Gaming | Film | TV
Gaming | Film | TV

Christopher Nolan: The most unfairly criticised filmmaker in Hollywood?

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As much as moviegoers love to hate Christopher Nolan, they just can’t keep themselves from seeing what he does next.

With his new film, Interstellar, set to release in a little over six months, we’re all about to jump back onto the Christopher Nolan bandwagon because, let’s face it, we’re all going to see the film when it comes out. Whether you’re a casual moviegoer or a film buff, there is something about a new Nolan movie that gets people out in droves to see it – just look at the box office returns for his past few films. In saying this, however, it is simply bewildering at how opinions of Nolan differ amongst spectators. Some absolutely love his work and think that he is the most hard working and original filmmaker in Hollywood today (myself included). Others heavily criticise almost every single one of his films yet still go out of their way to see them all.

Nolan takes his unique stories and creates a perfect blend with movie spectacle, showing you something you’ve never seen before

What is it about Nolan that audiences find so polarising? It’s rare to hear anyone claim that he “sold out” with his big budget action films like The Dark Knight trilogy. Barely anyone claims that his screenplays are shallow or unoriginal. Sure, his dialogue may be a bit long-winded for some, but there are often so many angles that his stories take that there needs to be that much explanation. Nolan continues to push filmmaking to its very brink with every subsequent film he releases, while also remaining true to what cinema should be: enjoyable. He takes his unique and original stories, something which Hollywood sorely lacks in this day and age, and creates a perfect blend with the spectacle of film by showing you something you’ve never seen before.

Criticisms of Nolan range anywhere from him not being able to appropriately film action scenes to viewers expecting him to delve deeper into his subjects. While watching a film like Inception, how can one expect Nolan to add more substance to his already dense plot? There are so many intricate details addressed within the storyline of Inception and Nolan makes his audiences believe in the world(s) that he creates on film. We accept that extractors enter their target’s mind and pull knowledge that only that specific target may know about. We accept that an architect of the mind subconsciously may create an entire world for others to contribute to, through their own projections inhabiting said created space. Some filmmakers make you stop and scratch your head when it comes to their logic, while Nolan makes you suspend disbelief and fully accept what he is offering.

inception corridor

What some people will not accept, though, is that Christopher Nolan is an ingenious writer and filmmaker. His younger brother, screenwriter Jonathan Nolan, does have a hand in many of Christopher’s films, but it is the creative vision of the elder Nolan that brings the script pages to life. For instance, the 2000 film, Memento, was adapted from a short story written by Jonathan titled Memento Mori. A man suffering from anterograde amnesia uses pictures, notes, and tattoos as clues to find the assailant that ruined his memory and murdered his wife. Christopher Nolan took the story and adapted it into a feature length screenplay with a twist: the events of the film play out in reverse order. An ambitious project that was carried out to perfection, Nolan even managed to throw in a twist ending, despite Memento starting from its chronological finish. Not to mention, this was a film that was released 14 years ago on a low budget of $4.5 million.

Nolan gives audiences an opportunity to pick apart and decipher the content of his work, and he’s never entirely predictable

Possibly the most underrated film of Nolan’s is The Prestige. The story centers around two upstart magicians who, following a tragic accident, maintain a bitter rivalry with one another in their attempts to be the greatest of their trade. Their tactics become more and more ruthless as the film progresses, and the surprise ending sees Nolan leave enough clues for audiences to figure out what the ‘it’ may be. Unlike many other directors, Nolan does not disrespect the audience by spelling every little thing out for them. He gives them an opportunity to pick apart and decipher the content of his work, but he’s also never entirely predictable.

The most widely popular of Nolan’s work, though, is obviously The Dark Knight trilogy. After bombing horribly with the release of 1997’s abysmal Batman & Robin, a true visionary was needed to resurrect the corpse of the Batman franchise. Warner Bros found one with Christopher Nolan. After teaming up with David S. Goyer to write a screenplay, Nolan directed 2005’s Batman Begins, which revolutionised the superhero genre by planting its creative base firmly in reality and bringing a stark world to life with crime lords and psychopaths. Batman Begins was a fantastic reintroduction to the Batman mythos and would, of course, spawn its own line of sequels.

Going deeper into Memento: Philosophy of mind in Nolan’s masterpiece

batman begins

The Dark Knight further capitalised on the success of Batman Begins by reimagining, arguably, the greatest villain of all time: The Joker. The Dark Knight broke numerous theatrical box office records and secured Heath Ledger a posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his work as The Joker. Despite the film being nominated in multiple categories, Christopher Nolan wasn’t nominated in a single category for his work on the film. Largely regarded as one of the biggest Best Picture Oscar snubs in recent history, The Dark Knight still remains as one of the highest grossing films of all time. His follow-up, The Dark Knight Rises, is also held in high regard among fans worldwide. Although arguably the weakest of the franchise, Nolan’s distinct style of multi-layered storytelling remains in this finale.

Nolan uses the resources he is given, remains within his budget (unlike some other directors), yet receives a fraction of the respect

Christopher Nolan has been one of the most consistent filmmakers of the past 15 years. Even his lesser works (ie Insomnia and The Dark Knight Rises) are better than 90% of the dreck that comes out of Hollywood. Nolan has been a director that uses the resources he is given, remains within his budget, unlike other heralded directors (ie James Cameron), yet receives a fraction of the respect from moviegoers, critics, and even the Academy. Whether he creates his own unique story or adapts a timeless superhero created in the 1940s for a modern day audience, there is always a sense of originality in Nolan’s films, and no one does it better. There is no doubt that Interstellar will be the film to see come November, so please don’t lie to yourselves. You know that you’ll all be sitting right next to me in the theatre when it’s released.


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All images: Warner Bros


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