WTFAW: Inception

Well, I figured I would get to this one sooner or later.

It’s time to talk about a fan theory regarding Inception, the cerebral action sci-fi thriller from director Christopher Nolan.

I admit, I’ve only recently gotten around to watching it, but nonetheless, I consider it a very good movie. Great acting, good story, great effects. If you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you stop reading this, since there will be spoilers.

Now, such an excellent movie obviously warrants an equally excellent fan theory.

Unfortunately, we don’t have one of those. So what do you have for me instead, Dave?

Dave: Well, the theory about Inception is that Cobb’s totem is actually his wedding ring.

Right. And what are the arguments?

Dave: Throughout the movie, Cobb is wearing his wedding ring when he’s in the dream world, and when he’s awake, he’s not wearing it. That could mean that originally, his ring was his totem, until he took Mal’s spinning top.

But… how do you figure that?

Dave: Well, he’d just have to look at his hand, and see that the ring was missing, obviously.

Aha, I understand. Let’s get started.

I will admit that, as far as I know, you are right that Cobb only wears his wedding ring in the dream world.

Dave: Really?

Yes. But the idea that it is a totem doesn’t work.

Dave: Why not?

Because if the ring was a totem, he would actually USE it as a totem. He would always be wearing it, awake or not, so he could compare it to reality. But instead, he uses the spinning top to determine whether or not he’s awake. As it is, at no point in the movie, does he acknowledge, look at, interfere with or show any interest whatsoever in the ring.

Not to mention that, if it’s his old totem, he wouldn’t still have it around, since he no longer needs it. The spinning top is already fulfilling the purpose.

Dave: Ah, but then why does he wear it?

That’s a good question. Disregarding the totem theory for a second, why do you think he’d wear the ring in his dreams and not in real life?

Dave: Uhm…

It’s because subconsciously, he DOESN’T ACCEPT THAT HIS WIFE IS GONE.

It’s a representation, a construct if you will, of his denial. A wedding ring is a symbol of a deep connection between two people. Deep down, he doesn’t want to face the fact that Mal is dead. He takes the ring off in real life, but in his dreams, it’s still there.

That inability to let go of the past is what gives Mal power. Remember, she’s not actually real. She’s only a construct, another facet of his personality. And that part of his mind is trying to make him give up, to succumb to the temptation of living with her, in the past, forever. He is constantly trying to hurt himself and sabotages his own plans, because of that temptation.

And in the end, he comes to terms with the guilt of having unintentionally driven his wife to suicide by making her believe the real world was just a dream they needed to wake up from.

He faces that part of his subconscious, the personification of his guilt, and tells Mal that she’s not real. She’s just “a shade”.

After that, the ring has no meaning.

Dave: But if the spinning top is Mal’s, and the ring isn’t Cobb’s totem, then what was his totem, originally?

He didn’t have a totem.

Dave: What?

A Totem exists, to help you tell the difference between reality and dreams.

Cobb didn’t have a totem, because he didn’t need one. His whole reason for planting the idea that killed his wife was that he always knew it was a dream. He always knew none of it was real, that the world they built was imaginary. Eventually, he couldn’t stand it, and wanted to wake up.

As he says himself, the totem was Mal’s idea originally, presumably because she had difficulty telling the difference between reality and dreams.

After her death, however, his guilt started infecting his dreams, making him doubt reality. So when he needed a totem, he used the spinning top.

Dave: But in the final scene, when he awakes, Cobb is reunited with his children, and he’s not wearing the wedding ring. That means that the ending is real, and not a dream!

That’s what this is all about, is it?

Dave: Yeah!

You know, this is something I don’t think I’ll ever understand about you, Dave. If the ending is ambiguous, you want to clarify it. If the ending is clear, you want to add ambiguity.

This theory, at its core, exists for one reason, and one reason only: to remove the ambiguity of the final scene.

It’s just like The Thing or Blade Runner all over again.

The ending is supposed to be left ambiguous! The movie cuts, right before the top would ordinarily start to wobble. It’s up to the viewer whether it’s a dream or not! And in the end, it doesn’t actually MATTER!

Dave: What!? What are you talking about?! Of course it matters if it’s a dream or not! What could possibly make you think otherwise!?

Oh, I don’t know, how about this quote by Christopher Nolan himself?

I put that cut there at the end, imposing an ambiguity from outside the film. That always felt the right ending to me […] The real point of the scene […] is that Cobb isn’t looking at the top. He’s looking at his kids. He’s left it behind.

In the end, it really doesn’t matter if it’s real or a dream. What matters is that he’s at peace, he’s happy and no longer haunted by his guilt!

Now, Nolan has stated that he believes the ending is real, but also that it’s up to the viewer to make their own opinion. In making the ending ambiguous, both ending are, in a way, equally valid. It could be a dream, it could be real. It’s up to you.

Meanwhile, this theory is made in order to take that away from people. It’s someone trying to impose their own interpretation and claim that is the only one of value, just so they can feel clever about themselves.

But unsurprisingly, the theory doesn’t work. Which reminds me. You and Mal have a lot in common, Dave.

Dave: Oh?

