Is Blu-ray Your Way?
This is my second review of Inception. I am revisiting the film after a rather scathing review – read Inception a.k.a Exposition, Above the Line July 10th, 2011 – because I received a Blu-ray edition from Warner Bros. as a Blu-ray Elite team member and in exchange for a complimentary copy I am asked to review it. First let me say there’s plenty to revisit here and I intend to do just that. I invite you to read my original review before or after this one. It’s interesting just how much there is to say about Inception.
Christopher Nolan’s dreamscape epic makes a helluva Blu-ray. It jumps off the screen, perhaps second only to an actual theater experience and the best part about Warner Home Video’s stylish Combo-Pack is that it includes just about every format you need to watch the film like never before. Featuring two Blu-ray discs, a Hi-def DVD and Digital Copy formats, you can enjoy the movie whenever and wherever you please. Warner Bros. takes the movie experience one step beyond with a whole new interactive gateway called BD-Live that expands on your home entertainment system’s functionality with connections to the internet and in-system features such as picture-in-picture technology and much more.
The first thing you’ll notice about this review is the “See It” ticket stub. My previous review doesn’t include one, written before I adopted it. I suppose in retrospect I would have included it there as well, even though it is quite a biting review. The fact is you can’t not see a film like this for all the reasons people complain about it and of course, for all the reasons people tell you to see it – at least once. Therefore, the green ticky. The second thing you’ll notice is the stylish holographic dust jacket (slip case) that feels like an open door invitation into the universe of the film. It can only benefit your viewing of the film to let go a little bit, embrace the visual bravado, sideline your distaste for the exposition and redundancy and step inside. Once there you’ll find plenty of nuances to take you further toward a completely immersive movie time. My copy came with a Snaptag sticker on the cover that’s a nice little touch adding another layer to the movie universe much the way the website that was engineered for Donnie Darko (2001). I strongly suggest you miss the director’s cut (sorry Rich) and read my review of the first to tell you why, and my review of the director’s cut to second that opinion. Trust me. If you haven’t seen it it’s still worth the visit. Hopefully your player has internet access because the BD Live feature is a necessity that will amaze you with each title that connects to it. In a day and age when so many of our movies disappoint us, both in the theater and afterwards as purchases and rentals, think of all this bonus material as our just rewards to return again and again to the movies that thank us for our love of them.
I can’t think of why you wouldn’t want a Combo-Pack of all your movies. The price difference between them and single titles is often nominal, if that and the little extras are like a treasure chest you can’t wait to crack open and devour every second when you do. I have the briefcase collector’s edition of Bladerunner that is hands down the best collection I own. The distributors and marketing companies are all rushing to demand, not to mention looking for new ways of detouring piracy, slowing the demise of legacy media (DVD) and promoting new media (Blu-ray) while introducing Cloud-based delivery, management and procurement. If you’re not familiar with these new features or interested there’s no pressure to dive right in. In some respects it’s like supermarket coupons and those old school direct mailers with the discount slips to try new stuff or just use old ones you’ve forgotten about. They say Blu-ray sells itself in terms of unprecedented audio and picture clarity and quality and they are right, but you also need a little motivation to get there and make the switch. We all know people are still getting movies “for free” on the internet and will continue to do so, but when packages like this come along with such cool stuff inside it’s unlikely you can hold out for long once you see what you’ve been missing. Now that’s never going to hold true for all titles – films like Keyhole and Take Shelter will most likely, hopefully not waste the proverbial trees on Blu-ray releases or elaborate packaging – but others, some that may even surprise you like Happy Feet 2 that might just add to the holiday cheer or at a minimum the escape from your 9 to 5.
This is ‘Focus Points’ a Warner Bros. exclusive collection of 14 featurettes of various parts of the production that can be run in ‘Extraction Mode’ so at key intervals during the film it will cut away to these individual parts, individually one by one, or all at once as a standalone mini-documentary. Interesting stuff akin to deleted scenes, gag reels, etc. Box reads “Infiltrate the movie’s imaginative landscape to learn how Christopher Nolan, Leonardo DiCaprio and the Cast and crew designed and achieved the films signature moments”.
Part 1: Dreams: Cinema of the Subconscious (44 minutes) – Joseph Gordon-Levitt hosts this behind the scenes look at the research that went into Nolan’s dream studies and how the work found its way into the movie. Nolan appears as one of the interview subjects and adds some interesting facts. These are mostly for fans of passing fancy that dulls over repeat viewings. Box reads “Can the dream world be a fully functional parallel reality? Joseph Gordon-Levitt and leading scientists take you to the cutting edge of dream research”.
Part 2: Inception: The Cobol Job (15 minutes) – This full motion animation to the live-action film is intended as a prequel that focuses on how the three team members were tracked and enlisted by the Cobol company of the film with a build up of the extraction that was performed on Saito. Box reads “See the events that led to the beginning of the movie”.
Part 3: 5.1 Sountrack Selections from Hans Zimmer’s Versatile Score – Soundtracks (10) that play over a black screen. Some have commented they enjoyed the blank screen, allowing them to do other things while the music played on. This feels shortsighted and I personally would have preferred some visual accoutrement.
