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View Poll Results: Inception ends with
reality 58 65.17%
dream 27 30.34%
other 4 4.49%
Voters: 89. You may not vote on this poll

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Old August 4 2010, 04:16 AM   #31
Ryan
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

So - they have gone into dream state and are living for 50 years. I take it that they entered via various levels since in order to live 50 years, it wouldn't be possible in first-level dreaming. Are we shown their different levels?
Cobb and Mal struck me as a Marie and Pierre Curie type. They seemed to be exploring the bleeding edge of the technology rather than executing a structured plan like with Fischer. They probably used something like the elevator in the scene with Ariadne to move that far down.

Why is it that this level doesn't have people besides them? Shouldn't their "projections" populate this level?
We did see projections. That's what Mal and Saito's guards were.

How does Cobb remember that this is a dream? He doesn't seem to have an individual totem of his own? Are we to take it that he doesn't somehow succumb to the dream-world's charms?
It's definitely gnawing at him. Remember, that's Cobb's subconscious at the end telling him to stay in limbo. We can just assume he had a totem and we never saw it.

But she will also realize that somebody else has tampered with the totem - how would she know that this is the same top as her totem? Couldn't a projection (either of herself or Cobb's) go in and swap the totem out?
Forgetfulness is a side effect of being in limbo for long periods (the movie opens with Saito having almost forgotten Cobb). Mal doesn't even remember she tampered with the top so she certainly wouldn't realize Cobb did.

So did they just die of old age in the world-building level or something else happened there? For that matter, what happens, if you die of old age in the dream? Do you automatically move back to the higher level?
Dying in limbo is a kick. We saw Mal and Cobb lay down in front of the train which kicked them straight back to the real world.

Why does the totem "change" hands and come to Cobb?
Symbolism. It's part of the idea that's "infected" Cobb. It's also a representation of the guilt he's carrying around. They never do say why she just didn't test the totem but it's possible the idea is so entrenched in Mal's mind nothing would have convinced her.

But here's a question - would one person's totem work for another person in the dream world?
Sure. The only prerequisite for a totem is someone else can't know it well enough to duplicate it in the dream world.

So, how is Cobb able to go from his 4th level to Saito's Limbo?
There is no dreamer like with the other levels. Limbo is pure unconstruced space. Since Cobb was the only person who'd ever been there before what they landed in were the remnants of Mal and Cobb's world.

Did they tell us how one can "escape" from Limbo?
Mal, Cobb, Ariadne and Fischer all killed themselves to escape limbo which raises all kinds of questions about why it was even dangerous to begin with.
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Old August 4 2010, 09:34 AM   #32
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

It's all a dream. The totem was his wife's, not his, so it could follow whatever dream rules his mind set for it. You have buildings closing in on him while being pursued in the 'real' world (classic dream imagery), plus the paranoid pursuit by a shadowy organisation fits within the dream logic of the movie. There are also some inexplicable elements, such as miraculously being allowed through customs within minutes of completing the mission.

It WAS about letting go of his wife (perhaps his subconscioius guilt at accepting his dream state or his real wife trying to pull him out) so he could get back to his 'dream' children, who in the final scene appear exactly as they did earlier in the movie. As soon as he lets go of Mal, her totem keeps spinning - he no longer cares on a subconscious level that it's a dream.

Brilliant ending though - leaving enough doubt for this kind of debate.
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Old August 4 2010, 11:46 AM   #33
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

It being a dream at the end pretty much makes Leo's character arc pointless, meaningless and depressing given that in 'reality' he's either going to eventually wake-up and not be with his kids and possibly still be a fugitive or he'll be a vegetable (given the rules laid out for spending too much time in Limbo/a dream state.)
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Old August 4 2010, 11:53 AM   #34
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

I am not sure which theory I lean more toward, but the whole idea that the film was all a dream seems credible to me for some reason, for the reasons Pauln6 particularly pointed out above.

I think the ending was supposed to signify the one true constant in both the dream world and the real world -- emotion. That's what Cobb and consequently the audience feels at the end, and really the film was about overcoming grief, so I feel like it doesn't really matter if Cobb was dreaming or not. The whole film is about the idea that the act of inception literally translates to your real world, and Fischer's emotional catharsis occurred in the dream world, so why not Cobb's? There's a lot of speculation that the entire film was trying to achieve inception for Cobb, so that he could get over Mal's death, so that perhaps when he does wake up, he'll be truly over her for good.

However, I do see how the film points out to various interpretations. I don't think any of them is either right or wrong. You can either choose to believe Cobb is dreaming, or in reality, or any other interpretation you see fit (i.e. it was all a dream). The ambiguity and expansiveness that the ending implies is indicative of the limitless possibilities cinema and the dream world have to offer, so in that sense I think the ending was absolutely perfect given the intent of the story and premise of the film.
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Old August 4 2010, 01:21 PM   #35
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

I voted other -- the movie ended with the credits and a cinema employee wandering in to pick up the trash.

