Last summer debate raged over the ending of the movie Inception. I suppose before I go any further I am obligated to inform you of a possible spoiler alert. I will go ahead and just preface this by saying there are several of those throughout this article. Everything I’m going to talk about will be at least a year old. It’s not like I’m telling you how Harry Potter ends (though I’m sure most of you know that), or the big twist in The Zookeeper, or that JT and Mila Kunis can’t just be friends with benefits and end up falling in love. There is a real possibility I am not mentioning anything you haven’t read somewhere else on the internet, but just in case I have warned you and I apologize if I ruin a movie for you.
Now, back to Inception. The end of the movie had everyone wondering if Leo was in a dream or if it was reality. They were picking at every detail to help their case; the house was different, the kids were in the same clothes, the clock read 3:07 which can’t exist in dreams. Any kind of bullshit that helped them to find an answer. All of this bogged down every internet movie site and annoyed the hell out of everyone! Even the film’s writer and director Christopher Nolan who eventually said there is no answer. That’s just the end of the movie. Now shut up. I’m paraphrasing.
I figured Nolan would know what he’s talking about so I dropped it and moved on with my life. Then fast forward to the point when Inception makes its way to my TV and I watch it. I try to just enjoy the story and the amazing effects but I can’t stop myself from picking up little things that may tell me what really happens at the end. I can’t help it. But I’ve noticed I am not the only one.
We (as a society, or Americans, or movie dorks, I don’t know exactly who this “we” is) have just seen so many movies that we ask for more than what they are giving us. We’ve reached this point where we think nothing should be as it seems. We want all movies to be The Usual Suspects, where we see one story only to find out there was something completely different and unseen going on.
Cracked.com has published a couple of articles of fans theories about movies. That’s more than one; that means there are constantly people thinking past the story that is given, believing there is much more going on than meets the eye. And the movies they talk about span the industry, from action to sci-fi to comedies and even children’s movies. I am guilty of this myself. I posted an article on here a few months ago about what I really think is going in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. I think my assessment actually works better with Due Date but that’s in the past and I need to move on.
So I’m not saying this is a practice I am against, but rather I am curious as to why we do this. Why can’t we just accept what the film maker is giving us? When did we stop believing the story teller? When our friends tell us a story we don’t look for more. We just wait for them to finish so we can call them a dumbass and tell our own quasi-related story. I suppose the easy answer is we drop some much money on these movies we expect to get more from them. But is that really enough to spend so much time thinking about them, to analyze every tiny detail?
Maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. We are trained from a young age to analyze every aspect of the books we read. Essentially picking apart the stories and what they mean, interpreting every nuanced word. We’re taught that damn near everything is symbolic of something. So while we’re reading Lord of the Flies enjoying a bunch of kids hunting down a boar, swearing, and just enjoying the aspects of a parentless world we’re actually reading about society and civilization or something. I wasn’t really paying too much attention, except for that “Sucks to your asmar” part.
So it is understandable if we want to find these deeper meanings in our other story telling facets. Yet somehow I feel like there’s a giant difference between the societal commentary of Lord of the Flies and the imagination of some depressed teenager. Wait, if Ferris Bueller represents… no, never mind. I don’t see a similarity in that.
Ok, so maybe that one is a stretch. I’m sure there are movies that act like Lord of the Flies and are rich with metaphor, nothing comes to mind, but there has to be at least one out there. And I’m not saying this is a bad way to think, I’m just saying that it doesn’t apply to everything. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar and a movie is just a story brought to life.
Which brings up the next point. We have become bored with movies. Essentially there are about three basic stories, and every movie, or every story is just a variation or expansion of one of those three stories. The Lion King is nothing more than Hamlet which is… something else. I didn’t research this as well as maybe I should have. Ok, I’ll stick with Inception, it’s basically a story of trying to cope with losing a love one and vying for the attention of a parent. It was just dressed up with other plot lines and action and cool visuals. However, even with those additions people were still looking for more.
We are told so many stories throughout life. From bed time stories, to every TV show, to songs, to whatever stupid thing that one asshole in the office has to tell you. There are just constant stories bombarding us through life. With the exception of that asshole at work, movies probably get most of our story telling time. So if we are going to spend so much time listening to one story, a story we have essentially heard before, then we are going to do whatever it takes to justify spending that much time on one story, one seemingly familar story. Sometimes this means pretending that one story is much more than it really is.
This also means we spend a lot of time thinking about movies. There’s the what we think while we’re watching the movie, what we’re thinking as soon as it ends, and whatever thoughts may arrive after that. There is a lot invested when one watches a movie and dammit if we’re not going to take everything from it we can. Also we don’t want to feel like we’re being out smarted by some film school geek. Most of us will never have be able to dunk like Jordan, swim like Phelps, or throw like Ubaldo; most of us come to terms with our lack of athletic abilities. We don’t want those film nerds to hold the same superior status over us. We want to find more to the story so we can say we’re smart enough to understand it. We’re just as smart as this guy, we just don’t have the luck or connections or whatever that he has.
Just an attempt to justify our station in life. Or maybe that’s just me.
While I think there are some valid points and ideas in these theories, I can’t say they are one hundred percent accurate or true, or at least the sole reason for in depth thoughts about movies. I think the biggest key as to why we try to find more from movies is because we really want to connect with them. We want them to have a certain meaning so we feel more like we can relate. We don’t want to feel like we’re alone in our experiences.
In one of those Cracked articles there is a theory about Ferris Bueller’s Day Off taking place entirely in the mind of Ferris’ depressed friend Cameron. It can be hard to relate to Ferris Bueller and this mad cap day he has because people don’t do that. Some people find it hard to accept this crazy adventure. But they see Cameron, and they see the shit life he lives, and they think, “Oh, I’ve been there. I know how that feels. When I feel like that I try to dream up a better life. I wonder if that’s what Cameron is doing?” And thus the theory is born.
Movies are not always going to have characters or situations we directly relate to. That’s inevitable. We all have different experiences, but we want and we need to feel like movies speak to us and about us. When they don’t on the surface (Ferris), we try to find ways that they can (Cameron).
We love to believe things are written just for us. For those of you in a serious relationship of some kind I assume you have a song. You both share this song and you when you hear it you think Barry Manilow was talking about you when he wrote t. We urge for that same feeling with movies. We want them to connect us to a moment in our own lives, to help us deal with feelings. And at times we have to seek that help by any means necessary, even if that involves creating an entirely new idea or plot line for a movie. So we all saw the end of Inception in whatever way helped us to feel the completion of an emotion brought on by what we were taking from the rest of the movie.
What’s the point of all this? I’m not entirely sure. Perhaps I am trying to figure out why I love movies so much, or I’m trying to justify all the hours I spend thinking about movies. We want to think they are nothing more than a way to entertain us for a few hours, and we kind of take them for granted. But we need them, they help us and we love them for that, even if we don’t tell them so. One thing is completely clear though, as long as this much effort and time is spent thinking about what we see on the screen, then the movie industry will continue to be a power house and consume us all.
21 Jul 2011 Lee S. Hart