Part 4: Concept Art, Promotional Art and Trailer/Tv Spot Galleries – There are two still gallery sections containing set design drawings, posters and a promotional campaign. There are 13 television spots, trailers and long-trailers (2-3mins), theatrical trailers and a selection of the most popular and successful ad campaigns leading up to the movies release.
Final Bonus Bd-Live: Project Somnacin: Confidential Files (BD-Live Feature) – BD-Live is one of the coolest features for this film or any film, providing your Blu-ray player and/or home theater system allows you to access the internet. With an internet connection and BD-Live account, you’re able to tap into more stuff for this title with what is described as “Highly secure files that reveal the inception fo the dream-share technology”. It’s enticing if not a bit gimmicky, but nevertheless this sense of interoperability and behind the scenes access is jus the thing to connect with fans and everyday movie goers who will never tire of more. More is always going to be more when it comes to our entertainment. Blu-ray discs with the additional space opportunities are truly the next wave of assembling bonus content to enhance and payback purchasers looking to broaden their collection and enhance the experience of their favorite films.
Inception Aesthetics and Accomplishments:
I’ve already reviewed Inception and if you’ve read my review you know how I stand on the film. I do believe we can look closer at the gut strands of Inception and what Nolan has accomplished in addition to what I’ve already discussed. I think it is equally important that reviews are as complex things as the films they intend to praise and condemn. Reviews suffer from either of those excesses and can only truly be a benefit by fighting to the middle ground of experience, opinion and expertise. Not all reviewers are filmmakers or vice versa. I just happen to be. I try to bring that hot smoke of living that life to my reviews. Even when I am well into digging the grave of a cinema failure I try to ask myself if there is something else I can write about to show that movies are multifaceted things and they deserve our respect as much as our critical thinking. I don’t rate films on box office success and often go against them. But my reviews focus on watchability and entertainment, the value of experience and the practicality of experience. Nevertheless I hold true to my first review. The fact of the matter is there is enough to say about the aesthetics of Inception that warrants additional thoughts.
Christopher Nolan cut his filmmaking teeth on a gritty, introspective black and white film called The Following back in 1998. He spent a year of weekends shooting it, conserving the precious and pricey film stock by considerable blocking, rehearsing and planning. He shot it on a shoestring and a vision and it shows. I believe if our beloved filmmaker deities were stripped of their precious bloated calf-bladder budgets their films would be better for it – at least more honest. The grandness of Inception will not be found in its budget or its success but in the humility found after sixteen-hour days down there in the muck of exhaustion and fortitude with the last man or woman standing up for the production, down there together making something they believe in regardless of the payoff. I speak having been down there in those trenches and I loved everyone who was there with me seeing our beloved film to fruition.
Every film Christopher Nolan has made since The Following has been leading up to Inception in a straight line. Part of me stopped with his second film, Memento but that is neither here nor there but the subject of another article perhaps. For Nolan he has consistently galvanized his audiences with bigger and more daring films. It is exactly this tumultuous balancing act that is a constant source of accomplishment and failure in Nolan’s films, always putting spectacle and subtlety in opposition to one another to see what happens. In the court of popular opinion, Nolan is champion, though critics and enthusiasts who take a closer look and get beyond the thin veneer of pop-culture fascination see something else, dig a little, want more and demand it.
Any real examination of the specific photo-chemical, alchemistical, biological components of the guts of Inception using 35mm film stock and over-and-under exposing stocks by 3 and 5 stops, pitting real world location shooting with international dream landscapes would be unnecessarily laborious, though fitting an approach of time and space in Nolan’s universe. Pointing out that Nolan and his long time friend, collaborator and cinematographer Wally Pfister are masters of the art and craft of filmmaking is perhaps most evident deep down in fabric they made, in the fine line tapestry of light and dark, good and bad and what they created as much as its external appearance to audiences. It is at this level where the true complexity exists to form and function, the success within, a product of all the stuff necessary to get the image there and make something of it in the first place. This is where knowing all the behind the scenes stuff can expand the movie universe with an immersive experience beyond the magnitude of the movie, where so many things must all come together seamlessly in order to be successful, demand our attention, force our response in praise or condemnation, hopefully both.
Perhaps that is the answer after all is said and done, the true marker of accomplishment and success of a film, is that it lives in the audience gathered, the moments of it. Inception is not simply what is seen or what exists in whatever form it takes for you – theDVDor Blu-ray or the Digital Download, it is a fleeting reflection, the light flittering 24 frames of truth or something like it, experiences that ultimately affect us even if only briefly, a little bit, the emotional buoyancy of possibility.
Warner Home Video, a division of Warner Bros. Home Entertainment Inc., invited me to join their exclusive Blu-ray Elite Movie Review Program and they sent me a complimentary copy of this movie for the purpose of review with special attention on the “Blu-ray Experience”. I received this video for free, but that does not sway this review or the reviews of other films that will follow.