Actually, I subscribe to the theory that the movie serves as a metaphor for the film-making process and
the various ways that a director can attempt to implant memes in the minds of the audience.
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Old August 4 2010, 01:27 PM   #36
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

Inception was the audience's dream, and the annoying cut to black was our "kick."
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Old August 4 2010, 04:24 PM   #37
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

^ Not a bad analogy there! I voted real but don't wish to explain my reasons. I want to see the movie again still and haven't composed my full review yet for the film because I'm still settling my thoughts on the film. I pre-ordered the shooting script from amazon and can't wait for the DVD which probably will come out first week of December.
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Old August 4 2010, 04:33 PM   #38
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

Another of these amazing polls where the people who post are always in the minority. Everyone else just votes and leaves.
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Old August 4 2010, 04:36 PM   #39
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

Trekker4747 wrote: View Post
It being a dream at the end pretty much makes Leo's character arc pointless, meaningless and depressing given that in 'reality' he's either going to eventually wake-up and not be with his kids and possibly still be a fugitive or he'll be a vegetable (given the rules laid out for spending too much time in Limbo/a dream state.)
Or the whole thing was a dream, and when he wakes up, he'll be in his bed next to his wife with his kids in the next room. Or maybe he's actually a woman who dreamt that she was Leonardo DiCaprio.
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Old August 4 2010, 07:26 PM   #40
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

Admiral_Young wrote: View Post
can't wait for the DVD which probably will come out first week of December.
...if past experience is any indication.
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Old August 4 2010, 09:00 PM   #41
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

Thanks to Treker4747 and Ryan for the answers to my questions.

Let me see if I understand correctly. Limbo is equivalent to the 4th level of a dream? (1st level - Van, second level - hotel, third level - James Bond Ice Fortress, 4th level - Limbo)

Ok - also too much time in Limbo will mean your brain turns to mush. But Saito does spend too much time there. (He's a really really old dude when Cobb finds him) So how come when he wakes up, he's alert enough to use the phone and do the plot-ex-machina to make sure that Customs will allow Cobb tome thru (the charges against Cobb are removed from the official databases based on his interevention). (Btw, that answers the question of how Cobb is able to get thru US Immigration & Customs without problems. (Or he could be using a fake identity but then why didn't he try that instead of staying out of the US and not meeting his children).

Let me understand the totem piece further. What is so special about the top that it is Mal's totem? (and later Cobb's)? Everybody in the dream world knows (assuming projections are rational) that a top on spinning shouldn't continue spinning but eventually come to a stop. So - why would the top keep spinning if a projection models it? A car doesn't keep running cos projections that cars normally stop when people use brakes! Similarly why wouldn't a projection know that a top is supposed to spin only for a short duration and then topple over?
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Old August 4 2010, 09:19 PM   #42
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

coolghoul wrote: View Post
Thanks to Treker4747 and Ryan for the answers to my questions.

Let me see if I understand correctly. Limbo is equivalent to the 4th level of a dream? (1st level - Van, second level - hotel, third level - James Bond Ice Fortress, 4th level - Limbo)

Ok - also too much time in Limbo will mean your brain turns to mush. But Saito does spend too much time there. (He's a really really old dude when Cobb finds him) So how come when he wakes up, he's alert enough to use the phone and do the plot-ex-machina to make sure that Customs will allow Cobb tome thru (the charges against Cobb are removed from the official databases based on his interevention). (Btw, that answers the question of how Cobb is able to get thru US Immigration & Customs without problems. (Or he could be using a fake identity but then why didn't he try that instead of staying out of the US and not meeting his children).
We don't actually know how much time in Limbo is "too much time." He was a really old man, yes, but as soon as Cobb showed up, he remembered who he was and what he was waiting for. The fact that they managed to keep Saito alive through the other dream levels for as long as they did probably helped.
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Old August 4 2010, 09:32 PM   #43
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

Ok - also too much time in Limbo will mean your brain turns to mush. But Saito does spend too much time there. (He's a really really old dude when Cobb finds him) So how come when he wakes up, he's alert enough to use the phone and do the plot-ex-machina to make sure that Customs will allow Cobb tome thru (the charges against Cobb are removed from the official databases based on his interevention). (Btw, that answers the question of how Cobb is able to get thru US Immigration & Customs without problems. (Or he could be using a fake identity but then why didn't he try that instead of staying out of the US and not meeting his children).
The "brain turns to mush" thing is over stated. It's more that the more time you spend in Limbo the further away the "real world" is. Cobb and Mal spent something like 40 or 50 years in Limbo a long time, for sure, but hardly such a long time that they would've forgotten their real lives beyond just being, as Cobb puts it, "old souls." Cobb and Mal, under a standard sedative, would've only been a sleep for something like 8-10 hours for the 50 years to pass "in Limbo."

