It seems that Inception has ruled not only the box office for the past two weeks, but the public consciousness as well. People are still talking about that antigravity fight scene, the significance of Mal, and whether or not that damn top is still spinning. No one can stop talking about this movie, which means someone at Warner Bros. is probably talking to Christopher Nolan about a sequel right about now. Unlike the film itself, the decision to make a sequel to a high-grossing blockbuster that's already generating major Oscar buzz seems like a no-brainer. But like the film itself, there's more to ponder here. Let's weigh the pros and cons of an Inception sequel, and hope that, unlike with the debate over the ending, we'll be able to come up with a clear-cut conclusion:
Pro: We want more!
One of the biggest compliments a fan can pay a filmmaker is to say they were left wanting more at the end of the film. Both times I saw Inception, the final cut to black was met with cheers, applause, and laughter (the good kind of laughter, not the derisive kind given to the trailer for M. Night Shyamalan's Devil earlier in the evening). People were obviously not ready for the story to end where it did and would gladly accept an invitation to spend a few more hours in this world.
Con: Nolan didn't want to give us more.
The flip side here is that a good chunk of the film's brilliance IS that (non) ending. This is a film about a man whose experiences had left him questioning his reality. In the end, as we watch that top spin, we get to feel the same way he did, we have that same seed of doubt planted in our heads that what we're watching may or may not have been real. In a sequel, Nolan would be forced to tell us whether or not the top stopped spinning. If he didn't, the sequel might just feel like more of the same. The sequel would either close the debate (thus making it less fun to go back to the original) or kill the freshness of Nolan's idea. Either way, it would damage Inception's chances of becoming the classic it deserves to be.
Pro: We know Nolan can make a great sequel! He did it with The Dark Knight!
Although sequels to great films are generally treated with trepidation before their release, there is evidence that a talented filmmaker can sometimes get it even more right on the second try. And it just so happens that one of the best sequels of all time is Nolan's own The Dark Knight, which took his inventive reimagining of Batman and ran with it, reinventing more iconic characters from this universe and expanding its themes. The much buzzed about Batman Begins now looks like small potatoes compared to its sequel. Therefore, the logic should go that since Nolan blew our minds with Inception, he should easily be able to obliterate them with Inception 2, right?
Con: He's only done it that one time...
Inception shares more in common with Nolan's previous mind-benders Memento and The Prestige than it does with The Dark Knight -- and he's never expressed an interest in making a sequel to either of them. It's important to note that The Dark Knight was a sequel to a film called Batman Begins, with “begins” being the operative word in that title. That movie was always meant to be a beginning of a story, which means it would make sense for things to get more exciting in the second act. If Inception was conceived in Nolan's mind as the first part of Dom Cobb's story, then by all means, bring on part two (but not until you've delivered a satisfying Batman 3 please, sir)! But if Inception 2 is the creation of a money-hungry studio rather than an organic continuation of the story, then it's probably not going to be a movie worth getting excited about.
One last con: While no one seems able to agree about the ending, almost every review, article, or blog post I've read about Inception has agreed that no matter what you think you saw unfold on that movie screen, you at least know it was something fresh and original in an excruciatingly tiresome summer of sequels and remakes. Christopher Nolan is one of the few great popular filmmakers telling original stories these days. Every one of his films has surprised and delighted audiences in new and exciting ways. Time spent on an Inception sequel (especially if it's the next thing he makes after Batman 3) is time taken away from showing us something else that's completely new and different. And though the accountants at Warner Bros. may not agree, I think that's something we need more than we need an answer to what happened with that spinning top.