Inception: Mind Games and Mind Crime

Inception is the new summer blockbuster from the mind of Christopher Nolan, the writer/director who blessed our screens with such classics as ‘Memento’, ‘The Prestige’ and, more recently, ‘The Dark Knight’. Having broken numerous records at the time and still one of the highest grossing films of all time [1], ‘The Dark Knight’ strengthened Nolan’s relationship with Warner Brothers and, this summer, he gets to make a movie that’s all his.

With an estimated budget of around $160million [2], Inception is no financial lightweight but it is sure to pack a punch when it is released 16th July this year.

The issued logline of the film, “a contemporary sci-fi actioner set within the architecture of the mind,” has been floating around the web for some time, causing debate and sparking interest. Warner Brothers recently released the full synopsis which, whilst shedding more light on the very secretive plot, still remains suitably slippery:

“Acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan directs an international cast in an original sci-fi actioner that travels around the globe and into the intimate and infinite world of dreams. Dom Cobb (Leonard DiCaprio) is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb’s rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved. Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible—inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime. But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming. This summer, your mind is the scene of the crime.”

Many have suggested that Inception could be Hollywood’s first existential heist movie – a film with brains behind the action and ideas at the centre. But how do you go about marketing a film with such a complex narrative in order for it to be a commercial success?

Inception began with a viral site which simply showed a spinning top (seen below) which lasted for a number of weeks.

Then, on December 15th, the spinning top fell down and a new page was revealed showing a four-block set with only the first block lit up. Users were given the chance to design a maze which they could then work their way around. The prize for finishing the maze was the films first one-sheet poster [a].

When the second stage lit up, the maze became more complex. Users had to build a map which they were then ‘transported in to’. Along the way, pieces of paper with codes were collected which opened a safe at the end. Leader boards were added and Facebook connectivity was enabled so players could compete against their friends. Inception began to spread. The slightly ambiguous intent of the site generated much buzz all of the internet and comparisons were made between this viral campaign at 42 Entertainment’s immersive marketing initiative for ‘The Dark Knight’ which the online game to spill out on to the streets of the real world –  a truly amazing living advert to be a part of. Watch the video below for more information:

Soon, new film stills and the second theatrical trailer were constructed into the architecture of the living maze users had created and a second poster was also revealed [b] which tied in with the most recent footage. New interlocking viral sites have been setup such as and to flesh-out the campaign and we can expect more of these in the weeks that follow.

Information leaked online that the third theatrical trailer for Inception would preview before Iron Man 2, one of this summers biggest movies with a wide target audience. However, the film and its plot details were still being kept tightly under wraps. All trailers premiering in front of Iron Man 2 were kept in a locked vessel and are playing as I type this blog. The latest poster for the film has been released just a few moments ago [c].

From personal experience, I remember following and participating in 42 Entertainment’s ‘Why So Serious?’ campaign for ‘The Dark Knight’ and being drawn into the movie before it had even begun playing in cinemas. Creating a living marketing campaign that draws on the themes of the film it is advertising is surely a very effective way of drawing in audiences and involving them in the storyline and characters before they get to know them on screen. However, the idea keeping a product a mystery is also a very exciting one.

Many people complain that trailers today show all the best parts of the film and that there are no real surprises left when audiences enter the cinema. For example, the aforementioned Iron Man 2 uses major scenes in it’s theatrical trailer which are taken from the last 20 minutes of the film – ruining even the smallest pieces of information. Inception, on the other hand, seems to be full of surprises which will only be shown in cinemas, not just spoiled in the trailer.

If you would like to get involved with the Inception campaign and watch how it progresses, please visit: and get started.

Here are the three posters released so far. Please click on them for high resolution versions:






Other useful sites:



3 thoughts on “Inception: Mind Games and Mind Crime

  1. Pingback: Inception Viral Marketing: Dream-Share « Paul Martin's Blog

  2. Pingback: Inception Update: Character Featurette « Paul Martin's Blog

  3. Pingback: ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ Viral Campaign Begins « Paul Martin's Blog

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