So the first trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Inception recently appeared online, but I’m still hearing some people say that if the trailer wasn’t stamped with “from the director of The Dark Knight” they would have little motivation to actually care about the movie.

Now granted, Inception has maintained an air of almost total mystery every since we first learned of its existence, but with the clues that have been carefully sprinkled here and there, we here at Screen Rant think there’s enough potential for this to be a breakout film in 2010. We’ll explain why, with some hi-res photos helping to paint the picture (click on any still image below for a hi-res version).

So let’s take a crack at the most obvious question – What is Inception all about?

In past coverage of the movie, we’ve learned that Leonardo DiCaprio stars as “a CEO Type” who leads a crack team of idea thieves. That is to say, DiCaprio and his team ‘enter people’s minds and/or dreams’  via a new form of technology that works by injection. They do this in order to ‘retrieve or plant’ information, which gives solid context to the opening lines of the latest trailer, “What is the most resilient parasite? An idea.”

Now, you may hear that bit of summary and still be confused about what all is going on with the people fighting Matrix-style up on ceilings and walls, or the shots of entire city blocks folding over on themselves (see Trailer #1 and Trailer #2 for the scenes I’m describing).  Well, if part of Inception‘s premise is this whole “idea thieving” operation, that notion also shines a much brighter light on the film’s teaser synopsis, which described it as “a contemporary sci-fi thriller set within the architecture of the mind.”

The abstract “reality” of the mind has long been a sub-genre of movies, and the thought of Chris Nolan exploring that realm SHOULD give you goosebumps (it at least promises to be a visual feast). However, by now we know that Chris Nolan is a filmmaker who brings more than enough substance to backup flashy effects. No matter what the genre or the premise, Nolan’s films always tell a distinct and pointed story, usually in very inventive ways. Nolan has also clearly embraced (and mastered) the one storytelling advantage that movies have over books: Sharp editing.

With Inception seemingly taking place both within “the architecture of the mind” and the real world (notice I said “seemingly”), you can bet your bippy that Nolan will be employing his sharp eye for editing to pack the movie with more than a few surprises and rug-pulls.

For instance: Remember that old shtick where a character keeps waking up only to realize they’re still dreaming? Don’t be too surprised if that cliche gets a slick Chris Nolan makeover in Inception. I have no idea if that is what will actually happen, but I do remember how Nolan used editing techniques to surprise the hell out of me at the end of a little movie called Memento

[NOTE: This next part is all speculative, so none of it counts as SPOILERS]

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what kind of themes a movie like Inception might try and convey. Judging from what we know about the premise (we know very little about the actual story, I’ll admit), one obvious potential theme of the movie is the struggle of creative innovation.

We all complain these days that things are getting too old, too outdated, or overused. It seems like the modern concern is with revising or rethinking every established system in existence – health care, environmental practices, economic structure, modes of transportation – for this ‘great future’ we always thought we’d be living in by the 21st Century (STILL waiting on those flying cars). That collective train of thought even extends to the realm of entertainment, with the great debate over Hollywood’s lack of originality (in most cases) raging harder than ever in this era of sequels and remakes.

Well then, imagine if there was some great innovator out there thinking up a new economic system, or a self-recycling environment-friendly power source, only to have some thieving bastard sneak into their very thoughts and snatch their world-changing idea right at the moment of inception to be sold off to the highest bidder. Would there ever be an idea so great, or so powerful, that the mind-thieves themselves would try and protect it, rather than steal it?

Suddenly the possibilities for this movie get more interesting, no?

Inception stars Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Cillian Murphy, Tom Hardy, Michael Caine Tom Berenger and Lukas Haas. Another great mystery hanging over the film are the identities of the characters each of these fine actors will play.

From interviews or trailers we know that Michael Caine will be playing a professor that DiCaprio’s character consults about the mind-invading technology, and that Page plays some kind of character (a student?) that DiCaprio is trying to train (for what? I don’t know). As the cast reveal more about their roles in subsequent months, I’m sure well be able to glean more about the actual story of the film. For now, you’ll have to re-watch the trailers and piece together who fits where the best that you can.

Did this post spark your interest or are you still holding out until you see more?

Inception hits theaters on July 16, 2010.

Source: For more hi-res images, head over to Slash Film