Inception: More meta than you thought…

Films

We’ve all heard a few theories about Inception – the end was just a dream, DiCaprio dreamed that it would get him an Oscar – but here’s one that I think holds a fair bit of weight. It’s a bit of a two-pronged attack, claiming that Inception is both entirely a dream and a metaphor for film-making.

I think the idea that Inception is a film about film-making – but without telling the audience that it’s about film-making – is the coolest aspect of this whole theory. You can find a summarised explanation here, or you can read the original article and further discussion here.

But in case you’re super-lazy, here’s the quote that details the basic argument for Inception being about making a film:

The heist team quite neatly maps to major players in a film production. Cobb is the director while Arthur, the guy who does the research and who sets up the places to sleep, is the producer. Ariadne, the dream architect, is the screenwriter – she creates the world that will be entered. Eames is the actor (this is so obvious that the character sits at an old fashioned mirrored vanity, the type which stage actors would use). Yusuf is the technical guy…

incept

‘Strong Female Characters’ and the Trinity Syndrome

Films

“Isn’t it great that so many movies these days (especially action and adventure films) have strong, fun female characters,” you may be thinking. But according to Tasha Robinson over at The Dissolve, you’re wrong.

In a brilliant article titled We’re Losing All Our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome, she talks about the gimmicky female characters that are so often inserted into films just so that the companies can say: “Look, we have women in our film!” Tasha suggests that Trinity from the Matrix is the epitome of this; the opening scene has her as a total badass, leaping over buildings and escaping from agents, but by the end of the trilogy (or even the film) she just spouts encouragement and fills in as a romantic interest.

Check out her article here (but be warned – there are spoilers for a number of films, such as Oblivion, How To Train Your Dragon 2, and Edge of Tomorrow). What films can you think of with strong females who are realistic characters in their own rights?

683 minutes

Faith, Films

Earlier this year, I had one of the happiest days of my life.
Three friends and I spent the day watching all three Extended Editions of the Lord of the Rings films. That’s a total of 683 minutes (11 hours, 23 minutes) of Middle Earth.

It was glorious. And it got me thinking about LOTR again.

See, I’ve been a huge fan of Tolkien’s works since I was about… 13?
I had attempted the books when I was 8 or 9, but struggled through the first five parts and eventually gave up; I’d seen the movies when they came out and enjoyed them, but hadn’t grasped the depth – I just saw them as fun action movies. When I was 13, my grandparents gave me an old copy of LOTR and I decided that the time was ripe for another attempt. I devoured the books. I loved them. I finally got them, understood that there was more than just a story or an event here. I suppose I was beginning to see them in the way Tolkien had hoped for them to be seen: as myths.
Since the books alone weren’t enough, I then purchased Anduril (Aragorn’s sword) and other assorted memorabilia before getting my hands on a copy of the Extended Edition DVDs. I set aside a day and started at 7am, finishing around 8:00pm (I didn’t take many breaks!). That viewing cemented me as a LOTR fan for life. To be honest, I think that the worldview presented in LOTR may have helped my conversion to Catholicism – I’ll have to ask the Lord when I see Him.

Over the eight years since I first watched these Extended Edition films, I’ve watched them at least another ten times each – but I’d never done another 683-minutes-in-one-day viewing. I’d tried with friends over the years, but no one had ever been keen enough. We’d start, get about 3 or 4 hours in, but then call it a day. But now, after years of searching and waiting, it has happened.
Admittedly, it did take us about 14 hours to get from Galadriel’s opening monologue to Sam’s hopeful and settled “Well, I’m back.” But when you factor in toilet stops, people coming and going, two meals, running around outside while screaming and holding a sword (we needed exercise, OK?), and discussing finer points of Middle Earth mythology, I think that’s understandable.

Something that came up very strongly with this viewing of LOTR was the depth of Catholic thought that is within Tolkien’s world. Every time I watch the films or read the books, I’m reminded of this – but I end up forgetting about it! So after watching the films (and discussing these Catholic ideas and themes with my mates), I turned to google to help me find what others were saying about this. I found some awesome stuff. Here’s a collection of my favourites:

  • The best, undoubtedly, is Dr Peter Kreeft’s book The Philosophy of Tolkien, where Dr Kreeft uses the world of Middle Earth (and Tolkien’s other writings) as a springboard to explain and discuss philosophy, reality and virtues. An awesome read.
  • There’s a series of four articles from the Notre Dame Center for Liturgy, written by Timothy O’Malley. They were originally given as a single talk but have been broken up into four separate articles for ease of reading. The series is titled The Catholic Imagination in the Lord of the Rings, and the first article can be found here.

