Friday, July 16, 2010

Reviews from the Pad Double Bill: Inception, Sorcerer's Apprentice

Ok... not exactly a double bill 'cause I caught SA Wednesday but... whatever...

Sorcerer's Apprentice is your basic tent pole summer film that delivers just what it advertises: some daring do, flashy FX, a few jokes, and Nicholas Cage being Nicholas Cage.

The film expands upon Arthurian legend by giving Merlin three Apprentices of his own: Balthazar (Cage), Veronica (Bellucci), and Horvath (Molina) who, through the twists and turns of the opening sequence, end up seeking Merlin's replacement as an immortal, trapped within an Matryoshka doll, and Merlin's betrayer to Morgana le Fay respectively. From there's it's mix and match with Hero's Journey and the famous scene from Fantasia as our hero Dave (Baruchel), a bumbling anti-social physics nerd with some childhood trauma driven confidence issues and apparent heir to Merlin's power, stumbles his way into Balthazar's world, is thrust into the conflict between Balthazar and Horvath, and proceeds to find his own power/confidence while getting the girl.

In other words, it's an action fantasy version of just about every "loser teen" film ever made - Better Off Dead would be a good through-line parallel. Admittedly, it would be one of the better ones because it's good solid fun and worth your time if you're in the mood for simply being entertained for a couple hours but that's still whats on the table here and what you can expect.

Inception, on the other hand, is an idea film about, well, ideas and how they can be pulled from or manipulated through your dreams....

The basic plot revolves around a team of "Dream Thieves" led by DiCaprio who specialize in a kind of psychic corporate espionage; stealing ideas and plans from the very minds of the people who dreamt them up in the first place. They're chasing one final job designed to allow DiCaprio return to his normal life.

Cleverly crafted, it's a film that, like The Matrix before it, is gonna have people dissecting it for a good long time; 'through I might be spoiling things a bit by suggesting it will be Psych majors and not Philosophy this time. That said, it does attack a core philosophical argument of: "Are you dreaming, or in reality?", while building a consistent world around that idea with fixed rules that are based on things's we've all experienced in our own dream states; like how dreaming of falling, or the act of falling itself, tends to jolt you awake. There will also be further comparisons to the Matrix in terms of some of those rules, specifically how the victim of this process reacts within the dream to those entering it, as well as some of the combat. But, it feels like it's own film and the combat itself arguably surpasses that of The Matrix at points: particularly an impressive sequence in the third act where the fighters are grappling with each other in an environment that is constantly rotating.

All that said, Inception's a rare film that has enough going on in each scene that it requires your attention but is paced well enough that it doesn't feel like it's demanding it. Well worth seeing in it's entirety.

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