In the same way that the best criticism I heard of Harry Potter came out of left field and surprised me with the perceptiveness of the comment, Wifeoseyo just pulled a tiny thread and made the movie Inception unravel for me.
See, I met this lady who didn't let her kids read Harry Potter... but not because Harry Potter was the devil recruiting her kids to witchcraft, but because Harry was a bad role model: one of the overarching themes of the books (especially the early ones) was "Kids usually know better than adults, and adults are not to be trusted, and rules made by adults are to be circumvented or ignored whenever it seems best to kids to do so." Think about how often Harry doesn't tell Dumbledore about something that he should have, given that Dumbledore was above reproach and always did right by Harry, given that Harry always trusted him when he thought explicitly about him, and how Dumbledore always proved trustworthy. Yet Harry lied or concealed all kinds of stuff from Dumbledore, McGonagall, and all the other teachers. This mom didn't like the spirit of disrespect, mistrust, and disobedience for adults embedded in the books. And she was right. And that message was subtler, and therefore harder to de-program, if kids picked it up.
I was totally unprepared for her critique, but she was bang on, and as the series continued, Harry started concealing or lying to his friends as well, to the point that by the seventh book, he was one of the most unlikeable heroes I've read in a book. Say what you want, but the heroes of the Narnia books, and especially Lyra and Will in the "His Dark Materials" trilogy by Philip Pullman, are miles more likable than our man HP.
So what about Inception?
Well, yeah, the story was subtle and cool. The effects were great. The levels and the themes were nifty and I'm sure I could watch it three more times and get more from it each time. DiCaprio remains my favorite actor of his generation (that's the post-Johnny Depp generation, as Depp is in a class of his own), and I still think that in thirty years, Depp/DiCaprio will be the Pacino/DeNiro of our generation, unless Robert Downey Jr. has a run of brilliance like Tom Hanks had in the '90s. Then somebody will come along and say, "Streep" and everybody will go, "Oh yeah. She owns them all. Plus, we're sexist."
But here's the thing that undid Inception for me, and that won't get out of my head now that I realized it. And now I'm going to wreck it for you, too:
Wifeoseyo commented, offhand, that she really got annoyed by all the gunplay in the movie. This is surprisingly similar to something my mother would say: she'd tune out and usually fall asleep, at the first gunfight, no matter how good the movie was. (And then snore during the most crucial scene, to the exasperation/delight of everyone in the family.)
But then I thought more about it, and realized...
Holy crap, Inception presented one of the biggest lost opportunities in a movie, like, ever.
See, we're in a dream world. a dream world and the most imaginative protection one's subconscious can come up with is people with guns? In a freaking dream world? Come-freaking-ON!
Christopher Nolan sets his movie -- makes the whole point of his movie that it happens in the subconscious -- and then the best he can come up with is people with guns?
Where's my Matrix-anti-gravity moon-boot action? It's a dream after all, isn't it? Why would I bring a gun into someone's dream world, when instead I could turn my arms into giant steel octopus arms, or grow myself fifty feet tall and get my stomp on, or spray psychic mind-beams all over the landscape? Why wasn't a single one of the five dream layers defended by giant robot ninja hedgehogs with rocket-claws and laser eyes and invisibility power? At the very least, why weren't the dark corners of these dream cities and hotels hiding ghouls and bogeymen and spiders and kidnappers and whatever else lurked in the dreamers' nightmares?
The more I think about it, the more disappointing the gunplay becomes, and the more cheated I feel. Christopher Nolan set an entire movie in dreamland, and there wasn't a single shapeshifting bearshark with robot intelligence that spit acid saliva. He gave himself a total blank slate: a dream world with a virtually unlimited hollywood budget... and then filled it with the most conventional element in the world. That's like your friend buying a Ferrari and then only using it to drive to church, or owning the world's greatest home entertainment system, but only having "The Notebook" in your DVD collection.
For the record, Inception is not the only movie I believe was made into a huge letdown by an over-reliance on gunplay: Mr. and Mrs. Smith, with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, was another movie where the gunplay copout left me cold. The whole point of the movie was two super-smart, super-spies who are married... and instead of extricating themselves from their spy agencies through some super-smart, stealthy piece of intrigue that gives them a watertight out... they shoot a bunch of people in a warehouse? I was totally disappointed.
That's all for now. Leave requests for other movies I can spoil in the comments.