Diving further into “Inception”: Where to Read More…

By bonnie, 24 July, 2010

Oh man, do I need to go see this movie again.   Maybe then I will fuel the obsession into writing more about it.  Instead I am perusing the interwebs, looking for great things that other folks are writing.   I have found a lot of crap, many bad reviews and some truly wild theories.   I have also found some wonderful and thoughtful critiques, discussions, essays and all manner of fun and random responses that I think are worth reading.

(Obviously filled with spoilers!)

Here is my short list:

1. io9 brings the meta

This is a beautiful, thoughtfully written post that adequately reviews the film, but also touches on the idea of Inception as a movie that is about the technical art of making a movie.  Here are a couple excerpts that I’m crushing on:

Which brings me to one of the most interesting ways to look at Inception. It’s really a movie about the technology of making movies. I don’t just mean the tools required to film a car floating off a bridge – I mean the way people writing and producing a film have to get together and talk about how they’ll collaboratively build a believable fantasy that will manipulate somebody (their mark, or the audience) into having a psychological epiphany. In other words: How do you reverse engineer a dream experience, break it into its constituent parts, then rebuild it for personal gain?

Building and executing that story, from the architecture of the sets to the cast of meaningful characters, is what Inception is about. We learn how the mind hackers find a personal story that will be intensely moving for their mark. And then we see parts of that story unfolding all at once (some in slow time, some in constant time): We’re watching scenes get broken down into tiny little frozen moments. It’s as if we’re inside the head of a director filming his movie, trying to keep the overarching narrative straight despite having to film scenes out of order, over and over, with different kinds of technology. You especially get this feeling during some of the special effects sequences, which are as much about how you stage an action scene as they are about the scenes themselves.

How awesome are those two paragraphs?  No really, please go read the entire thing.  It’s all that good.

List-lover’s BONUS: Inspired by the movie, they made a list of the greatest dream cities in sci-fi + fantasy, topped by the amazing (and vastly underseen) City of Lost Children.

2.  Cinemablend with an infographic!

Click to go to the site and see it big.

This is so nicely done.  What can I say, I’m a sucker for any kind of chart.

I like well-organized data.

3. Cinemablend with a Q & A and Glossary

This is an actual breakdown of questions and great answers to the many “what happened here?” and “how did that happen?” moments in the film, followed up by a simple glossary of the terms being discussed.   I really liked this entire post.  It drew my attention to a couple of things that I didn’t think through when I watched it.   Like the infograph, it’s a great presentation as well, because an entire essay of just explaining these points wouldn’t have read so well.

4.  Damon Lindelof of LOST fame weighs in on twitter.

I just thought this was neat.   I was headed in that direction in formulating my own theory as well.

5.  Wired.com interviews Paul Franklin about creating the visual effects.

I’m a total tech-nerd, so I want more of this kind of thing please.  Some people think learning about how it’s done ruins the magic.  I think this is the magic.

I particularly love this part about designing Limbo:

Wired.com: Surely that made some of the grand illusions harder to pull off. Which one gave you the most trouble?
By far, Limbo City at the end of the film. Part of the challenge was that this was an effect that continually developed during production. In the script, two characters wash up on a beach and look up at this incredible crumbling city. The city itself is definitely described as architecture, but it’s supposed to look like a natural landform.
Again, this is very easy to picture in your mind, but getting to the reality of what that should look like on film turned out to be a little more challenging. We went through the normal design process of having artists build concepts, and Chris laid out his ideal vision: Something glacial, with clear modernist architecture, but with chunks of it breaking off into the sea like icebergs.

I love the vision here of building within dream, but eventually that creation giving the impression of some massive natural landform crumbling.  As if the nature of the limbo world itself was destructive and turning on the dreamer.

6.  Wired’s Geekdad also has a great little post of his thoughts on the simple tech of the totem.

I was impressed by Inception’s light touch with its technology. It was the human response and experience that was given screen time, rather than wire-laden impressive technology from the future.
This is most evident in the elegant solution that the characters devised to determine whether they dreaming or awake. Without giving too much away the dice, chess piece and spinning top totems in the film epitomise its simple approach to technology and reminded me that many of my kids’ favourite gadgets you don’t have to plug in.

It  made me happy that someone addressed this instead of just talking about the ending riding on the totem.  He goes on to talk a bit about simple toys like Legos.  Which is a great metaphor for the simplest of technologies – interlocking blocks – that can create vast structures, limited only by the imagination.

The totems were the absolute best takeaway from this movie.   With all the mindblowing scenes in this, the totems are what people are talking most about – what people connected with – so much that everyone is contemplating what their very own would be.    To design something tiny, with personal weight that determines the validity of an entire reality?  A dream/life anchor?  It’s such a great concept.

7.  Cultural Learnings discusses the shared experience of deconstructing Inception

Which of course is an enormous part of the fun of a movie like this.  For me, that is what makes it a perfect summer movie.   This is part review, part analysis, and part reflection about viewing movies as an experience in general and why this worked.  Very well done.

***and one last list-lover’s BONUS: Flicksided has a massive, rapid-fire and sometimes random list of thoughts, reactions, facts, and discussion points rolled into a post called 50 Things About Inception.   I’m all about lists like this.  More people should make more of them, more frequently.  So much fun!

Hit me up with some more links in the comments if you come across anything else I should be reading about this!  And here is a link to my earlier post, discussing some references in the names and details that I was thinking about immediately after seeing the film.


  1. Sandy Delone says:

    I loved Inception, the story was original and Leo was awesome in it! I have to watch it again to make sure everything sinks in! 🙂

  2. […] I think even my dog was tired of hearing me talk about this movie.  I blogged about it here and here if you want to read more.  Needless to say, I really loved it and plan to watch it a few 100 more […]

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