This is just a tiny selection of the wealth of info on Tolkien and his Catholic worldview for Middle Earth. But what do you think? I know heaps of LOTR fans who avidly deny that the stories are religious. Of course, to see Tolkien’s writings as allegory is foolish (he explicitly said they’re not), but he also explicitly said that they are Catholic.

So that’s that.

The Story Archetype(s)?

Faith, Fiction, Films

I was chatting with some mates yesterday and we somehow ended up discussing types of stories. We’d all heard the claim that there were 7 Story Archetypes; a quick google search uncovered this list:

  • The Odyssey - a 'Quest' story or 'Voyage and Return'?

    The Odyssey – a ‘Quest’ story or ‘Voyage and Return’?

    Overcoming the Monster

  • Rags to Riches
  • The Quest
  • Voyage and Return
  • Comedy
  • Tragedy
  • Rebirth

The above link explains them each a bit better.Though we thought this was a pretty good list, we also recognised that each of these ‘archetypes’ (“the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based”) is fairly loosely defined and seems to overlap with others.

One of my friends confessed that he’d always dreamed of crafting a story which avoided all of these archetypes. But when we tried to think of how this could be done, we were stumped. A young man works towards becoming the best in his industry, but ends up failing horribly… that’s a tragedy. Maybe an elderly woman who discovers to become young again in order to ‘do over’ her life? Oh wait, that’s rebirth. We then tried looking at stories we know, to see if any of them find a way to avoid these archetypes. The three of us like to think of ourselves as film buffs, so we began thinking through our list of films. Again, no luck.

I then suggested something radical: that perhaps there’s only one story archetype. Every story ever told, and every story that will or can ever be told, is drawn from one great Story.

The Catholic Church speaks of ‘Salvation History’ – the huge living mass of stuff that makes up the history of mankind’s creation, fall and salvation, seen through the eyes of faith. The major happenings of this are contained with the Bible, which, though written over hundreds or thousands of years in a wealth of different settings, forms a single body of work. Even without the perspective of faith, there can be discerned within it a distinct story which flows through every piece of literature within Scripture: the poetry of the Psalms, the symbol-charged story of early Genesis, the accounts of Jesus in the Gospels, all of them.

salvation history

And so I propose an archetype called Salvation, which encompasses all other types. It’s basic premise is that in all stories there is an underlying battle between good and evil, with the conflict of these creating the thrust of the story. Good and evil can manifest themselves as hope and fear, right and wrong, peace and war, happiness and anger, clarity and confusion. The truly great stories – ones like The Lord of the Rings, The Great Gatsby, Othello, or The Divine Comedy – move through many of these manifestations, and though on the surface they appear to be a Tragedy or Voyage And Return, there is a much wider scope within them.

 

What do you think? My mates felt that this was a bit too loose of a definition – do you agree?

Final Man of Steel Trailer

Films

 

So here it is. The final Man of Steel trailer. Packed full of action (and maybe revealing a little too much of what goes on for some people’s tastes), this trailer has allayed all my fears. After watching the disappointment that was Iron Man 3, I was becoming cautious of this new Supes – were these fancy trailers just going to let me down?

But now, having seen Kal-El fight, fly, cry, kiss, and much more, I have no fear. It seriously looks like Nolan’s beautiful storytelling skills have been perfectly melded with Snyder’s style of heightened visuals.

Another thing I’m relieved with is that it seems quite clear that the Man of Steel won’t be facing down Lex Luthor (thank the Lord!), nor will he have to square off against weird aliens that no one understands. Though I recognise that those villains may surface in later films, I can think of no greater way to begin this franchise than with Supes taking on one of his own kind. This means that there’s no ‘oh they look like stupid aliens’, but with the added benefit of Zod actually being equal to Superman in strength.

Of course, I have to wait two weeks longer than most other countries in the world. June 26th can’t come quickly enough!