I consider ‘Inception’ to be the best cyberpunk film since ‘The Matrix’. It scores an 8.9 out of 10 on IMDB.com, which is a very high score for a major production like this. However, some would argue that ‘Inception’ does not fit within the cyberpunk genre. What follows are reasons it may not fit and my rebuttal to those reasons.
There is no artificial intelligence or virtual reality.
It’s true that there is no AI in the movie, but there is a form of VR. The dream state networks people together in a construct that obeys certain rules, and while shared dreaming is not a computer-generated world, it has enough in common with one for the term “virtual reality” to be appropriate.
The visuals are not cyberpunk enough.
While Cobb and his crew are not running around in full-length black trenchcoats and mirrorshades, there are cyberpunk visuals in the film. The dream networking equipment used to link everyone up has a cyberpunk look to it. When the dream collapses, there are graphics that are reminiscent of a crash in a computer graphics program. After Cobb enters dream limbo near the end of the film, we see the buildings he had constructed with his wife. Some of those buildings remind me of the run-down arcologies in ‘Blade Runner.’
Cobb’s team is working for a corporation. They are part of the system, not rebels trying to compromise the system.
For many cyberpunk fans, the “punkness” of the main characters is the determining factor to bestow the cyberpunk label or not. Are the characters rebel enough or outcast enough to function as radical anti-heroes? Yes, Cobb’s team is working for Saito, the head of a major corporation, but this entity is trying to stop a much larger corporation from taking monopolistic control, an organization built by Maurice Fischer. Each of Cobb’s team members has their own personal reasons for taking the job, but the one thing that drives them more than other motives is the question: “Can Inception be accomplished?” This is similar to the quest of computer hackers who could be called true believers. These hackers don’t do it for money, fame, or hatred. They hack because they want to know if something risky and highly difficult can be done, and that is a primary trait of many cyberpunk characters.