Yes, you’re just as delusional, and have an equally nasty habit of trying to drive me insane…

 

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Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths

Today’s article is about a DC animated movie which I personally really enjoy. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths. It’s one of my favourite animated superhero movies, along with Under the Red Hood, and I’d like to talk a bit about the reason why I like it. But don’t worry, there will be nitpicking as well.

So let’s not waste any time and start with a brief plot summary.

(spoiler warning, obviously)

The story of the movie is that in a parallel universe, the world is terrorized by the Crime Syndicate, an evil counterpart the Justice League.

The parallel version of Lex Luthor, former leader and sole survivor of that universes Justice League, arrives in the “main” universe to request help from the Justice League in taking down the Crime Syndicate. Up until now, the Crime Syndicate has been kept from complete dominance of the world out of fear of a nuclear response.

(Insert Superman IV reference here)

But now, the Syndicate has developed an equalizer to the threat: the Quantum Eigenstate Device, or Q.E.D for short. Essentially, it’s a bomb that, when activated, will destroy the entire planet, meaning that the governments are given the choice of handing over power, or the complete annihilation of earth.

Had this been the extent of the plot, this movie would be pretty mediocre. However, there is an added complication, which brings us neatly to the reason I like this movie.

Owlman.

Owlman is a cold-hearted and calculating psychopath and the Crime Syndicate counterpart to Batman. He is fascinating to me, mainly because of his motivations for his actions.

You see, the idea of multiverse theory (at least as presented in this movie) is explained by Owlman like this.

With every choice we make, we literally create a world. History branches in two, creating one earth where we made the choice, and a second where we didn’t.

The thing is, when Owlman discovers the existence of parallel worlds, he doesn’t use this knowledge to amass power or wealth. Instead he reaches the conclusion that free will is an illusion, and that none of our choices matter. Because of this, he decides to prove that he DOES have free will, by making a choice to which there can be no alternative.

He intends to find Earth Prime, the original earth that all other earths stemmed from. And when he’s found it, he intends to use to Q.E.D to destroy it, which will result in the destruction of all of reality.

Now, I personally do not agree with that conclusion. Suppose I was presented with two doors, one red and one green, and that, when prompted, I chose to open the red door. While it may be true that somewhere else I picked the green door, that person is not me. We define ourselves by our choices, and we face the consequences of those choices, consequences that parallel versions of us may not face. Our choices matter, because we can only inhabit one reality.

But the reason it works here is because Owlman is described as “Never making a move without a reason”, carefully considering all options before making any decision.

Then he’s faced with the idea that all his carefully made choices are meaningless, because somewhere else, he made the opposite choice. So he decides to make what he feels is “the only true choice“. It makes him, to me, a very interesting character.

It’s just a pity, then, that his plan is fundamentally flawed.

But before I get into dissecting the plan, let me just clarify. I am not a comic book reader. I am not familiar with the details of how parallel universes work in the DCU. I am simply going by the facts regarding the subject presented in this movie.

Now, as for Owlman’s plan, there are three major flaws with it.

One, Owlman’s reasoning is that, with the advent of man came free will, and with that came the multiverse. Before mankind, there was one earth, with one history.

The problem is that for that to be true, humanity has to be the first and only sentient species in the universe.

And that is DEMONSTRABLY UNTRUE.

Both Superman and J’onn J’onzz, the Martian Manhunter, who as his name suggests is from Mars, are aliens from societies which, unless I’m mistaken, predates humanity.

And even if they don’t, there’s Hal Jordan, part of the Green Lantern Corps, formed by the Guardians of the Universe, the OLDEST LIVING BEINGS IN THE UNIVERSE!

And the thing is, Owlman has been working with the counterparts of all three for a very long time! If it’s true in “our” universe, it has to be true for all universes, since all universes are only results of previous choices.

Owlman wants to destroy the original home of sentient life and source of all choices. Except he’s on the wrong planet.

Two, even IF he was on the right planet, he only talks about destroying the earth. At no point do they ever mention the bomb destroying the universe, only Earth Prime. This means that destroying the earth will not prevent the rest of the universe from continuing, along with all subsequent realities.

This is supported partly by the fact that the bomb was created BEFORE Owlman discovered that parallel universes was a thing, and partly because the way the villain is defeated is to send him to an earth that’s just a frozen wasteland, blowing that up instead of earth prime. If it blew up the entire universe, Batman just killed everyone in that universe.

And finally, Three, namely that there is no evidence that all of reality hinges on this one earth or universe. If something happens to Earth Prime, there’s nothing to support that it will affect earths that stemmed from it. If that was the case, all other earths would be blasted and desolate wastelands, just like Earth Prime. Since they’re not, that proves they are merely variants, but not actually connected.

In other words, destroying earth prime is less like cutting down a tree with myriad branches, and more like making a copy of a document, then destroying the original document. The copy will still be there!

So surely, all this should spoil the movie, right? The villains plan is less “threatening the universe” and more “unintentional suicide”.

Well, not really. This plan, while flawed, is perfectly in line with Owlman’s character in the movie. Owlman is another example of an Asimovian Idiot, much like Brain in Pinky and the Brain.

