrong.

Idea about Humanity:  This is definitely true.  Regret and baggage, along with the idea of inception itself.  It can't really be an outside force, it does have to come from within, which is why the dream diving is so necessary.  Great ideas.  Maybe not shown in the whole scope that many sci-fi's do, but after reading Lathe of Heaven I can see how these ideas can be applied to a small cast of characters.

Inception is almost pure sci-fi.  My particulars for my personal taste make it not, but if someone called it sci-fi, I wouldn't be as offended as I am when people call Star Wars sci-fi.  But that's another blog post for another day.

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