Inception's Cobb is a man trying to deal with guilt and loss in his life, while Alice is a girl trying to escape from the social turmoil she finds herself in. Both are drawn into worlds that seem like dreams, and left to wonder whether they're in reality or not. Cobb has his spinning top while Alice can pinch herself to wake up.
The films are both outstanding cinematography, taking us into the creativity of Christopher Nolan and Tim Burton. Both offer great performances, from Leonardo Di Caprio, Ellen Page or from Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter particularly. Both are entertaining.
That said, Alice left me wanting more. Alice goes into her dream world, wins and comes out able to overcome all the troubles, bold and confident, defiant of social pressures in a way that seems deeply unrealistic. Cobb seemingly makes more progress in exorcising his demons but we're left to wonder whether he's even able to return to reality. Cobb's world is less utopian, less hollywood, and we'd think that would make it seem hollow, but it feels more real to me. It's bleaker picture is more appealing because suffering and guilt and loss are not easily dealt with, pain and hardship, oppression and frustration are not quickly removed or thrown off.
Alice on the other hand, inspired by Lewis Carroll did have more humour, Johnny Depp being Johnny Depp and futter-wacking is the kind of absurd relief from reality that we need some of. The ability to have fun and laugh ridiculously and take life less seriously is underrated.
Inception appeals to something in me that doesn't want an easy answer and takes frustration seriously. Alice appeals to something just as real that feels the need to laugh at life, and at myself.