This past summer was “The Summer of Inception.” Sure, Toy Story 3 was the big draw in terms of dollars, but few (especially in circles of people that I care to concern myself with) were out at dive, hipster bars, sipping pints of LaGunitas, and having long, exhaustive conversations about whether or not Andy will ever play with Woody and Buzz again. No, we were talking about if Leo was in limbo, man. For all of those discussions on that pretty triumphant effort by the brilliantly gifted Christopher Nolan and how “great,” “deep,” and “innovative” that film was (and, oh, that visceral reaction to the ending), there was always the need to point out, and rightfully so, that parts of it were rather long-winded.
I find myself oft-frustrated with Hollywood these days. Here you have arguably the best American writer/director, a top-notch, big-name, gifted actor, a fantastic up-and-comer in support, a female, not two years removed from an Academy Award, an all-time great in a minor role, some very talented unknowns, and the freshest face on the Boulevard, all in tow to create a film-telling of what is one of the most original stories in recent memory, and they botch it. They condense an epic into a short story, all in the name of making money. And they did plenty of that (Inception is #40 on the all-time list. Box Office).
Instead of going after the mega bucks, I contend, my steadfast followers, that Inception would have been a finer work of art if it had been redrawn as a 13-part cable television miniseries event. This would have had an incredibly positive impact on the pacing of the story, optimized the use and integrity of the characters, and built a tension towards the climax that would have rivaled anything in the history of television. No shit.
Episode 1: “Backstory”
Nolan took a lot of liberties in the film and (rather successfully, actually) banked on the idea that viewers would just accept the abilities of these people from around the globe to invade the dreams of others as plausible because it was only known to a select, usually wealthy, few. He may too have thought of simply setting the movie, say, ten more years into the future as a cop-out. I like the idea that all of this mind-infiltration could be going on right now because it subtly creates anxiety in the audience; however, it never sat well with me that there was not a crumb of explanation in the film as to how this power or technology could be possible.
Episode one of the miniseries could clear that up immediately. In the film, Arthur, in speaking to Ariadne, mentions how it was the military, presumably the American brand, that developed this skill and implemented training to soldiers so that they could “shoot and stab and strangle each other and then just wake up.” Set episode one in any given year that would have Cobb’s father, Miles, be significantly younger. This is imperative because it was Miles who taught his son the art form, thus making the discovery at least a generation or two old. Have a scientist figure out through experimentation, maybe even accidentally, how to dream storm. Just so this edition of the show isn’t a complete snooze, have him see someone’s really fucked up dream. Soon thereafter, he realizes that he can actually “design” another’s dream, thus making exploring the landscape much more enjoyable. Perhaps this scientist finds that dream invasion can in fact be a helpful tool in enhancing the psyche of a “patient.” Dreams fascinate all of us. This should be enough, of course, if only tastefully done, to draw in viewers. Have this chapter close with the military provoking the discoverer into instructing their doctors on this new ability for their own, corrupt means.
Episode 2: “Fine-Tuning”
Here viewers witness the perfection and expansion of the skill. The technology becomes more elaborate and advanced, what with all the military (er…tax payer) funding being thrown in its direction. Perhaps it is a young, aspiring human biologist and mathematician, Miles (er…Victor Frankenstein?), who develops the method for “Extraction.”
Remember at the beginning of the film, it was Extraction that was really Cobb and Arthur’s area of expertise. Smartly, Nolan grabs the viewer’s attention by opening the movie with an action-packed sequence where the boys attempt to extract a thought from Saito’s mind as an audition for employment. Nolan knew that one thing that would create mass-appeal would be high-octane, tense clashes in dreamworlds. Imagine 13 episodes of this shit!
In that scene, Cobb and Arthur knew what they were doing. In this episode, tension would be created with ease by having soldiers (like the astronauts of the ’60s) enter the dreams of others, while trying to extract an idea without knowing exactly what they’re doing.
Eventually, of course, they would succeed and be that much closer to mastery of this talent. But, how about a cliff-hanger to ensure viewership through episode three? How about right at the end, the military abducts a powerful enemy from, well…pick a fucking country from the other side of the world. Just when the soldiers get into the mind of this diplomat, they are met with resistance, revealing that someone else has not only discovered this technology, but have found ways to defend against invaders!
Episode 3: “All Out War”
Now you have The Cold War, but in dreams. This 60-minute installment picks up where the last left off. Since unexpected violence of this sort has never erupted in dreams before for the U.S. soldiers, it can go on for a while. The scientists have yet to develop the idea of the “kick.” In the dream, after lengthy conflict, one of the soldiers is wounded, but doesn’t wake up. Much panic ensues until one of them is finally killed by the dream security of the foreigner. Upon reentering consciousness, he tells Miles what has happened. Frantically, Miles tries to wake all the boys up. He shakes them. He slaps them. Finally, the young soldier who perished in the dream, grabs a janitor’s bucket, filled with gray water, and chucks it onto one of his comrades. He so vigorously wakes up, that he knocks over the private next to him. The discovery of the kick.
Of course the diplomat must be killed, which enrages Miles. He asks for an honorary discharge. After this is awarded, the episode closes with Miles beginning the teaching of his newest pupil: his son.