On June 8th I observed that with the super-sized Inception and Salt opening 7 days apart (on 7.16 and 7.23, respectively), it appeared that Inception has “managed a better job of pre-selling itself to ubers and early adopters…my sense of things right now is that Inception is regarded as something people have to see, and that Salt is something that might be pretty good.”

Over the last few days that view has shifted to one in which Chris Nolan‘s boldly imaginative mind-fucker is being talked about as possibly too smart for the room while the word-of-mouth on Phillip Noyce’s spy thriller is getting hotter and hotter. I’m hearing things here and there and sensing this with my insect-antennae. A few days ago a SAG member who’d attended a recent research screening told a journalist pal it’s an audience-friendly wowser. “It’s really good…Angelina meets Bourne,” the guy said.

The shift began after a 6.23 review excerpt from Peter TraversRolling Stone review implying that Inception may not reach Joe and Jane Popcorn on their levels. “Trusting the intelligence of the audience can cost Nolan at the box office,” he wrote. “How to cope with a grand-scale epic…that turns your head around six ways from Sunday? Dive in and drive yourself crazy, that’s how.”

Two days later a piece on filmsactu, the French entertainment website, ran a piece by Arnaud Mangin that seemed to echo the Travers meme. The headline read “Inception: un film trop intelligent pour le public?” A translated passage reads that “one finds [in the film] more the Christopher Nolan of Memento than of Batman Begins. Memento is an excellent film, therefore so much the better, but it’s not famous for the simplicity of its intrigue and whose commercial stakes were definitely less important.”

Sorry, but that sounds pretty good to me. Being a huge fan of Memento, I’d be delighted if Inception delivers along similar lines.

What’s changed in three weeks? Inception is still the movie that everyone has to see — figure a $70 million opening weekend — but the word on Salt is building into “very good,” “really works,” “yeah!” and so on.