Theory #10: Nolan committed inception on us.
Heck, this is the most awesome theory to believe in. Throw away all the other theories. Discard them to limbo or somewhere else. The theory that Nolan committed inception on us is simple in notion yet it has powerful, thought-provoking effects on us.
We, as viewers, are the subjects of Nolan’s “experimental” film. His film is designed to make us probe for the truth, to question the ideal of objectivity in a subjective world, and to be wholly entertained (like a feel-good summer blockbuster would do) at the same time. He introduces to us the concept of inception, which by the time the film ends, would have been fully integrated into our cognitive understanding of the entire film. That in itself is a literal inception on us the very idea of inception.
Expanding upon that, this ingrained conceptual understanding of inception becomes crucial for us to interpret the motives (or rather, concerns) of Nolan, who is intelligent enough to hide them under the weight and ambiguity of his film. A personal project heavily financed by Warner Brothers as a form of gratitude towards Nolan, whose two megahits Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008) brought them hundreds of millions of greenbacks, Inception is the first truly original screenplay by Nolan himself since his debut feature Following (1998).
How would mainstream audience react to his film? Would it be too abstract, too Freudian for the average viewer to comprehend? And very importantly for this industry, would it attract enough people to allow the film to break even, let alone making a profit? These were probably some of the concerns Nolan would have thought of a decade ago, which was when he started writing the first draft of his screenplay.
With an ambiguous ending, Nolan incepts us with the idea that his film could be enjoyed and embraced not only by smart people, but also by the average mainstream crowd. He does not treat moviegoers as dumb folks who munch greedily on popcorn; instead, he treats them as sophisticated thinkers who want a movie experience to be more than just a passive affair. Viewers want to be engaged – intellectually, psychologically, and emotionally – and it is the intellect that Nolan tries to target at.
Inception is a masterpiece, a film of unparalleled quality, and is arguably the holy grail of the contemporary blockbuster (yes, this is far superior than James Cameron’s Avatar (2009)). With the possibility (or rather uncertainty) that his film may not be well-liked or understood, Nolan ends it with Cobb’s top that keeps spinning and spinning (or does it not?), incepting us with the idea that his film is like a dream. And we collectively wake up from it dazed and maybe slightly confused, but nonetheless intrigued and very satisfied.