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Too Much of a Good Thing: Why Inception Might Be Best Left as One of a Kind…

Apparently Warner Brothers want a sequel to Inception. That’s a long way from the earlier rumour that Inception was a “gift” to Nolan, almost a sort of bribe in order to keep him on board for Batman 3 (or, as it shall henceforth be known, The Dark Knight Rises), and one that the studio was never really 100% certain about. While I’m delighted the movie turned out to be successful enough to warrant a sequel, I can’t help but hope that it is never produced or released.

This announcement knocked me for a loop...

That said, I get the sense that Nolan himself is unlikely to produce a sequel. Notwithstanding his work on Batman Begins, Nolan has never expressed an interest in producing any follow-ups to his own works – no Momento sequel or spin-off, no prequel for The Prestige or follow-on from Insomnia. Everything I’ve heard suggests that Nolan himself was hesitant to work on the Batman sequels, which was arguably at the behest of the studio than his own choice. I get the sense that, as a creator, he strives to move forward and try new things. After all, Hitchcock and Kubrick, the two directors against whom Nolan is so frequently compared, never directed a sequel in their lives.

And, truth be told, Inception feels like it stands alone. The infamously divisive ending doesn’t feel like a cliffhanger or a sequel hook – it isn’t an invitation to return to the theatre in 2015 to discover what really happened. It’s a question posed to the audience, a moment where we awake from the dream before we can get closure – but Nolan isn’t delaying that closure to an inevitable sequel, he’s leaving it with us to decide. Film viewing is, after all, a collective dream, isn’t it?

Perhaps the ending is the reason I don’t want to see a sequel, as that shot would have to be dealt with in some shape or manner. And, as clever or infuriating as you might argue it was, it was certainly a powerful shot. Some may call the ambiguity “a cheap cop out” rather than “a thought-provoking finale”, but it still deserves to stand. Much like a Blade Runner sequel would actively undermine the original by unambiguously declaring whether Deckard was a robot or not.

Somebody needs a splash of cold water...

A sequel would demand a resolution to that final moment, as the only question on the audience’s mind isn’t “what happens to Cobb next?” – and “what happens next?” is perhaps the driving question you need an audience to ask to hook them for a sequel. You could gloss over it and give us another dream heist, but you wouldn’t be answering the one question that the audience would be demanding you deal with – and that would make the film feel at best unnecessary and perhaps even unwelcome.

However, it’s more than just the ending. Inception’s appeal was that it offered movie-goers something that they hadn’t seen before. It was new, it was brave, it was different. It was hard to classify. The closest comparison one could suggest was to The Matrix, and even then it was only a passing resemblence. It gave us a summer blockbuster that was genuinely distinct from anything that had come before – it made up a new rulebook as it went along.

Sequels are, by their definition, the same was what came before. It’s unlikely that a sequel to a horror will be a musical comedy, or that a sequel to an Oscar-baiting drama will be a hyper-violent action sci-fi film. The sequel could never make up the rules as it went along. It could never throw out the playbook and do something truly challenging and different. Rather than being a breath of fresh air with an indescribable quality, it would be “kinda like the first one”. Audiences would know what to expect – even what to demand. They’d want a zero gravity fight scene again, more folding walls, more MC Escher architecture. The capacity to thrill and surprise is dimished greatly.

There’s also, to be entirely honest, a sense of “playing the odds” here. How many iconic productions like this have had equally ambitious or successful sequels. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil never got a sequel. Who remembers 2010: The Year We Made Contact? Hell, Blade Runner got a side-quel in Soldier, and even that is best forgotten. The Matrix Reloaded was an ambitious sequel to The Matrix, but it tried very hard to offer something unique and different… and it failed, miserably.

So, please, leave Inception alone. Just give Christopher Nolan another $200m and let him do whatever the hell he wants with it.

4 Responses

  1. What blows me away is that anyone anywhere thought that Inception could spawn a sequel in the first place. There’s no more story to tell without either retconning the hell out of the first one or making a prequel (and both of these would probably be absolutely horrible).

    I’m not surprised that someone wants to make Inception 2: Even Deeper— there’s money to be made here, people!– but I just can’t fathom the mental gymnastics that person must have performed to make a sequel seem feasible on paper.

    You’re 100% right– just give Nolan a couple hundred mil to do whatever he wants with.It’ll be worth the investment.

    • Yep. I am kinda happy that it ended up being see as a huge film in its own right rather than a big “thank you” with a bow on it from the studio to the director of The Dark Knight – it’s hard to imagine now, but I remember all the fretting and worrying before release, and how easy it could have bombed.

  2. Absolutely agree. Nothing else to add as you’ve made your case perfectly well. Hope WB is reading this.

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