Christopher Nolan’s Inception scored $60 million on its opening frame over the weekend, easily good for the number one spot, beating out Despicable Me and it’s $32 million second weekend (giving it a $118 million cumulative). You notice anything strange about the top two films of the weekend? They’re both original properties. That’s not something we’ve been able to say for a while in the box-office round-up. And sadly, it’s destined to give us all false hope.
Why? Because people — media pundits and movie bloggers — will probably start in with their, “Has Inception changed the way we make movies” pieces anytime now. I haven’t checked around this weekend, but chances are, it’s already started. We saw the same thing, obviously, after Avatar and after The Dark Knight. What did we get? A lot more 3D movies, a lot more comic-book movies and (thanks to Batman Begins), a lot more reboots. Studios heads didn’t take away from those experiences the originality of those movies; they extracted from them the easiest possible marketing advantage they could find, which was to charge higher ticket prices, adapt a whole lot of comic books and graphic novels, and reboot flailing franchises.
Maybe the success of Inception will be different. Maybe studio heads won’t begin searching in vain for all the movies based around dreams. Maybe they’ll take away from Inception the idea that an original concept can make money. Because whether you liked Inception or not (and I’m guessing it’s about 80/20 in favor of Inception), it has to be given credit at least for being new. For being one of the most thought-provoking $150 million movies ever made. And for being challenging.
And not to take anything away from Nolan — he’s been as consistently excellent as any director over the last decade — but there are other visionaries out there. There are other great scripts floating around. And there are probably a lot of great directors who want to direct them who haven’t been given the chance. If anything, let’s hope that the studios seek them out now. Maybe brilliant directors won’t first have to direct a franchise before they can make the movies they want to make. Because maybe, just maybe, it’s the non-franchise movies that we’re more eager to see.
But I wouldn’t get your hopes up too high. Studios are still run by marketing people, and marketing people didn’t have a clue what to do with Inception and if people start ignoring trailers and pre-publicity write-ups, then a lot of marketing people are going to be out of jobs. There was a ton of hype for Inception, but no one paid any attention to it. I don’t know how many people I’ve heard tell me that they didn’t watch trailers or read anything about Inception before they went in. That’s amazing. And I haven’t checked the stats yet, but I’m guessing that Dan’s review was probably read much more on Saturday and Sunday than it was on Friday afternoon, before people had been given a chance to watch Inception. That’s outstanding. Really, really outstanding. For one week out of the year, the good guys won, goddamnit. And that feels great.
But please, I beg of you, do not mention the prospect of a Inception sequel. That would be the most deflating scenario I could imagine. And I don’t think Nolan would do it. But what Inception does show is that he won’t have to make a Batman movie every three years to support his other movies; those other movies will support themselves.
Meanwhile, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, which was based on a Mickey Mouse short, managed only $24 million over five days. Ha fucking ha! Suck it, unoriginal ideas (and we’ll just ignore the fact that number four — Twilight: Eclipse — and number five (Toy Story 3) — are the fourth and first highest grossing films of the year, so far, respectively. Goddamn sequels.