The early trailers have offered very narrative few hints, but a big crowd at San Francisco's WonderCon now knows exactly what Christopher Nolan's "Inception" is about.
 
Oh, I kid. The extended clip package introduced by Nolan himself on Saturday (April 3) afternoon certainly provided more intellectual meat for viewers to gnaw on, but if you asked me to explain the plot of "Inception" to you, I wouldn't even begin to know where to start.
 
[But I'll try to give a flavor for the clips after the break, plus a little background courtesy of Nolan's Q&A after the clips. Not that during the Q&A, Nolan didn't get a single question about possible franchise pics involving "Batman" or "Superman."] 
 
I guess I'd begin the way Nolan does, when he told the audience that, sci fi trappings aside, "'Inception' really in some ways is a heist movie."
 
In the clips, we finally heard Leonardo DiCaprio's character describe himself as being in the business of "subconscious security." The plot seems to involve people who create dreams for other people and then, when they're in those dreams, they tape into their subconscious and steal their ideas, their intellectual property. One character in the teaser was described as "a thought extractor."
 
"I've always been fascinated by dreams, really by the idea that when you think about what a dream is, what the mind is doing during a dream, the mind is creating a world and perceiving it almost simultaneously."
 
It's high-minded stuff and it's stuff which, I suspect, is likely to enthrall some viewers and alienate others. While "Inception" is opening in a prime summertime spot, it's a movie which couldn't have been made, much less released, if "The Dark Knight" hadn't made a billion dollars worldwide. 
 
As Emma Thomas, Nolan's wife and production partner put it, "It's a much more personal film. That doesn't have to mean that it's small. It's actually ginormous."
 
Indeed, the sizzle reel included the now familiar image of a city folding in on itself, as well as mountain climbing, skiing, underwater footage, gunplay and explosions. And visually, it's stunning. Cinematographer Wally Pfister has earned Oscar nominations for his past three collaborations with Nolan and based on the lighting and surfaces in some of the possibly-dream-sequences, I'm ready predict another Oscar nod.
 
Plus, the movie is star-studded. Trailers have concentrated on DiCaprio so far, but the sizzle reel contained lots of Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt with a gun, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine, Cillian Murphy and Marion Cotillard. Nobody looked out of place, including Page whose comically undersized stature next to DiCaprio caused some online fans to mock early stills from the set.
 
Of Cotillard's character, Nolan would only say, "I think she plays an extremely, I would say 'complicated,' individual."
 
What else did we learn?
 
"Inception" shot in six countries and while it was mostly filmed in 35 mm, some scenes were shot in 65 mm as well. None of it was shot using IMAX cameras because, as Nolan put it, "We had a camera man go skiing down the side of a camera. Even I wouldn't ask somebody to do that with an IMAX camera." The movie will still be retrofitted for IMAX showings, but as of now it doesn't seem as if a 3-D version is in the cards, although Nolan acknowledged that some of the movie's imagery would be well-suited for 3-D.
 
Nolan said that most of the effects were either done practically or included at least some in-camera component. He mentioned "2001" as one inspiration, especially for some scenes with Levitt in which some of the sets "change their attitude."
 
I didn't have any major doubts before seeing the longer clips. I like Nolan's work quite a bit and I have more faith in his ability to deliver this sort of subconscious mind-bender than, say, the Wachowski Brothers after the first "Matrix" movie. Having seen the clips, I'm even more excited. It looks like it might be the most mind-bending James Bond thriller ever. Or, at the very least, I think it might be worth catching on opening night to check out the confused teens at the multiplex try to explain it to their friends.
 
"Inception" opens everywhere on July 16, 2010.