August 8, 2010 12:00 AM |
['The Magic Resolution' is a regular GameSetWatch column by UK-based writer Lewis Denby, examining all facets of the experience of playing video games. Lewis went to see Inception recently. He wishes video games had dreamt up the idea first...]
This might be a slightly unorthodox way to begin an editorial about video games, but to hell with it: today, I’m going to review Inception.
I went to see it the other day, at long last. Christopher Nolan’s new film is a meticulously crafted blockbuster, tense and exciting but thoughtful and complex. I loved every second of it and I didn’t want it to finish.
I’ve heard various complaints about it, almost all of which are ludicrous. “It’s too complicated to follow,” screech several reviews. I’ve no idea what those critics were watching: if anything, I’d say Inception veered in the direction of having too much exposition and spelled out more of its mystery than was necessary. It’s plot is an elaborate one, but presented with such beautiful clarity. I was never lost.
It’s a film about dreams, and how ideas can be inserted a person’s mind by planting them there while that person sleep. Psychological thieves -- ‘extractors’, in the film’s fiction -- are capable of infiltrating the dreams of others and stealing important information they’ve kept locked away in the backs of their minds. But the best extractors can also put new ideas there discretely, and upon waking the victims think they’ve thought up those things all by themselves.
Its cast travels through several layers of dreamstate, all with distinct visual themes and varied tasks to complete, in order to convince a businessman to dissolve his recently deceased father’s company. For the good of the world, apparently: we quickly forget to question the motives of the shady man who’s funding the operation.
“It’s just a glorified heist movie,” some critics yammered. Well, how terrible. Apparently we’re not allowed to do heist movies any more, and any that are created must be immediately criticised as such.
Point is, it’s a great heist movie, one that’s suspenseful, smart and stylish throughout. And that’s not to mention the multiple layers of meaning that can be extracted from its story: lessons about love, about regret, and about our individual, subjective perceptions of the world around us.
The Point’s On Its Way, Honestly
One criticism, though, I can get behind. Sort of. The way it’s intended is venomous, patronising and frankly stupid, but I suspect the person who wrote it is onto something without realising it himself.
The review is by Rex Reed, of the New York Observer. An absolutely preposterously terrible review in so many ways, if you don’t mind my saying so. But here’s a line that stuck: “I have no idea what the market is for this jabbering twaddle -- probably people who fritter away their time playing video games.”
And, well, yes! Absolutely! I’d imagine a lot of people who play games would absolutely adore Inception, not least because it would make a near-perfect video game. Never mind Citizen Kane (seriously, have you watched it recently? Without drinking several cups of strong coffee?) - what video games need is the sprawling, epic, grounded science-fiction of Inception.
It would be a game which could satisfy all the mainstream demand for explosions, drawn-out gunfights and cool, low-gravity, slow-motion effects. It’s a globetrotting adventure, which jumps from Korea to America to Paris and then, in the dream world, a rainy city, a fancy hotel, a snowy mountainous military base and a morphing, twisting underworld. There are puzzles to solve, mazes to navigate and a whole load of bad guys to hit in the face.
It would be a wonderfully varied game. One mission would see you attempting to recruit your team, coming up with new ways to manipulate the game’s characters into joining you on your dangerous quest. By the end you’d be squad-fighting your way through the snow, driving snowmobiles, rigging explosive charges and oh my goodness.
That’s commercial viability, right there -- great big explosions always win out. But what would really elevate it to greatness is the multifaceted plot, the exciting mystery at its core which far eclipses most ‘big twists’ in computer games.
And what about the very nature of the story, and the opportunities that would open up for level design? It’s a film about designing dreams. There are countless things you could do to a game world to take advantage of this, in a way you simply couldn’t achieve with just a camera. When designing a virtual universe, your imagination can run wild.
It would make a perfect game, if done well. And that’s sad, in a way, because it’s too late. There’s no use trying an Inception game now, because a tie-in would have to be too close to the film, and anything based on its ideas would come across as plagiaristic.
No, video games had their chance here, and the movies beat them to it. A real tragedy: because you can bet such super-cool ingenuity wouldn’t be lost on critics in our medium.
[Lewis Denby is Executive Editor of BeefJack.com, as well as word-writer extraordinaire for anyone who’ll give him some pennies for his trouble. Can you tell that he has no official outlet in which to rant about films?]
Categories: Column: The Magic Resolution