Movie Maniac

Dream believer

This is the summer of my discontent. Things have been resoundingly bleak at the movies, with lackluster offerings and dour box office numbers. Big-budget adaptations fell flat. Bradley Cooper and Liam Neeson weren't pitied or fooled in "The A-Team," while Jake Gyllenhaal's abs upstaged the special effects in "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time."

Seemingly "sure things" ("Sex and the City 2," "Robin Hood") were as welcome as heat rash.

And while new installments of franchises were understandable successes whether they deserved it ("Toy Story 3") or not ("Shrek Forever After"), it all just seemed so ... tired.

"Inception," opening Friday, could be our saving grace.

Even though early buzz has been almost giddy for the sci-fi thriller (some critics are calling it "Kubrickian"), the film has its work cut out for it.

It doesn't have a built-in fan base, for one thing. It's not based on a comic book, video game, old TV show or old movie. It's — egads! —an original concept.

The story follows a group of thieves who steal secrets from other people's dreams. At least, that's the oversimplified version. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Michael Caine and Marion Cotillard.

Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, "Inception" comes on the heels of his "Batman Begins" sequel "The Dark Knight," which was a huge commercial and critical success. Many critics thought it should have received an Oscar nomination for best picture (and many think the widened best picture race to 10 nominees was a direct result of its nomination snub).

So Nolan is no Ed Wood. He and Warner Bros., the studio that backed "Inception" and the Batman movies, have a good track record together. When Nolan speaks, Warner execs probably see money spilling out of his mouth.

Which is probably why they gave the green light to "Inception's" budget, rumored to be in the neighborhood of $160 million. And it looks like every penny was spent, based on trailers and other promotions.

Filming took place around the world, including locations in Morocco, Japan, France and Canada. Visually, the film looks arresting, with wonderfully trippy special effects.

It's certainly a huge gamble, with some critics wondering if the complex story line — unfolding in a dream world where anything goes — will soar over some people's heads.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said in his early review, "Trusting the intelligence of the audience can cost Nolan at the box office. We're so used to being treated like idiots."

But if "Inception" is a hit — and there is already Oscar buzz — maybe Hollywood will come to a bold realization: Audiences aren't so dumb, after all.

This summer, we've proven that we're tired of mainstream formulaic drivel. "Killers," I'm talking to you.

We're practically begging to be treated with some respect at the box office.

Hopefully, "Inception" will show it.

If you go


What: Sci-fi thriller written and directed by Christopher Nolan

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Michael Caine and Marion Cotillard

Rating: PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout

When: Starts Friday in area theaters. Check The Eagle's GO! section on Friday for theaters and show times, as well as a review.