See, Owlman is incredibly intelligent. He is the evil counterpart for Batman, so he’d have to be. However, just like Brain, he is incredibly arrogant, which leads him to disregard obvious problems in favour of his own theory.

One could also make the argument that the revelation of how meaningless choices are actually drove him insane.

Not only is he calculating and psychopathic, but he’s also an extreme misanthrope, who considers humanity to be a “cancer“. This loathing of humans means that Owlman considers them solely to blame for all ills, and his arrogance is what blinds him to the possibility of him being wrong.

So much like Brain, he is very much a victim of his own madness and hubris, which actually carries through all the way to the moment of his death.

Standing alone on a frozen, dead planet, with the Q.E.D about to detonate, he looks at the big display, giving the option to abort the detonation, thereby saving his life, and what does he do?

He smirks and utters his final words

It doesn’t matter

And while I have no evidence to support it, it would be amazingly fitting if, because of Owlman’s dedication to his theory, that his decision to let the bomb go off?

If THAT was an option to which no other version of him would act any differently, actually fulfilling his desire to make a unique decision in a literally earth-shattering display of irony.

WTFAW: WALL-E

Yet another halloween has passed, and with all the ghosts and monsters, the demons and devils common for the season, it’s only fitting I’d make my contribution with some real terror.

In other words: a stupid fan theory. Take it away, Dave.

Dave: The theory is that WALL-E is a murderous psychopath who doomed the world.

I see… and what do you base that on, exactly?

Dave: Ok, so WALL-E is one of several compactor robots designed to take trash and crush it up into cubes, as part of the cleanup operation of earth, while humanity cruises the stars.

Yeah?

Dave: Well, how come after 700 years, the world is still covered in trash? What happened to all the other WALL-E units? The answer is that WALL-E killed them all!

What? Why would he do that?!

Dave: Because he is obsessed with mementos and interesting trinkets, that the other robots would crush up into cubes. He killed the others to protect those treasures in a 700 year long murder spree.

I see. Is that all?

Dave: No, there’s also the fact that he has no sympathy for the other units, to the point where he remorselessly rips parts from their corpses to prolong his own life, and store spare parts in his trailer. All this should prove the robot is completely psychopathic!

All very interesting. Now, let me explain why it doesn’t work.

First off, you say that WALL-E cannibalised the corpses of the other robots. The thing is, is that cannibalism or is it taking spare parts? Think about it. What use does a rusted, broken old heap of junk have for visual receptors or motherboards? They are non-functioning! It’s no different to taking a functioning organ from a dead body to replace a failing organ in a living body.

Dave: Ah, but why doesn’t he try to repair them instead?

What makes you think he hasn’t tried? Does it occur to you that they are too badly broken for him to fix? Remember, he never does any in-depth repair jobs in the movie. He just exchanges broken parts for functioning parts. So maybe he simply doesn’t have the skill required? Or he succeeded, and they just returned to the same routine as they had before, after which they ended up breaking down again! WALL-E is defined, at the beginning of the movie, as being incredibly lonely. Don’t you think he, in 700 years, would have tried to make a friend at some point?

Really, at no point does WALL-E actually show any murderous or sadistic tendencies! On the contrary, he’s almost defined as caring and compassionate, not only towards EVE, but to anyone he meets who is in trouble, and even the cockroach he keeps as company.

A psychopath is defined as, among other things, lacking compassion or understanding of empathy. WALL-E is the polar opposite of that!

Dave: But why did the other robots stop working, then?

Because Operation Cleanup was fucking idiotic! The idea was to send humans into space and remove all the garbage in the meantime. Then it was discovered the workload was too much, and the operation was deemed a failure soon after it was put into effect, and the WALL-E units were all switched off.

All except one. This one continued and eventually developed sentience. It’s reasonable to assume this was a glitch, similar to SEVERAL OTHER ROBOTS IN THE MOVIE! That glitch was the fucking spark of life! A one in a million fluke gave the robot sentience.

Dave: Oh, come on! Doesn’t that seem far fetched?

Ok, yeah, you’re right. I mean, what other famous disney movie features an inanimate object coming to life and developing sentience? It’s not like such a movie would have some legacy, like it’s theme song becoming the theme of Disney itself- OH WAIT THAT’S RIGHT, FUCKING PINOCCHIO!

Dave: Oh…

And that leads me to the final nail in to coffin, and why, if you had any brains at all, you should be terrified, Dave.

Dave: What’s that?

See, you know I love Disney, and that bringing me a disney fan theory is therefore a bad idea at the best of times.

Dave: Yeah…?

And you know that I admire Walt Disney himself, which means that insulting Walt Disney to my face is an incredibly stupid thing to do, right?

Dave: Where are you going with this…?

Well, you’ve brought me a fan theory stating that WALL-E is a psychopath.

Dave: Yeah…?

Do you know what the name WALL-E is referencing?

Dave: Uhm…

It’s actually a nod to Walter Elias Disney.

Dave: Oh fuck…

Now, having just called a character named after Walt Disney a psychopath, what should you probably be doing now?

Dave: I… should get out of your face.

Bye, Dave.

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