At WonderCon today we got an exclusive look at footage from Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan's mysterious new film Inception. It was basically James Bond in cyberspace, where heists involve stealing people's dreams - literally.
We saw an extended teaser trailer for the film, which introduced us to Leonardo DiCaprio's character, an "extractor," or dream hacker, whose job is "subconscious security." This is science fiction ala Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - we're in the present-day, but a new piece of technology has changed the rules of the game. In Inception, that technology allows people to climb inside each other's dreams.
Leonardo DiCaprio is a superagent who uses new dream-reading technology to prevent bad guy extractors from stealing ideas out of the dreams of entrepreneurs, creators, and inventors. The dreamworld corporate espionage idea works perfectly, especially because Nolan filmed the dream sequences to be as gritty and documentary-realistic as possible.
Featuring Michael Caine, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard (who is apparently "very twisted"), and Ellen Page (among others), the movie plunges us into Nolan's richly-textured world where, as DiCaprio says, "ideas can take on lives of their own." Because the heists and shootouts and chase scenes all take place in dreams, they feel like James Bond on just a little bit of acid - people ski across impossibly vast snowscapes, clamor down breathtaking rock faces, and (in one incredible scene) fight suspended in a space where gravity has been warped. It's great to see DiCaprio in a psychological thriller that is about the nature of psychology itself.
During the question and answer session, Nolan talked about his struggle to get the film made. He'd been working on it for years, and only after the success of his two Batman movies was he able to convince funders to back his original story about hackers in dreamland. He explained that the movie is heavily influenced by the look of 2001, especially in a few key scenes where the laws of gravity are suspended.
He also said it was very important to him to make the dreams feel as realistic as possible - this is no Lovely Bones, with giant, candy-colored fantasies. He used 35mm film to give those dream sequences their documentary feel, and relied on his knowledge of "lucid dreaming," a near-waking state where you control your own dreams. In fact, it sounded like Nolan had based a lot of the dream sequences on his own experiences with dreaming.
Producer Emma Thomas, who was also at WonderCon, called the film "personal," and Nolan confirmed that he'd tried to pull back from the typical "superficial heist plot." Though it is a heist, it has to be personal because it's all about what's inside people's subconscious minds. The more we heard about how he'd conceived the film, the more intriguing it sounded to me. A heist with depth? A James Bond character who uses tech to engage in "subconscious security"? This is a summer movie that will deliver a hell of a lot more than chase scenes (though the clips we saw made the chase scenes look fantastic).
One thing that Nolan was really emphatic about was his skepticism about 3D. He said:
I have a rigorous approach to image quality. We're thinking about 3D, but nothing today competes with large format film. I think there's a lot of misinformation about where cinema is heading.
He remains committed to traditional film, which he rightly pointed out can create an intensely immersive experience.
So there will be no 3D Batman movies in the near future. But there will be an awesome, original science fiction film for you to enjoy this July when Inception hits theaters.