The problem with the final mission was that the sedative was going to keep them asleep for 10 hours and it made the time dilation that much more powerful, it increased it to factors of 20 meaning the 10-hour flight would equate to almost 300 years in Limbo. The idea was that Wantabe would be "so old" by the time the flight ended that he'd have forgotten his promise and even who he was. Moreso, the idea was that anyone would experience this but that idea seemed more theory as no one had gone that deep before aside from Cobb and Mal. Wantabe, however, said he'd remember the promise and seeing Cobb helped him remeber that promise so was able to remember to keep his promise and still be, somewhat, cognizant when he woke up, though it'd likely take him time to readjust to his life. Again, think of the TNG epiosde "The Inner Light" for a similar idea to this.

Let me understand the totem piece further. What is so special about the top that it is Mal's totem? (and later Cobb's)? Everybody in the dream world knows (assuming projections are rational) that a top on spinning shouldn't continue spinning but eventually come to a stop. So - why would the top keep spinning if a projection models it? A car doesn't keep running cos projections that cars normally stop when people use brakes! Similarly why wouldn't a projection know that a top is supposed to spin only for a short duration and then topple over?
I think it might've been less "the top won't fall due to lack of gravity in the dreams" and more "that's how I want my totem to work."

I mean if it was the gravity thing that's apply to a lot of things we see occur in the movie. But since Leo's idea was for his totem to spin "forever" in his dream that's how it works not because it can't fall over but because Cobb, subconciously, won't let it fall over. This is probably where the rule of not letting others know too much about your totem comes from as it creates potential for abuse. Mal had, apparently, let Cobb know how her totem worked so he knew how to exploit it to manipulate her. So even if she couldn't "physicaly see" the totem spinning/not spinning somewhere in her mind she knew what it was doing even on a subconcious to her subconcious level.
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Old August 4 2010, 10:26 PM   #44
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

RoJoHen wrote: View Post
I want to believe that it was real. Otherwise, the whole movie is just about a guy taking a nap, and none of it matters.
Except that, even if stuff in the movie was "real," it still didn't really happen because, you know, it's a movie. None of it matters except to the extent that all movies matter. The characters & events are as real & important as you want them to be.

Honestly, I have a hard time doing any literal analysis of this movie. When I do, too many things don't add up. But then, I think that a lot of Nolan's movies are like that. Analyzed literally, the Joker's clockwork perfect crime spree in The Dark Knight makes no sense at all. The Joker must be analyzed as a symbolic force of chaos. And while the ending of The Dark Knight seems very impractical & unnecessary on a literal level, that too makes more sense on a symbolic level.

On a symbolic, meta level, Inception is about the process of artistic creation, manipulating the emotions & ideas of the audience. Just as The Prestige was a movie about magicians that was itself a magic trick, relying on doubles, deception, & diversion.

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Trekker4747 wrote: View Post
It being a dream at the end pretty much makes Leo's character arc pointless, meaningless and depressing given that in 'reality' he's either going to eventually wake-up and not be with his kids and possibly still be a fugitive or he'll be a vegetable (given the rules laid out for spending too much time in Limbo/a dream state.)
Or the whole thing was a dream, and when he wakes up, he'll be in his bed next to his wife with his kids in the next room. Or maybe he's actually a woman who dreamt that she was Leonardo DiCaprio.
Or the entire movie was really dreamed up by that autistic kid from St. Elsewhere.

Considering how preposterous the technology in the film is and how it totally flies in the face of what the modern understanding of dreams is, I'm inclined to believe that the whole thing was a dream. There's no such thing as extraction, inception, or any other form of dream walking. None of these people ever existed; or if they did, there's no reason to believe that how they're depicted in the film bears any resemblance to "reality."

Which annoys me slightly if only because the implication is that Cobb is the only real thing in the entire movie and I think he's the least interesting character. I would have preferred a greater focus on Arthur and/or Ariadne.
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Old August 4 2010, 11:01 PM   #45
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Re: vote on Inception's ending (spoilers obviously)

I think the movie was designed to leave an audience arguing for years.

That said, I fall in the "the whole movie was a dream" camp. While in "reality, numerous characters tell Cobb to "come back to reality," "wake up," and "who are you to judge what is real?" We are also told from the outset that a totem is used to judge reality from dream. In the third act, we learn that not only is Cobb's totem not his, but he admits to tampering with it. One character points out to another that Cobb, our point of view in this story, breaks every rule he sets. Cobb doesn't know up from down, or reality from dream. And every character and situation in the film is some variation of him talking to himself.
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